Shore excursions for Panama Canal cruise

Dec 5th, 2008, 03:57 AM
  #1  
cd
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Shore excursions for Panama Canal cruise

We have just purchased a Panama Canal cruise and would very much appreciate recommendations for shore excursions at these ports:

1. Aruba
2. Cartagena, Colombia
3. Cristobal, Panama
4. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
5. Grand Cayman

Our priority is beautiful scenery and wildlife
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Dec 5th, 2008, 09:32 AM
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1. In Aruba we just took a taxi at the terminal (after discussing price) and he drove us around the island, ending up at the California Lighthouse, which we particularly wanted to see.

2. We've not been to Cartagena.

3. Cristobal didn't offer much other than shopping. We docked near a large terminal with shops inside. We were treated to dancing by some young Panamanians in beautiful costumes. Embera Indian women danced to "music" played by the men. Beyond this area is a huge area full of vendors of all sorts. Food/drinks are available.

4. We docked in Puntarenas, P.C. and reserved shore tours with the cruise line, first a river cruise through a Mangrove forest, where we saw crocodiles and many varieties of birds, etc. Then we did an aerial tram ride through a rainforest. Enjoyed both. I think you would too since you want beautiful scenery and wildlife, and assume similar tours would be available at your port.

5. We haven't been to Grand Cayman for years (it wasn't part of our Canal cruise) but I do remember visiting the Turtle Farm which was very interesting. We also went to "Hell" where they postmark mail for you.

Hope this helps. Don't hesitate to e-mail me if I can help further.
Giovanna is offline  
Dec 5th, 2008, 11:55 AM
  #3  
cd
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Thanks Giovanna
When you toured the Mangrove forest, were you bothered by biting insects? What month did you cruise? We will be in April. Did you enjoy your cruise?
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Dec 5th, 2008, 06:49 PM
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In Grand Cayman ....book the Seven Mile Tour.

You can that the Tender to shore and then there are a lot of people waiting to tour you around.

1. You will drive down the seven miles stretch of mansion home and places along the beach line.

2. You will stop off at a place called "Hell".

There is a little post office here and they encourgae you to send a post card home......just so you can say you sent a postcard from "Hell" !!

Go to the back of the post office building...hmm...amazing isn't it.

No !! I will not tell you what you will see.....there has to be some surprise

3. You will stop at a turtle hatchery and this is rather nice to see and hold the baby turtles and have your picture taken.

4. Then you will go to the Rum Cake factory.... come hungry because you will sample about 30 !!! pieces of different kinds of rum cake....
if
you can eat all 30 piece.

and let me tell you , they are not small sample pieces either.

5. Then by the Rum Cake place there is a statue of Captain Morgan..the devilish pirate..so take you picture here.

6. Finally , you are very near where you have totake the boat back to the ship...so just shop ..lots of nice buildings here.


In Panama

If you can take the train ride to the Pacific side of the Panama and back then by all means do this !
Percy is offline  
Dec 5th, 2008, 08:41 PM
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Our cruise was in November. I don't remember any problem with bugs on the river cruise. We enjoyed the whole day in Costa Rica very much. We were fortunate to have an excellent guide and bus driver. The young man who drove the boat on the cruise was excellent in sighting things of interest, moving us in as close as possible and then our guide would elaborate on what we were seeing. When we returned to the pier and started to leave the boat two gorgeous Scarlet Macaws flew overhead. A spectacular end to the cruise. Unfortunately too far away and top quick to get a picture, but I'll always remember it.
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Dec 5th, 2008, 08:45 PM
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p.s.: It just occurref to me you might be asking if we enjoyed the whole Panama Canal Cruise rather than just the river boat cruise. We have taken quite a few cruises over the years and this was a favorite. We enjoyed all our ports and thought the transit through the canal was superb. I've heard others say after the first lock it was like watching paint dry. I couldn't disagree more!
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Dec 6th, 2008, 04:56 AM
  #7  
cd
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Thanks Percy, I don't see a train ride available out of Cristobal, Panama. Is this a private tour you arranged or was it offered by your ship?

Giovanna, was yours a full or partial transit? On my itinerary for our partial transit, I see that we are just cruising the Canal for 8hrs and not stopping until we reach Cristobal, Panama. Is that what you experienced?
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Dec 6th, 2008, 10:49 AM
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My DH and I have done a full transit and a partial. Full was from San Juan to San Francisco,15 days. It was awesome. Sailing under the Bridge of the Americas was breathtaking. We also enjoyed the partial. Both times went to Cartegena. Hired taxi ourside terminal bldg for set price and toured the city from the monastery, the walled city to the beach resorts and he even took us to their major league baseball stadium. He was a retired pro baseball player! Very good. Second time there were 10 of us and we did the same thing only bigger taxi. They also took us to some small emerald stores that were much less expensive than the ones "guaranteed by the cruise ships". Wonderful tour. In aruba also hired taxi for a complete tour of island and then shopped some. Costa Rica we found a tour outside of terminal for the 10 of us. Went to banana plantation, and some offbeaten places that were lovely. On full transit we stopped at the Pacific side of Costa Rica and took a long tour to the capital of CR, San Jose, which was wonderful. We have loved both tours.
On partial we stopped in Gatun Lake for passengers to get off for a tour and then they met us at Cristobal. Sailing under the Bridge of the Americas and the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise were highlights of the trip. I tend to rattle on, but hope this helps some.
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Dec 6th, 2008, 10:53 AM
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One more thing I forgot to mention was that on the full transit we did not stop at all going thru the Panama Canal, It was 8 hours or so.
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Dec 6th, 2008, 11:28 AM
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cd
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Fosterag
Did you get off at Gatun Lake? I've heard it was very hot. Did you experience that or if you did not, did you talk to anyone who did do it and what did they think?
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Dec 6th, 2008, 12:20 PM
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cd - We did not get off at Gatun Lake. Cruise critics had told me that it was a long,hot and miserable tour. I think it was a bus tour.
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Dec 6th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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cd
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Thanks!!!!!
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Dec 6th, 2008, 12:37 PM
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I think maybe the train ride is from Colon Panama only.

Not sure if you can do the train ride from Cristobal but since the two places are so close together...maybe you can.

Since you are doing the partial Canal Cruise....doing the train ride is
more interesting than going through all the locks on a full cruise.

Because on the train , you will pass through several town, ...,you will still see all the locks
and

you will go into Balboa and Panama City and also see the bridges of the Americas.

Lunch is served on your way back on the train and one of the local Indian Tribes come on board and entertain you.!!

If you can ..then for sure do this train ride.

The train ride if offered by the ship..so unfortunately you may have to book this with the cruise ship ( if it is available)

You stated :

" our partial transit, I see that we are just cruising the Canal for 8hrs and not stopping until we reach Cristobal, Panama."

I do not think you will be cruise the Canal for 8 hours before you get to Cristobal.... you will be cruising but it will not be through the Canal.

In Costa Rica as fosterag accurately stated , you will have many options.

you can:

1. Go on a Tortuguero canal boat ( not all the way to Tortuguero !!)

2. or go the other way ( South) to Puerto Viejo and pass through quaint villages for shopping.

3. or you can do the Rainforest Aerial Tram

4.
or you can
Do the local tour around Puerto Limon and then have ample time to shop in Puerto Limon..or

there is a large market set up as you get off the cruise ship in Puerto Limon for a lot fo the local souvenirs.
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Dec 6th, 2008, 12:53 PM
  #14  
cd
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Percy
RE: do not think you will be cruise the Canal for 8 hours before you get to Cristobal.... you will be cruising but it will not be through the Canal

?????? Where will we be cruising if not the canal? Are you saying we will not go thru the Canal?
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Dec 6th, 2008, 01:40 PM
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If you are doing the partial Panama Canal Tour , then you will come into the Cristobal Harbour ( or Colon Harbour).

I am assuming you will get off here and then shop a bit or just tour around.

Then you will go through the first set of locks and into Gatun Lake ( so get up onto the top deck and watch as the lock fills up with water) ..

the cruise ship will remain in Gatun Lake overnight and then exit out of Gatun Lake and back into the Caribbean Sea and ...onward to Puerto Limon Costa Rica.


Until you get to the Cristobal Harbour , you will be crusing in the Caribeean Sea.!

That is why I would like you to take the train ride because this way , you will go right through Panama to the other side (Pacific) and see all the places I have mentioned....including the other two locks



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Dec 7th, 2008, 08:08 AM
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We did a full transit on our cruise. We sailed from Acapulco, visited Huatulco, Mexio; Antigua, Guatemala; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Aruba and then San Juan.
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Dec 7th, 2008, 08:58 AM
  #17  
cd
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Percy, the reason for my confusion is on my itinerary it says, At Sea Sat. Sun 7am to 3pm crusing Panama Canal. 3pm to 7pm Cristobal, Panama and then on to Costa Rica. Anyway, while we are in Cristobal, it would be great if a train was offered. I will be on the lookout for it.

Giovanna, we are thinking of renting a 4x4 on Aruba and doing our own touring. Is there a lot of traffic? Is it hard to get around? Better to do a tour?
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Dec 7th, 2008, 02:15 PM
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cd

That is a bit confusing!

It does not take 8 hours to go through the first lock and into Gatun Lake.

Are they calling coming into the Cristobal Harbor, part of the Panama Canal
but even then

" Sun 7am to 3pm crusing Panama Canal. 3pm to 7pm Cristobal, Panama and then on to Costa Rica."

So according to your information, you are cruisng the Canal from 7 AM to 3 PM and then right at 3 PM you are at Cristobal !!!

I would get more information from the Cruise lines as to exactly what this mean.

To me the Panama Canal does not start until you are lined up to go through the first Lock !

The Cruise lines may mean this :

You will cruise the Canal from 7 Am and go through the first lock....then into Gatun Lake, ...park here for a while...then out again through the same first lock and then to Cristobal...which is almost right there as to exit Gatun Lake and the first Lock.

hmmm
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Dec 7th, 2008, 05:27 PM
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cd, this is getting confusing. When we did the full transit we went from the carribean to the pacific. On the partial we went from carribean thru the Gatun locks and stopped in Gatun Lake for awhile to let off passengers for a tour. We were in Gatun Lake about 2 hours. Then we went back thru Gatun Locks to Cristobal where we docked for about 4 or 5 hours. There were no tours offered in Cristobal. On the full transit we never stopped anywhere until we got to Costa Rico. Hope this helps.
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Dec 7th, 2008, 05:39 PM
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Thanks fosterag

That is about what I was thinking...but I admit I am confused at the cruise ship's itinerary for this section.
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