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Best Cruise Excursions in Panama Canal

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Can't seem to make up my mind. Should I be taking a boat to experience the locks, or the domed train or a bus or a different excursion altogether. Any advice would be welcome. Taking Island Princess late January, 2010.

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    I have cruised through the Panama Canal twice - from west to east - and highly - highly recommend you take a boat through and experience the locks - also, I recommend you watch the PBS movie on construction of the Panama Canal - It probably is available at your local library. Enjoy - Ron

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    whisper, are you taking a full transit or a partial? Panama Canal cruises are available as round-trip partial transits or one-way complete transits. Partial transits usually sail round-trip from Florida. Ships typically go through the first set of locks, then turn around in Gatun Lake and exit the canal the way they entered. Full transits sail from coast to coast, beginning in Florida and ending in one of several ports on the West Coast, such as Los Angeles or San Diego (or the reverse).

    We took the partial and going thru that first set of locks on the ship was very interesting! Once in Gatun Lake the ship anchored and we took a tender ashore where we took a tour that involved wild life viewing and a lunch in the middle of nowhere. :-) A great time. IN the meantime, our ship went back thru that first set of locks to return and our tour dropped us at the ship there.

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    Just get back from the Island Princess on the Canal cruise. Which excursion to take depends on what you wanted to see. Your late Jan 2010 cruise should be round trip Fort Lauderdale.

    If you take a shore excursion, you will miss seeing the ship heading out to the Atlantic and going through the same set of locks. If you are up at 6 am to see the ship going through the locks to Gutum Lake anyway, it is the reverse view so you may not miss much.

    Best place to see the ship going through the locks, front of the ship on deck 10 & 11. We had a cabin at the front of the ship on deck 11. Great view and not crowded. Better view than your balcony.

    If you want to see the locks on the Pacific side, you must take an excursion to see it. A combo Panama City tour would be your best bet. Here is a tip: the food and drink that the tour operator provides are crap. Be prepared for it so you won't be disappointed. You can always buy your own stuff at a store or restaurnt.

    If you take the train, sit on the right hand side. You will get a better view. You will also spend more time on a bus than on the train ... go figure.

    If Dr. Tom is still the historian on board, go to his last lecture about the pirates. He will offer $100 for Long John Silver's parrot's name. If you don't know the answer, read the book (Treasure Island). But I will give you the answer here: Captian Flint.

    If you win the $100, do me a small favor. Go to the Bordeaux dining toom and ask for George (the F&B supervisor) and tell him the guy who asked for the grounded ginger say hello. My DW was sick and the grounded ginger help settled her stomach. If you are at a table under his supervison, you will get great service. He also supervises the F&B area at the Lotus Pool during the day. Great Ice Coffee at the Ice cream Bar there.

    A couple more things. Don't miss the cooking demostration. It is on the last sea day. It is more like a comedy act than a cooking demostration. Very funny and entertaining. Don't want to give it all away, but the best performance from the executive chef is not his cooking.

    They also offer a tour of the ship, from the bridge to the back stage to the engine room. They also wanted money for it. The reason for the money is to limit the number of people. Only a handful of people is willing to hand over a couple bills for it.

    If you can spare the 2 bills, go for it. They will give you "gifts" (you have really paid for it yourself anyway). The gifts included a chef's jacket, a good quality bath robe ($90 in their shop and it is much better quality than the cheap one they put in the cabin), a handful of 8 by 10 pictures (of the group on the tour and the captain etc) persoanlly autographed by the captain and a picture frame.

    Doesn't matter what time of the year, it will be hot and humid. 90 is the norm. hats and sun tan lotion is necessary. Bring a small towel or something on your shore excursisosn for your sweat. Last thing, bring a rain jacket. If not, buy a poncho from a dollar store. You may need it.

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