My wife and I took this tour when we were on the Summit this past January. Following is my description of the tour. Have a great cruise!
The train tour was approximately 4 ½ hours; two of these hours are for a bus tour at the Pacific side of the trip. There are two versions of this tour: standard, and the “Dome Car.” The obvious difference is that the second tour uses a (there is only one) dome-type passenger train car, where the others use standard railroad passenger cars. However, based on my experience, there are more differences between these tours than what is obvious.
My wife and I took the Dome Car Tour and we were very glad we did. First, our guide was excellent. He has set the gold standard for me for all future tour guides. His name was “Marty.” He was raised in Panama, and Costa Rica, by US parents, and was educated in the US. He was very knowledgeable about Panama, the railroad, and the Canal. He was very easy to understand; I do not think I missed a word the entire trip.
Of course, the other cars probably had excellent guides also, but when it came time for the two-hour bus trip, the difference between the two tours became more apparent. The bus tour has two destinations; A) Mira Flores Locks, and B) a tour of the extreme most Pacific entrance to the Canal, which has great views of Panama City, and the “Bridge of the Americas.” When we departed the train station, our Dome Car group got in one bus and went first to location B, then to A. All the other passengers (~250) boarded six other busses and went as a group, first to location A, and then to B. It seemed to me that our Dome Car group got the best of this arrangement.
Let me finish by saying that Panama is considered by many to be “Third World County,” but this tour was first class in my opinion. Great guide, the train was in excellent condition, and the bus tour was very interesting and informative. I would do again in a heartbeat.
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05/04 Princess – Diamond Princess