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How safe is a cruise to Panama Canal with a child?

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Dec 26th, 2009, 08:22 PM
  #1
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How safe is a cruise to Panama Canal with a child?

My wife and I are considering a cruise to the Panama Canal (Aruba, Jamaica, Cartagena, Panama, Costa Rica) with our 18 month old. Does anyone have any advice on how safe these places are, especially with a child? I would prefer to not take him off the ship if possible. I've heard that staying in organized, cruise-line related groups is something to consider. I appreciate any feedback.
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Dec 27th, 2009, 07:46 AM
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Your safest bet for excursions on shore would be those sponsored by the ship. They will be more costly and the number of people will be greater but if safety is the way to go. Of course nothing is guaranteed. Aruba is very safe so I don't think you need to do this there. You can get off the ship in Ocho Rios and walk into town which is at the pier. I don't think you will be harmed though you will meet rather persistent private taxi drivers and tur guides. Just keep walking. Costa Rica is pretty safe too though I am not sure about Cartagena and we were told that our stop in Panama, Colon, was unsafe. Honestly if you are inclined to not take him off the ship then just skip it and go somewhere else. Most ports in the southern Caribbean route are very nice and safe. Anothe option. esp. for an 18 mo. old is an AI in Mexico or the Caribbean. Good luck.
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Dec 27th, 2009, 12:29 PM
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I cannot comment on the safety of the destinations on a Panama cruise. However, I would not want to take a cruise and not get off the ship at the ports. As jacketwatch said, maybe you should choose another destination.
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Dec 28th, 2009, 08:19 AM
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"Safety" is a relative term. "Safe" from what, exactly? Kidnappings, germs, thieves, bad food, bad water, guerillas? What? Frankly, most port towns are not all that great and many people opt to take an organized tour, whether it is organized by the cruise ship or a private business and basically skip spending time in the port.

If you are an experienced traveler, I would just use the same precautions you use anywhere you travel. Putting your toddler in a baby backpack is a good idea so you can keep him close to you. If you are not an experienced traveler, then the organized tour is probably the way to go.

It also depends on whether you speak Spanish or not.

Of course, if you are just going for the cruise part, by all means, just stay on the ship.

Remember, there are 18 month old babies in all the countries you will visit. And in Costa Rica, babies are treasures and complete strangers will come up to you on the street to oohh and ahh - mostly grandmothers.
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Dec 28th, 2009, 09:46 AM
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"I've heard that staying in organized, cruise-line related groups is something to consider." - this is true for adults. Those groups have age limit - I would call the ship to confirm a toddler will be allowed on a tour bus, even if seated on parent's lap.

Besides, if you are on a beach, the baby can pick something up to put in the mouth, to step on something... Maybe water or food will not agree with baby's delicate digestive system.

At 18 months I would rather take this toddler to a beach in Hawaii or a cruise there. For the baby's sake I'd rather stay in one place with a kitchenette.

Sorry, this is my opinion as a mother of 2 grown-ups.
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Dec 28th, 2009, 10:13 AM
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Well, a baby can pick up something and put it in his mouth or step on something at any beach. As for food and water, you can bring or buy bottled water on a tour and use packaged cookies or snacks while on shore.

Perhaps this is just a teeny bit xenophobic to think that a beach in, say Hawaii is cleaner/better/safer for a toddler than a beach in, say Costa Rica or Panama.

Good point, though, about age limitations on tours.
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Dec 28th, 2009, 11:37 AM
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Hsmithcr, just repeating CDC warnings, nothing more, not promoting any kind of xenophobia
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Dec 28th, 2009, 06:59 PM
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I appreciate the advice. I am an experienced traveler-just not to that part of the world. When I am speaking about safety, I really mean things such as kidnapping. I know it could happen anywhere-but those places have the reputation for a reason.

It will also be our first trip with a child. We did think about Hawaii or Europe, but we're not ready to put him on a long flight. The cruise is out of Ft. Lauderdale, which is a short flight for us.

I also understand some people saying don't go if you don't want to get off the ship, but I'm really only concerned about Panama and Colombia. I think possibly skipping those and getting off at the other places may be alright.
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Dec 29th, 2009, 04:37 AM
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droach - Hope you and your family have a great trip!
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Dec 29th, 2009, 08:53 AM
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I would definitely skip Colombia - I got off the ship there twice with a cruise ship tour and a private tour but after that we remained on board. Several passengers had problems in Cartagena with some locals and another time some passengers were in a taxi and due to the drivers frightening driving they were involved in an accident. I haven't gotten off the ship in Panama either. The other ports are just fine. Enjoy your cruise!!
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Dec 29th, 2009, 03:19 PM
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Panama is pretty safe, and Cartagena is a nice, reasonably safe colonial city where you can stroll in an area patrolled by a lot of police. You're more likely to be shortchanged on currency conversion or a taxi fare than have your child kidnapped in Cartagena.

Frankly, I'd be more concerned in Costa Rica. If the cruise stops in Limon, that's the armpit of Costa Rica and not a nice city at all. Most people take trips out into the countryside, but I don't know if those are practical with a toddler. Ports on the Pacific side are safer and nicer.

In Jamaica, you can just go to the beach right at the Margaritaville in Ocho Rios. The water there is very calm and it's a decent small beach right at the cruise port. Otherwise, if I were to do anything I'd take advantage of a beach day at one of the nearby all-inclusive resorts, probably Beaches Sandy Bay if it's offered.

I think hsmithcr has a point about the limitations of travel with a young child. But I don't think you'll have any problems in Panama. You'll probably go to Portobelo or somewhere in the colonial zone of Panama City (or you can just hang at one of the little restaurants near the cruise pier). Both are very safe though hot; you could go see the cute cranes at the presidential palace in Panama City. The baby might like them.

Your child will not really be old enough to take advantage of any of the children's programs, so you may not find it a very relaxing vacation. If you were to cruise on Carnival, they change diapers (the only cruise line except for Disney that does this).
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