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TraceyP

Colon tour with Roberto

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Does anyone have updated contact info for Roberto Whitaker for a tour in Colon? I tried robtads2@hotmail.com and got a bounce back. My internet search links that e-mail to Almiza Tours (which is also My Friend Mario). I am hoping to connect directly to Roberto.

 

 

If not, how about any info on the best My Friend Mario tour or how does it compare with Capt Carl's tour ($125 pp)?

 

Thank you.

Tracey

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Does anyone have updated contact info for Roberto Whitaker for a tour in Colon? I tried robtads2@hotmail.com and got a bounce back. My internet search links that e-mail to Almiza Tours (which is also My Friend Mario). I am hoping to connect directly to Roberto.

 

 

If not, how about any info on the best My Friend Mario tour or how does it compare with Capt Carl's tour ($125 pp)?

 

Thank you.

Tracey

 

We used Roberto back in November and that is the email address I used for all my communications with Roberto. Sorry to hear it is not working, it was a great tour. :(

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PCWalton,

Glad to hear you had a great tour with Roberto.

I used him for a tour way back in Dec 2012 in Colon. Great day.

BTW,

when does the new canal open?

I really want to do another full transit again.

One of the best cruise ever!

Edited by Azulann

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BTW,

when does the new canal open?

I really want to do another full transit again.

One of the best cruise ever!

 

Probably noticed that this isn't PCWalton:), to answer your question about the opening of the Canal expansion... The original plan was for this year, the 100th anniversary of the 1914 opening. Not uncommon for projects of this magnitude but the date was slipped to April 2015 with the latest estimate that I am aware of is June '15. The June date may be in some jeopardy as one of the Spanish parent companies of the prime contractor who is building the new locks is having some financial problems. The upshot of it all is the the prime contractor wants an additional $1.6 billion in addition to the little over $3 billion for the initial contract. The contractor says they may have to shut down work if they don't get the increase. The Canal Authority has offered an increase, but the contractor says it's not enough. Guess we all will be watching the goings on with interest, hoping for the best.

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Thanks so much BillB for the update.

I have one of the repositioning cruises thru the canal between Florida and

and Chile on my bucket list for maybe Spring of 2016.:)

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PCWalton,

Glad to hear you had a great tour with Roberto.

I used him for a tour way back in Dec 2012 in Colon. Great day.

BTW,

when does the new canal open?

I really want to do another full transit again.

One of the best cruise ever!

 

Read in the newspaper last week way over budget over a billion$$? Everything put on hold til something is done about the financing.

Edited by 2ashevillesailors

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We used Roberto back in November and that is the email address I used for all my communications with Roberto. Sorry to hear it is not working, it was a great tour. :(

 

Can you tell me what your tour with Roberto consisted of and what was the price?

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This is what we did.

A recap of our day in Colon Panama. Our tour with Roberto from Robtad's tour gave a chance to see the following:

 

• first-hand view of the Canal at Gatun Locks

• historic city of Portobelo

• Customs house, built in the 1600´s, housed all the goods coming into Panamá from Spain and all the Inca gold and silver going out

• Spanish forts from which the Spaniards defended Portobelo

• church of the Black Christ

 

price was $35/pax or $280 for an 8 members party.

 

Here is the live review I did last year showing what we did.

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1942047&page=15

 

There are more pictures on this page too.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1942047&page=38

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We ended up using Robtad's for a tour of the Gatun Locks, a visit to Ft San Lorenzo and then a stop at the new locks observation center. We didn't get Roberto as our guide; we had "Miller Time" who did a good job. We really enjoyed the stop at Gatun to get the full perspective on the locks. Ft San Lorenzo was good, but not anything too unique as compared to a lot of the other Caribbean forts. But it is a pretty setting and interesting. Unfortunately we didn't see much wild life because we stopped at Gatun first and were later in the day to Ft San Lorenzo. But we did get to see a big tanker going through the locks so it was a tradeoff. I didn't think the new locks observation center was that great, or worth the extra $15 admission. It is interesting, but Miller Time showed us the new locks from a different location and that was probably enough for most people. There was some confusion at the end about the cost of the tour, so be sure to have your e-mail confirmation with pricing with you. Overall I recommend Robtad's tours.

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We did the "Option 4b - Fort San Lorenzo, Gatun Locks, New Agua Clara Expansion Locks" tour with Roberto /Robtard's in Dec 2016. Our fantastic guide was Araminta. She was very knowledgeable and informative. Definitely one of the top guides on the many tours I've been on. Roberto had another tour and stopped by to introduce himself when our tours intersected. Either would be great guides if you are considering a Robtard's tour.

 

Tour route & notes:

We went to San Lorenzo first and had to take the car ferry over as the road from the locks to San Lorenzo was closed when we visited. There were various birds, monkeys, and coati/coatimundi. The panoramic view of the Chagres river meeting the sea was beautiful. It did take longer than scheduled to get there and back so be sure to use the restroom before you leave the ship if this is your route. The bathroom at the guard station is very basic. You might also want to ask for a quick snack pick up on the way there & have a large breakfast or to pre-arrange food stops as some people got pretty hungry by the time we got to our second stop, Gatun. There was a small food truck on the ferry side from Colon to San Lorenzo.

 

Gatun Locks tickets are not offered to the public this season and Roberto pre-purchased ours from one of the tour companies which does the ship tours. It offers a close up view of the canal. We saw the Coral Princess go through Gatun Locks. There was some very weak wifi at the top of the observation deck which I'd advise people to skip. No one was able to sign on and use it successfully. There were vending machines in there with shelf stable snacks, drinks, and even one with fresher sandwiches. The snack machine also offered sim cards from Movistar and +movil. It takes USD. It has a few flights of stairs to the tallest observation post but the bottom level had chairs about level with the locks. The bathrooms are also located on this level.

 

Agua Clara Visitor Center is the newer facility just a short drive away, though also longer than the bird flies due to how they've wound the road quite a bit up to the visitor center. The observation area is a covered outdoors area with a tiny bit of tiering in two long lanes which offers a more panoramic view than Gatun. There were floor mounted binoculars and I think some metal bench seating in the observation area. We saw the Creole Spirit LNG Carrier go through. There is a short movie in air-conditioned theater which explains the history of the locks in English and probably in a few other languages, though on different showings. The center also has is an open air snack bar and a restaurant. I overheard that both were quite over priced. The restaurant does overlook one of the lock entrances. The gift shop had some very standard tourist shopping and compared to a local stand at San Lorenzo. I thought San Lorenzo had a little more local flair and hand craft goods.

 

Both locks had announcers on microphones to provide stats about the ship in transit in English and Spanish. I think the male announcer at Gatun was at Miraflores the next day and he's pretty energetic, encouraging waving from both land visitors and passengers/crew.

 

Great tour overall. We arrived back later in the afternoon than we had anticipated due to the car ferry but plenty of time to stop in at Colon 2000 for shopping or a cafe stop. Our group members were very happy with the quality of the tour. A few members mentioned they'd have liked some food at some point, but as our tour was the first day they announced the road closure, it was an understandable omission.

 

Tour Amenities:

Roberto or Araminta had picked up plenty of bottled water before picking us up right as we crossed the street near the casino, before the shopping plaza (under the pedestrian overpass which wasn't in use). Our ship, Celebrity Infinity, had docked at Colon 2000. We had 14 members and a large well air conditioned mini-bus so every person had plenty of space.

 

Booking Process:

I mostly communicated with Roberto via e-mail and handled the bulk of the group organization myself on CruiseCritic roll call. He usually responded within a few days. He can also handle the tour registration.

 

Guides & Driver:

Both Araminta and Roberto were polite, friendly, and timely. Araminta was quite knowledgeable about the ecosystem and able to point out specific plants or trees. She used to work with Canadians on tour, absolutely fluent in English, and her diction was clear for those used to North American English. Good knowledge about the canal operations, too. Our mini-bus had a microphone & speakers so everyone could hear her while we toured.

 

Our driver was pretty good at spotting wildlife and pointed out many things I would have missed. He usually pulled up closer to entrances and exits before parking so we didn't need to walk very far. I felt safe with his driving.

 

Roberto wasn't our specific guide and I hadn't requested it. He seemed very amenable to feedback when he stopped by to introduce himself to our group. Roberto also e-mailed the canal schedule a day before our tour (on my request) so we could identify which ships we'd seen.

 

Panama SIM notes: Activating the movistar sim wasn't straightforward (it should have been, but required tweeting the @PanamaMovistar for help registering the credit properly). It worked for the morning going through the Colon canal area, lakes, and towards the tail end going towards Panama City. There was some LTE here and there. Movistar offers data packs for $3/525 MB or $5/3.2 GB. We had some nice weather going through the canal, though, and I was pretty busy running about the ship taking pictures. If I had planned better, I would have kicked off some picture uploads right when we got in from Colo and in the morning before we sailed into the Gatun Locks. We were out of range after leaving Colon and before heading back in the morning.

Edited by travelpeon

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