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goddessofchaos

Zuiderdam Panama Canal excursion question

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We are booked on the April 8 Panama Canal cruise and I am agonizing over whether to stay on board through Gatun Lake or take the tour to the Embera village. First question is if anyone has done that is it worth it? Next is how difficult is it to get into and out of the canoe? I am older and in pretty good shape but have poor balance so I am concerned since the tour shows it as being moderately strenuous and the Canoe would be my biggest concern.

 

Also, we are in an aft facing cabin and plan to head forward for the canal entry. How early should we plan to be there for a good view?

 

If anyone has other information about this cruise in general I would love to hear it. Excited!

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We just returned from an entire canal transit, Ft Lauderdale to San Diego. Our first Panama Canal cruise was a partial, like you are doing, on the Zuiderdam. We initially booked that same excursion, but then thought about what we would miss. If you go ashore, you meet the ship on the other side of the locks, so you miss going back through the locks. We also had an aft facing cabin(as we did this time for the full transit).  We were so glad we stayed on the ship. Yes, we were anchored in the lake, but we watched huge ships come and go and just enjoyed being on the veranda in a near empty ship. It was hot and humid and we were glad to be able to go where it was cool when we needed to.  Also had access to the kind of food we wanted, etc. The bow of the ship will be open early in the morning for viewing of the opening of the locks and you can go and take pictures, enjoy coffee and Panama buns. Then go back to your aft cabin, apply sunscreen, don a good hat, dress for the heat and enjoy the views. Then enjoy going back through the locks. Too, too amazing to just go through once. We never regretted our decision

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"Also, we are in an aft facing cabin and plan to head forward for the canal entry. How early should we plan to be there for a good view?"

 

Cruise ships get priority over transport vessels, so it will be early. The last time we did the canal, I think we were up by 6am. I wiggled my way down to the front and had a great view. However, it was raining lightly, so that probably reduced the number of people on the outside deck!! Once we were through the first set of locks, we went back to the cabin and sat on the balcony. 

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About 5 years ago, we did the Embera excursion.  Some people really, really like this excursion.  I really enjoyed parts of it, and would rate the overall experience a 7 to 8 out of ten.  Although the bus ride was a little long and at times the ride was a little rough, I enjoyed seeing the countryside. Being a “boat person,” I really enjoyed the canoe ride.  The following comments are based on the canoes used 5 years ago, but I would assume they are still being used today.  A number of people with some physical limitations took the excursion and managed getting in and out of the canoes, although they obviously were having some difficulty and took extra time; however, I never heard anyone saying anything about wishing they had not come.  As my photos will show, you board the canoe at the bow from the riverbank.  If you are the first to board, you have to step over the seats as you move towards the other end of the canoe.  One person took the first seat early in the boarding, which made it more difficult for the rest of us as we moved to the back of the canoe.  If you manage to be be one of the last to board, you avoid the hassle of stepping over the seats, but will experience water spray as the canoe travels to the village.


We’ve done two partials and one full transit.  I thoroughly enjoy watching the passage through the locks and would be happy to stay aboard the ship the entire day; however, not everyone (like my wife) feels the same way.  Additionally, you do miss the opportunity to see new things if you stay on the ship.

 

 

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We did the Embera Village and enjoyed most of it.  One of the things we did enjoy was the canoe ride.

Everyone seemed to be fine to get in an out of the canoe in my observations.

 

The people were very welcoming.

 

You are right though that if you do this, you will miss going through the locks again.  It’s basically the same as when you approach so it’s all a matter of preference.

 

We were glad we did this tour at the time and we were up early for entry into the locks.  I would recommend it for sure.  It was a bit of an adventure and fun.

 

If you are not an early riser or don’t want to be one, then staying on the ship would let you see some of what you missed earlier (sans Panama buns)

 

Either is a good experience I think.  You need to decide which is right for you.

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I appreciate seeing Mtn2Sea's photos.  The canoe trip looks fun.  With my stability issues, though, they would be fishing me out of the water.  (Once upon a time, though...)

 

If one does chose to stay on the ship (my January experience was aboard the Eurodam's Partial Transit of the Canal), the narrator continues his talk en route to Colon and it is not a repeat of what he said previously.  I really enjoyed the narration!  Our transit, both ways, it was raining, so I was in the Crow's Nest listening/watching.  It was an informative and interesting day.

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We took that cruise last March and loved it. After considerable research, we chose to remain on the ship Going thru the Canal for several reasons. Neither DH or I do well in the extreme heat and humidity. We were concerned about the long, and perhaps uncomfortable, bus/train rides Involved in the excursions. DH is an insulin dependent diabetic and I feared that the unstructured meals could be an issue especially if the return to the ship was delayed (in reading,  I learned that ship traffic can sometimes extend the length of the excursion, causing a late return to the ship.) We got up early and joined the crowd on the open bow. Interesting but tiring. What we really loved was going to the dining room for breakfast and sitting in the back along the windows and watching the ship rise and fall along the lock walls. Fascinating! Later that afternoon, we enjoyed spending time up in the Crows Nest watching our progress as well as the mega ships in the nearby “New” canal. Yes, we were glad we stayed on the ship.

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This is Oosterdam coming into the third lock.  0800 - folks had to be up early.

 

enhance

 

Eurodam, same place, same time, a month later:

 

enhance

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The Embera Village is one of the most memorable tours I have ever done.  We thoroughly enjoyed it and I have a beautiful small woven basket to remember it by.  You still get to experience Gatun Lake so you won’t really be missing anything.

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5 hours ago, Essiesmom said:

This is Oosterdam coming into the third lock.  0800 - folks had to be up early.

 

enhance

 

Eurodam, same place, same time, a month later:

 

enhance

November and December of 2020?

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1 minute ago, HAL4NOW said:

November and December of 2020?

I am guessing this is the Oosterdam on February 11th, and the Eurodam on February 12th.

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Thank you to everyone for your most helpful information. I think I will see what my cabin mate decides about the Embera excursion. I am signing up to visit a native village in Puerto Limon. Definitely will be getting up early for the entry into the locks!

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On Zuiderdam in Nov. 2019, we were out on the bow at 5 a.m. and there were already plenty of people at that time.  We managed to get a place along the rail, but it filled up quickly.  We chose to stay on the ship and were glad we did.  It was fascinating going through the locks and I enjoyed the opportunity to see it again on the way back through, when there were fewer people on deck.  We enjoyed it so much we've booked the cruise again for this fall, and we're planning to stay onboard this time as well.

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My wife took this excursion about eight weeks ago (as part of the 2020 South American Grand Voyage), and says this is her second-favorite one (after the four--day trip to the Galapagos). However, she said the seats (for two people) on the dugout canoes were just blocks carved into the log, and were about two feet wide, about eight inches deep, and about eight inches high (to the inside bottomof the canoe). She's 5'11", and was very uncomfortable. Nonetheless, she really enjoyed the visit to the village, despite the discomfort.

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I have done partial canal cruise twice on Zuiderdam.  Both times I have chosen to stay on the ship.  On first cruise in April, our table mates came back and at dinner were commenting on heat, humidity, and their being unhappy that they didn’t stay on the ship.  
 

Both times I have been out on the bow by 5 am and didn’t move from my spot all during the lock portion.  Then I enjoyed a day on the ship, in the a/c, having lunch when I wished, observing ships going thru new locks from the Crow’s Nest, and finally being on the aft deck to watch as we returned thru locks.

 

i am on Zuiderdam in September, and might consider a three-peat!

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4 hours ago, cruzn single said:

i am on Zuiderdam in September, and might consider a three-peat!

 

This is a cruise that I also would consider for a repeat.  Every time I go through the Canal, I learn something new.  Quite interesting, informative, and oh, those, Panama Rolls.

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We're just off a Eurodam partial transit.  To see entry into the locks, yes, about 5:30am.

 

We opted for an excursion that included a Gatun lake cruise, a walk in the rainforest, and the new locks visitor center--something DH really wanted to see.  We had a fabulous day. 

We watched the new Panamax ships go through, saw a movie about the Panama Canal, and walked through the nature center at the visitor center.  The cruise was on a small, but reasonably comfortable covered boat and we saw tons of wildlife.  The walk in the rainforest was easy and informative.

 

The entire tour we were seeing sloths & howler monkeys in the trees, and our guide & bus driver were excellent at stopping and pointing them out.  We found the trip to be comfortable & very enjoyable.

 

The tour was about 5 hours.  We were returned to the port where there were native crafts and a duty free shop at the terminal.

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My husband and I  took the ship's excursion through the canal only because my husband really wanted to do it ...and I do not ever want to do it again.   Since the excursion used a small craft we had to wait for a larger ship to accompany us through the locks.  I do not remember what time we left but it was very late when we returned...so late that the Lido was kept open for an extra hour so we could have dinner.   It was a very long hot day...and in my opinion,  if you've seen one lock, you've seen them all.  With that being said, if the Ship I was on went through to the west coast, I would totally do that.

 

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Great thread as I booked the Jan 24 Zuiderdam 10 night cruise. Was debating the excursion, or being on the ship. Based on reports here, I will be out there at 5am!

 

Also... what is a "Panama Bun"? Are they are delicious as the raisin rolls they had on the Nieuw Statendam?  lol  

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55 minutes ago, Rinderoo said:

 

Also... what is a "Panama Bun"? Are they are delicious

 

My opinion, the Panama Bun differs in its preparation from ship to ship.  On the Eurodam, it was a thicker piece of a  bread roll with the tangerine/citrus flavor impeded inside and on top.  On other ships, it is prepared more like a danish with the citrus "jelly/jam" on the top.  It's always delicious regardless of its preparation.   

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48 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

My opinion, the Panama Bun differs in its preparation from ship to ship.  On the Eurodam, it was a thicker piece of a  bread roll with the tangerine/citrus flavor impeded inside and on top.  On other ships, it is prepared more like a danish with the citrus "jelly/jam" on the top.  It's always delicious regardless of its preparation.   

 

Here's a picture of the Panama buns on the Zuiderdam years ago. Don't know if they are still the same.

IMG_1280.jpg

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I think I must be the only person who doesn’t like them.  I feel bad about that.

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22 minutes ago, helby said:

 

Here's a picture of the Panama buns on the Zuiderdam years ago. Don't know if they are still the same.

IMG_1280.jpg

 

It surely looks the same.

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My friend just got back from this cruise and took the excursion to the Embera Village.  She told me she loved the excursion but had a very sore bottom from the canoe.  Hope that helps

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