Today’s port of call was Panama. We awoke early and watched the ship through the Gatun Locks and up to Gatun Lake. It really is an engineering marvel of the modern world. The seamless efficiency was a sight to be hold!
Seeing the ship go in was interesting. We watched from the bow, cup of coffee in hand. But after the first lock, we moved to the back of the boat to watch a large container ship pull in behind us.
At Gatun Lake, we disembarked for our Holland America shore excursion – The Shaping of Panama. It was supposed to be a tour of Panama’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. It wasn’t quite.
The very first thing we noticed about Panama is the amount of trash all over the country. There are mounds of trash all the way across the country and litter is strewn along all of the roads. I’ve been to developing countries all over the world and there is always some trash, but nothing like we saw in Panama.
Our tour took us for a 3-hour drive to the Pacific to see the Miraflores Locks, the Pacific Ocean, a 30-minute bathroom break and “shopping” at a YMCA, seeing a hydroelectric dam, and the highrises of Panama City, etc. All in all, we spent 25 minutes of the 8-hour tour in Casco Antigua UNESCO site (we’re really disappointed in this tour, the way it was describe and how it turned out). It is the beautiful old neighborhood on the Pacific going through significant revitalization. Once done, it will be a beautiful area.
Once back in Colon, we briefly considered walking around the port area, but it was really rough and industrial. Colon, Panama is one cruise destination that you absolutely must do a booked tour – don’t plan on hiring a cab or walking around.
As we pulled out of the port of Colon, I counted 37 ships waiting in line to get into the Panama Canal. Seeing all those ships lined up was a thing of beauty.
We are glad to see the Canal, but we’re fine if we never see Panama again. I wouldn’t mind coming back in about 10 years to see the canal after it has undergone the expansion (due to be completed around 2014). However, I wouldn’t get off the boat again.