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Old February 18th, 2009, 08:40 PM
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Default Panama canal shore excursions

We are going on Island Princess for two weeks in April. We are most interested in Puntarenas in Costa Rica. We would be very interested to be advised of recommended shore excursions (Princess or otherwise) for this port of call. Any Cartagena recommendations? As always....thanks!!!
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Old February 19th, 2009, 01:25 PM
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In Puntarenas we did a city tour with lunch. It was OK.

There was a whole thread on Cartagena, but I cannot find it. This is one place where you do not want to roam around on your. In the center of the city there are military and police with machine guns on every corner. As you get away from the center of the city, the military and cops are no where to be found.

Make sure you do a tour with Princess or a private tour operator. I would not trust a cab driver to give you a tour.

We did a city tour which was a disaster. We stopped three times for a shopping break. The first stop was about 15 minutes into the tour. It was the tour guide daughter's shop.

This was the worst port stop on the itinerary.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 12:53 PM
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In Puntarenas I've done the Mangrove Boat Tour (through Holland America). I really liked the trip. The bus ride to/from the mangrove was a nice way to see the countryside and the guide was very informative along the way. At the boat tour they have a nice pavilion with large clean restrooms, free beer, soda and bottled water and fresh fruit snacks.

Each boat holds a full bussload. Do not worry about what side of the boat you pick, the boat goes out, turns around and comes back so you will see both sides of the canal. The guides point out all the animals and stop and position the boat so everyone can get a good look. There were many crockodiles, scarlet macaw, snowy egret (did not see a monkey).


---
Cartagena really surprised me. I saw a beauty in the city that I never expected. Inside the dock area there is a tourist pavilion with restrooms, bar, gift shop and it is totally safe. DO NOT attempt to walk outside the dock area or go walking about on your own. The ship docks in a commercial container ship yard and is not tourist friendly except for the well marked path to the tourist pavilion.

In Cartagena I've done the HAL version of the Cartagena Highlights tour. The tour is listed as strenuous but there is nothing strenuous for the average person. If you are too big to fit down the aisle of a tour bus (yes, we had one that could not) and if walking on level ground for 1/2 hour or walking up an inclined ramp is strenuous (we had many of those) than this tour is not for you. It was a good way to see a cross section of Cartagena. It was safe but be prepared for vendors selling you things at every stop.

If you are there at sunset or after dark make sure you head up on deck to look around. Cartagena can have some of the best sunsets.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 05:38 PM
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Thank you very much Pilotdane. A very informative answer, complete with photos. We like your part of the world, the Carolinas. We love golf and spent some time on the Outer Banks last fall. Thanks again.
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Old February 25th, 2009, 08:10 PM
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Puntarenas was the one "excursion" that we've done in ten cruises. We took the spa visit to the volcano Arenal, which was at a very nice hot water spay on the lower slope of the volcano. It included spending a couple of hours in the various hot water pools, a very nice lunch, and the 2-1/2 hour bus ride in each direction. It was a very good way to see quite a bit of the Costa Rica countryside; and, having a very nice time at the resort.
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Old February 26th, 2009, 10:16 AM
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As we recall, the Cartagena port of call was a disaster. The tour company was new and totally misrepresented the activity that was to follow. For a tour described as "Moderate Activity" it was outrageous. Many passengers just remained on the bus when asked to climb a mountainous hill and when the tour guide announced a one-hour walking tour through the old section, the bus remained our sanctuary.

To add insult to injury, the port military police searched our hand luggage getting off the ship in an effort to confiscate drugs being brought INTO Columbia. Talk about Coals to Newcastle.
Never again!
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Old February 26th, 2009, 11:28 AM
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Here are two pictures to help you decide if walking tour activity is too strenuous.

In the background is the fort. A very popular destination that most city tours will visit. You can see the ramp winding it's way up the fort. The ramp is very wide and there are great views of the city so it is no problem to stop and rest on the way up/down.

We had several people from our group stay on the bus. The driver stayed with them and kept the air conditioning running for them.

Here is a typical city street in the Old Town area. The streets are very well maintained, level, and quite smooth for an old city.

Again we had several people that did not want to walk. The group got off and those that stayed on the bus simply road around and waited at the pick up location.

Our walking tour through the old city was about 1 hour total. We walked through town for about 30 minutes. Then we went to a rest area near the pickup location and where each person was given a ticket for a free drink (beer, soda or bottled water). There was a traditional dance & drum show and plenty of tables and chairs (The place was very crouded. It seemed all the tours ended there and waited for their busses).

---

We were searched by the Colombians and Guatemalans before boarding the ship. In both cases they were polite and fast (and the guards seemed to be more annoyed with the searches than the passengers), and the searches by the Colombians & Guatemalans proceeded quicker than the security line onboard the ship.

Searches: That is travel in the modern world. We had 15 searches during our Panama Canal cruise. You are searched every time you enter an airport. You are searched every time you board the ship. Your bags are subject to search by US Customs and DEA when you return to the USA.
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Old February 28th, 2009, 12:55 PM
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I recently returned from the Coral Princess Panama Canal cruise. We stopped in Cartagena. I did the "Scenes of Cartagena" tour with Princess.
The tour was not as described in the brochure and I did not enjoy it. It's a very busy city, we had two shopping stops of almost 1/2 hr. each and there was more walking than advertised. Quite a few people stayed on the coach because of the walking and ended up seeing very little.
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Old March 7th, 2009, 03:52 PM
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We are a family of 5 with our spouses and have contracted Oscar Brown tours in Puntarenas; after reading the accolades of this Co. we booked. I must say Carol Brown responded to my inquiry immediately and liked her immensely. We are on a Princess ship also. Carol Brown <limonense03@yahoo.com>
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