My husband and I are taking a partial Panama Canal cruise on the Island Princess in December. Has anyone taken the "Ocean to Ocean--Panama Canal Experience" excursion? This is the one where you start out in a motor coach, then switch to a tour boat to go through the Gaillard Cut and Miraflores, then back to the motorcoach. Was this a nice tour? At 6 hrs, is it very strenuous? Is it easy to get on the boat? What about the heat--should it be a big factor in our decision? Would we be better off taking the train tour? Any advice would be greatly appreciated since this will have to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us.
We did this and it is a great way to spend the day at Panama. We left on a modern airconditioned (bring a jacket or sweater) fully equiped motor coach. Every coach and train car had an English speaking guide. You board the train about 2 miles out of town. Each beautifully refurbished car offers booth style seating with panoramic windows. No bad seats. Upon arrival at the end of the Rail Road, you board another modern motor coach for transfer to Miraflores Locks and a full ranger explanantion of the modern technology and workings of this Wonder of the World. You will re-board the bus for further exploration through the streets of many cities and stop at Balboa Yacht Club for a close up view of the Bridge of the America's. After a 15 minute Photo opportunity, you will continue on through the new and old areas of Panama including a photo opportunity at Panama Bay. This is not a strenuous tour at all, in fact it is quite relaxing and so informative. We were served Panamanian coffee on the way out and a light snack on the way back. They took our photo with the opportunity for purchase on the return trip. When we returned, we still had about 2 hrs. for shopping at Colon 2000. For Panamaian coffee, just go into the Super 99 (their modern grocery store).
Our ship tour was $135pp. You do not need the dome car for an additional fee. If you only take one ship's tour, I highly recommend this one for convenience, safety and value to experience history and a beautiful country.