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Shore excursions from Colon

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Can someone tell me why I would want to reserve a shore excursion to see the locks of the canal when we had already gone through them on the cruise ship? Want to take an excursion from Colon.

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Seeing the locks and the operation from a different perspective comes to mind. While I don't deny that seeing the locks and the operation from a ship is the best option IMO there are things to see at the locks as well. Depending on what locks you are considering to visit, the visitor's areas have different offerings. For example Miraflores is the showplace Locks with a museum, video presentations, and an eatery. Gatun on the other hand can claim the biggest locks on the Canal, it's offerings are more on the basic side.

Edited by BillB48

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We just went through the canal and did a tour of the locks while in Colon. To me, it was best to see the locks from off of the ship beforehand. For one thing--the ship is really crowded with everyone trying to see and get their pictures, so you'll miss some of the action while you're going through on board.

 

Also we found the observation deck at Gatun a very good perspective on the locks and operations. A totally different perspective on the process, and helped me appreciate what was happening while we went through on board the next day. I really recommend it.

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We stopped in Colon this past March.

 

There's nothing at the port itself, so you really need to get out and explore. One thing we really wanted to do was to see the Panama Canal, though we didn't feel a need to have to ride through it at great expense. We prearranged the "Rainforest (Watching Birds and Monkeys) + San Lorenzo Fort + Gatun Locks" private tour through Almiza Tours (aka My Friend Mario) for US$60 per adult. The tour ran from 8:40am to 3:30pm (ship time). The tour included: Transfer from and to the Colon dock, touring in air conditioned minibus, an English/Spanish speaking guide, beverages (bottled Cokes, water, and local beer), a stop for fruit, and entrance fees to both Gatun locks (a set of locks on the Panama Canal) and San Lorenzo National park (which includes another fort to explore).

 

Our bus had seats for about 30 people, but only fits about 16 comfortably as each pair of seats really only fit 1.5 people. We had 26 passengers plus a driver, our guide, and a spotter (who was genuinely proficient at spotting wildlife). Let's just say we got to know each other really well.

 

The Gutan Locks are located 30 minutes from the pier. We got there in time to watch a huge cargo ship, with barely a few inches on either side of it, enter and exit the Gutan locks guided by mules (powerful little electric-powered train-like locomotive). Each lock is 1050 feet long, 110 feet wide, and 42 feet deep. As ships go through the 3 locks, they are raised or lowered a total of 85-feet. Each of the 3 chambers requires almost 27 Million gallons of water to lift a ship to the required height before moving into the next lock. Interestingly, the Panama Canal was celebrating it's Centennial in 2014.

 

We then drove through the rain forest and took a short narrated walk. We saw Howler Monkeys, 2 or 3 sloths, and lots of flora and fauna. Panama has some 2300 species of trees.

 

Following the hike we stopped at Fort San Lorenzo, a late 1500's fort located near Ft. Sherman, an old US military base. Buccaneer Henry Morgan attacked the fort in 1670, leaving it in ruins, and then sacked the city of Panama a year later. It's a cool fort, in need of repair, with lots of cannons and good picture opportunities. We stopped for cold local pineapple and watermelon on the way back to the ship.

 

http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/panama-canal.jpg

 

More "Secrets of the Caribbean": http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/caribbean-secrets.html

First-hand information on excursions we've taken in 24 Caribbean ports. With photos!

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We stopped in Colon this past March.

 

There's nothing at the port itself, so you really need to get out and explore. One thing we really wanted to do was to see the Panama Canal, though we didn't feel a need to have to ride through it at great expense. We prearranged the "Rainforest (Watching Birds and Monkeys) + San Lorenzo Fort + Gatun Locks" private tour through Almiza Tours (aka My Friend Mario) for US$60 per adult. The tour ran from 8:40am to 3:30pm (ship time). The tour included: Transfer from and to the Colon dock, touring in air conditioned minibus, an English/Spanish speaking guide, beverages (bottled Cokes, water, and local beer), a stop for fruit, and entrance fees to both Gatun locks (a set of locks on the Panama Canal) and San Lorenzo National park (which includes another fort to explore).

 

Our bus had seats for about 30 people, but only fits about 16 comfortably as each pair of seats really only fit 1.5 people. We had 26 passengers plus a driver, our guide, and a spotter (who was genuinely proficient at spotting wildlife). Let's just say we got to know each other really well.

 

The Gutan Locks are located 30 minutes from the pier. We got there in time to watch a huge cargo ship, with barely a few inches on either side of it, enter and exit the Gutan locks guided by mules (powerful little electric-powered train-like locomotive). Each lock is 1050 feet long, 110 feet wide, and 42 feet deep. As ships go through the 3 locks, they are raised or lowered a total of 85-feet. Each of the 3 chambers requires almost 27 Million gallons of water to lift a ship to the required height before moving into the next lock. Interestingly, the Panama Canal was celebrating it's Centennial in 2014.

 

We then drove through the rain forest and took a short narrated walk. We saw Howler Monkeys, 2 or 3 sloths, and lots of flora and fauna. Panama has some 2300 species of trees.

 

Following the hike we stopped at Fort San Lorenzo, a late 1500's fort located near Ft. Sherman, an old US military base. Buccaneer Henry Morgan attacked the fort in 1670, leaving it in ruins, and then sacked the city of Panama a year later. It's a cool fort, in need of repair, with lots of cannons and good picture opportunities. We stopped for cold local pineapple and watermelon on the way back to the ship.

 

http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/panama-canal.jpg

 

More "Secrets of the Caribbean": http://www.lavasurfer.com/info/caribbean-secrets.html

First-hand information on excursions we've taken in 24 Caribbean ports. With photos!

 

Caribbeanbound: Glad you got off the ship and were able to see a little of what Panama has to offer! To the OP: You get the best view, and IMHO perspective, from the deck of your ship IF you are doing a complete transit.

 

Generally the ship-sponsored tours use large buses and a lot of the independent operators use "coaster" buses which form the bulk of our private, yet country-wide bus system in Panama. Maybe Panama butts are smaller than cruise passenger butts - ever notice how many people are supposed to fit in lifeboats and the size of the butt spaces they sometimes have painted on the seats?? The seats are supposed to fit 2 people, along with purses, bags and children, and they do for most Panamanians travelling short distances. Usually both the cruise lines and independent operators never fill the buses completely for that reason.

 

Since I worked a Canal ship for 5 months, do other ships going through the Canal on longer itineraries, and live here, I've put together my reviews and pics of all the tours ... richardinPanama.com ... Most of the tours, although offered by different cruise companies under different names, are run by the same big tourist operations in Panama. Independents generally follow the same program but with fewer people sometimes throw in a few extras. Panama is not like the Caribbean where there are independent operators lined up when you get off the ship "Fuerte Amador." [The one big exception being the Hop On Hop Off tour bus that stops on the Pacific side at You're best, if you want independent, to check out what's available on-line, check reviews on CC and elsewhere, and book in advance. If butt-room is a concern, ask in advance what kind of transportation they use. Some independents only have vans which can get pretty crowded especially if you end up in one of the side "jump seats."

 

Panama requires a little more advance work and research ... it's not just a matter of getting off the ship and "doing something ... whatever."

 

Regards, Richard

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My cruise ship (MSC Divina) will be docking in Cristobal (not sure if this is same as Colon) on Nov 17. Are there tour operators waiting at the port who offer a variety of tours or do we need to bokk something in advance? Does anyone know of a good tour operator that we can use? We would like to see the Gatun Locks, do a rainforest/jungle excursion and visit a fort (not sure which is the better fort to visit - Portobello or San Lorenzo). Any help/advice would be appreciated!

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Edited by svmodi

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My cruise ship (MSC Divina) will be docking in Cristobal (not sure if this is same as Colon) on Nov 17. Are there tour operators waiting at the port who offer a variety of tours or do we need to bokk something in advance? Does anyone know of a good tour operator that we can use? We would like to see the Gatun Locks, do a rainforest/jungle excursion and visit a fort (not sure which is the better fort to visit - Portobello or San Lorenzo). Any help/advice would be appreciated!

 

You can get taxis at the port that will take you around, but this isn't like a lot of developed ports where there are tour operators just waiting for you. IMHO you'd do best to book something through the ship or in advance. If you look through this board you'll find lots of comments about various local tour operators, and use Google and the travel evaluation sites. I believe there is a tour that gives you a GLIMPSE of the rain forest, San Lorenzo and the observation deck at Gatun.

 

Cristobal (Christopher) was the Canal Zone area of town and Colon (Columbus) was the Panamanian area, now it's just Colon, but the area where the ship docks is still often called Cristobal. There used to be an actual old pier that the ships used that was called Cristobal, but it was turned into a pier for container ships.

 

I think you'll have the best time making arrangements in advance.

 

Regards, Richard

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You can get taxis at the port that will take you around, but this isn't like a lot of developed ports where there are tour operators just waiting for you. IMHO you'd do best to book something through the ship or in advance. If you look through this board you'll find lots of comments about various local tour operators, and use Google and the travel evaluation sites. I believe there is a tour that gives you a GLIMPSE of the rain forest, San Lorenzo and the observation deck at Gatun.

 

Cristobal (Christopher) was the Canal Zone area of town and Colon (Columbus) was the Panamanian area, now it's just Colon, but the area where the ship docks is still often called Cristobal. There used to be an actual old pier that the ships used that was called Cristobal, but it was turned into a pier for container ships.

 

I think you'll have the best time making arrangements in advance.

 

Regards, Richard

 

 

Thanks! Looks like the best option is to book a tour in advance. Do you know of a good tour operator that we can use? We are interested in doing a Gatun Locks, rainforest/jungle and fort tour. Do you know which is the better fort to visit - Portobello or San Lorenzo?

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Thanks! Looks like the best option is to book a tour in advance. Do you know of a good tour operator that we can use? We are interested in doing a Gatun Locks, rainforest/jungle and fort tour. Do you know which is the better fort to visit - Portobello or San Lorenzo?

 

I can't make specific operator recommendations, but I'm sure others on this board will have some. I think the cruise lines have a similar tour. Most of the tours on most ships are by a few big operators. An outfit by the name of "Mario" has gotten a lot of favorable comments on CC, but I think his operation has been bought out by another company or is operating under a different name. You're looking to cram a lot into a single port call. The Embera Tour [where I do know Anne Gordon at Emberavillagetours.com is an all day affair. Portobelo, which isn't just the fort but an interesting town about 30 minutes from Colon, takes a while. San Lorenzo is is nearer to Colon, and its possible for them to do a tour that includes Gatun Lock, a taste of the rain forest, and San Lorenzo. As Spanish fortifications go, in my opinion Portobelo is more interesting, but takes longer. Regards, Richard

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