At first I was told by Celebrity that we couldn't get off the boat in Gatun Lake unless we had an excursion planned Mario got us clearance and our group of 14 met him and his assistant right at the dock. He was wearing a hat that said I am Mario. He escorted us to a nice mini bus with AC and plenty of space. we proceeded to the locks where we got out and toured the locks at ground level. We got to see a huge cargo ship go through. It is amazing how fast the water can fill up and drain. Mario and Ivan were very knowledgable and added lots of interesting facts. We then took a scenic ride to the Embera Indian village. we baorded hollowed out logs (canoes) and took a short ride to the village. The village met us and gave us a wonderful lunch and dance performance. We then did some shopping (very nice wood carvings and baskets) at a reasonable price. We then got back in the canoes and went to a hidden waterfall where after a short hike we swam. It was so beautiful!!!! We thengot back in the bus and had panamanian ice cream that mario had gotten for our ride home. He also gave out a nice surprise souviner. The entire time Mario and his partner Ivan were explaining the panamanian culture and history. They both speak very good english and seem to be very honest and sincere people. I must add that they also provided water, soda, snacks and beer (they stopped 3 times for beer our guys can drink). They both went out of their way to make our excursion a memerable expeierence. We arrived back at Cristobal pier with 1 hour for shopping and such.
I can't say how pleases we were with this tour. I HIGHLY recommend Mario for anyone interested in touring Panama at half the price of the cruiseline excursions. Since being back I did receive a email from Mario thanking us and making sure we all made it home safly. He really is a wonderful tour guide. Don't listen to the cruise line get in touch with Mario and make your next Panama excursion one to remember.
00 RCCL Granduer of the Seas Eastern Carib.
01 Celebrity Century Eastern Carib.
05 Princess Star Western Carib.
06 Celebrity Galaxy 11 day pananma Canal
07 Norwegian Sun Western Carib