Panama Canal - Isthmian Railroad (trans-continental)
Booked on Miracle for Nov 09 cruise that stops in Colon, Panama for the day. I can't find any recent reviews of the rail trip from coast to coast. We are train nuts and think this would be a great ride. Has anyone taken it recently? And if so, any recommendations for us. Thanks!
IF IT ISN'T OFFERED BY THE SHIP, I WOULD NOT GO! YOU COULD GET INTO TROUBLE! IF it is offered by the ship you could try booking yourself but . . .
The train only runs once a day. You would be hard pressed to travel to Panama City and then get back in time for the ship. The trip across Panama is only about 28 miles BUT it can take up to three hours!
I just checked out the cruise. It says that the rail crossing cost is $159 per person. Doesn't say that a lunch is included. The train ticket is $22.00, Miraflores locks is $10.00 and the bus like they use would cost maybe $50.00 AT THE MOST per person. That would be a total of about $82.00 per person. That is a BIG mark up Only you can decide IF it is worth it to you.
I was under the impression that the train used for cruise passengers is different that the regular daily one. The daily schedule runs from Panama to Colon in the Am and returns in the PM. The cruise will dock in the morning in Colon and the train will run from Colon to Panama and we will be bussed back. Am I confused here or is this a different train the regular run?
Chief, I can tell you my own experience from a couple of years or so ago.
We took the train tour through Celebrity ( or maybe Princess--I can't recall now --been there 3 times ) and really enjoyed it. We took a bus from the dock area to the train station. It was an older train that had been refurbished and If I remember correctly it was used only for the tours to and from Panama City. It was air conditioned, had bathrooms and a snack type lunch was served. Very smooth and quite. We stopped near the locks on the Pacific side, took a bus to the actual locks and watched several huge ships transit through. We did NOT go directly into the heart of Panama City. I remember we got off and rode a bus around to a couple of places, then re-boarded the train. There were platforms between the cars where you could stand outside and as the R.R. runs right along the canal, the scenery was generally very good, sighting numerous ships, birds, etc.
We spent about half our time standing outside the car on the platform.
There's other ( or at least 1 more ) train that runs across as we had to go onto a siding and wait for about 30-40- minutes until it passed. It was a freight--not a passenger train.
There were two types cars you could book--one was the regular car and one was called the domed car--simply meaning it had a glass dome over the top so you could see up as well as out. However, since all the scenery would be to the sides, there's no use paying more for a domed car.
I don't remember the cost of the tour as it's been 2-3 years but it was worth it to me.
I would not attempt to do this own your own --is something happened, I wouldn't want to be stuck around Colon or Panama City !!
I hope you have a grand time if you do go.
Really appreciate all the great answers and help. For the curious, I have transited the canal but only on a cruise ship. I spent most of my 30 years in the Navy wandering around from embassy to embassy in Africa. Had a great career and would do it all ove again. I suspect that is one of the varied reasons I really enjoy the cruise life. Fair winds and following seas to all of you.