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The Leader in Small Ship and River Cruising Worldwide
Worldwide Discovery at Extraordinary Value Since 1958

2016 Panama Canal Cruise & Panama: A Continent Divided, Oceans United

12 Days from only $3795 including international airfare

ABOARD OUR PRIVATELY CHARTERED 24-PASSENGER M/S DISCOVERY DESIGNED FOR AMERICAN TRAVELERS

Panama City • Chitre • Gamboa Rain Forest • Panama Canal Cruise

Trip Experience

Watch travelers board motorized dugout canoes to visit a village of indigenous Embera people and enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch.

Trip Itinerary

Get more information about your detailed itinerary, like optional tours, exclusive Discovery Series events, and more.

Program Director

Meet Panamanian Program Director Juan Carlos, who describes what it was like growing up in the countryside with his tightknit family.

Program Director

Learn which birds are Yesenia Yepez's favorite to encounter whenever she takes a nature walk in Gamboa, Panama.

Trip Extension: Cartagena, Colombia

Meet the locals striving to improve their lives in Cartagena, Colombia, which you can experience on our trip extension.

Ship Experience

Step aboard your small ship to see the highlights that await along the Panama Canal.

Courtesy Matteo Borgardt
Resisting "the Foreign Tentacle"

Discover how Panama's indigenous Kuna people are striving to maintain their culture in a changing world.

©2015 The New York Times
Intersection: Panama City, Panama

Stroll Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo neighborhood, and meet the locals who infuse it with style.

Produced by Anand Varma
Balsa Trees – Natural History

Discover the fantastic array of animals nourished by Panama's balsa trees, which bloom when food is scarce.

Courtesy Eoin Mclaughlin
Diablo Rojo

Witness the demise of the Diablos Rojos, the wildly decorated school buses that once comprised Panama City’s bus system.

New Year, New Stories

Take a look at the films that inspire filmmaker David Conover—and preview the stories that await this year.

Climate Change & Travel

Travel with David Conover to see how people—from street protesters to Heads of State—respond to a changing climate and ocean.

Produced for CuriosityStream
Big Picture Earth Trailer

David Conover's newest television series takes us from Stonehenge to Petra, from Iceland to the Oracle at Delphi ... and beyond.

Sharing Travel Moments

Hear why visual storytelling helps to build a conversation about the world from filmmaker David Conover.

Solo Traveler Experience

Hear about one solo traveler’s experiences in Turkey and Greece.

The Grand Circle Cruise Line Experience

Travel aboard Grand Circle Cruise Line’s selection of river and small ships—from the Adriatic Sea to the Danube River.

Travel Protection Plan

Learn about the benefits of Grand Circle's plan—and how you can protect your entire trip investment.

FROM
$3795
12 DAYS
$317/DAY
including international airfare
12 DAYS FROM $2995 Small Ship Cruise Tour Only
 

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Itinerary Overview

With its spectacular rain forests, legendary canal, and lively urban centers, Panama offers a unique blend of treasures both natural and cosmopolitan. Your 12-day journey through this unforgettable country will bring its fascinating contrasts, vibrant cultures, and historic significance to life. On our Panama Canal cruise, you’ll take three nights to complete a transit of this man-made marvel aboard Grand Circle's privately chartered, 24-passenger catamaran, the M/S Discovery. As you cruise the Panama Canal, the epic tale of its construction will unfold before you—and you’ll see how this massive, modern project has impacted everyday life and the surrounding landscape. While on land, you’ll visit local villages, where Panama's indigenous people will introduce you to their enchanting traditions; embark on a tour of Chitre and Panama City to discover the myriad excitements of the country’s metropolitan hubs; enjoy a visit to a sugarcane farm and butterfly garden; and more. From the bustling activity of the Canal Zone and the abundance of wildlife in the rainforest to the quiet beauty of the coasts, Panama beckons. Plus, you can enhance your Small Ship Cruise Tour with our Bocas Del Toro, Panama: Wild Archipelago and Colonial Cartagena, Colombia: The Emerald of the Caribbean optional extensions.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 3 nights from only $795

    Explore Panama's wild archipelago Bocas del Toro

    At Bocas del Toro, you’ll find the same crystal waters and lush greenery that enchanted Columbus 500 years ago, alongside a colorful contemporary calypso culture. Immerse yourself in an unspoiled paradise, get to know villagers from the indigenous Ngobe tribe, and discover the tropical birds and sea creatures that thrive in this wild archipelago.

    View Extension Itinerary
Panama City Panama City Expand All
  • Discover Panama City before embarking on your Panama Canal cruise

    You depart from the U.S. today and fly to Panama City, Panama's capital and largest city. Or, join fellow travelers who took our optional pre-trip extension, Bocas del Toro, Panama: Wild Archipelago.

    Your Grand Circle Program Director or a member of our local staff will meet your flight at the airport and help you transfer to your hotel. Dinner is on your own this evening. Your Program Director will be happy to suggest a restaurant.

  • Intersection: Panama City, Panama

    Stroll Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo neighborhood, and meet the locals who infuse it with style.

    After your morning briefing, you'll depart for San Felipe, Panama City's Old Quarter. Here you'll stroll through the famous San Felipe de Neri market before taking a walking tour of the Old Quarter. There you will visit historic sites such as Santo Domingo Convent and the San Jose Cathedral, known for its gold altar.

    Afterward, you'll have an included lunch in the Old Quarter, followed by free time to relax or explore more of modern Panama.

    This evening, you'll enjoy an included Welcome Dinner.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, you'll depart Panama City for the Azuero region, stopping en route to explore the town of Chorrera. You'll arrive at Feuillet Park, a vibrant urban oasis where you'll meet local entrepreneurs, visit the town health center, and mingle with people as they shop, work, and socialize. Then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    Later that afternoon, you'll depart to Chitre. One of Panama's oldest communities, Chitre is a charming modern city with vestiges of its colonial past, such as the ornate, red-tiled Spanish houses. Chitre has also been called "the gateway to the Azuero Peninsula," a less-touristed area of Panama known for its colonial traditions, festivals, and handcrafts.

    Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and enjoy an orientation walk with your Program Director. That evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, enjoy breakfast at your hotel before departing for a city tour of Chitre. Once you arrive, get a taste of everyday life as you explore the town's central plaza, perhaps stopping at one of its enticing local food or juice cart vendors.

    Your next stop will be the town of Santo Domingo, where you will visit a pollera shop. The pollera is a lavish embroidered dress that was brought over by the Spanish, but adapted and embraced as the national costume of Panama. Traditionally, polleras are white, feature a full, two-tier skirt and are hand-embroidered with exquisite details that can increase the value of the garment from hundreds to thousands of dollars. During your visit, you'll learn all about the painstaking craftsmanship that goes into creating these adored Carnival costumes.

    Next, you will visit the city of Las Tablas, the capital of Carnival—as well as the capital of the Los Santos region. Here, you'll visit a Carnival artisan, who designs floats, gowns, and costumes for the annual celebration. You'll learn about the history and excitement of Carnival through his personal anecdotes and have a chance to marvel at some of his creations. Later you will depart for the coastal town of Guarare where you will enjoy lunch by the beach.
     
    Late that afternoon you will return to the hotel for an evening of leisure. Dinner will be on your own.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast this morning, depart for La Arena. A small village just north of Chitre, La Arena is famous for two things: its fine pottery and its fresh bread. Today, you will have the opportunity to find out why.

    Your first stop will be one of La Arena's many panaderias (bakeries). Most panaderias are family owned and operated, and offer bakery treats of all kinds—from pastries to cookies. But it is the bread that travelers come to sample, as you will get a chance to today.

    Next you will visit a traditional pottery workshop. Watch as a local sculptor transforms a humble ball of clay into a beautiful piece of art. Plates, bowls, and other tableware are highly sought after by local restaurants and hotels, while the more decorative items are embellished with folkloric designs.

    After the day's discoveries in La Arena, you may choose to take an optional tour to Varela Hermanos, one of Panama’s leaders in rum production. Your visit to the mill will take you from the sugar cane plantation into the distillery itself, where you will enjoy a tour and a tasting.

    Or, return to Chitre in time for lunch on your own. The balance of the day is free. Perhaps you will explore Herrera Museum, a treasure trove of well-preserved, indigenous pottery dating from 5000 BC to the Spanish conquest. Or visit the San Juan Bautista Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas.

    Meet your fellow travelers back at your hotel tonight for an included dinner, after which you will take part in a mask-making demonstration.

  • This morning, you depart Chitre and visit a sugarcane farm. You'll meet a local family who continues the traditional business of growing sugarcane, followed by a lunch in a local restaurant.

    After your visit, you'll travel to Gamboa, your next destination. You begin by crossing the Gaillard Cut of the Panama Canal by way of the Centennial Bridge that carries the Pan-American Highway across the canal. When you arrive in the mid-afternoon, you'll check into your hotel.

    You'll have some free time to relax or explore before visiting a butterfly garden to observe their delicate fluttering and unique wing patterns. Dinner tonight is at the hotel.

  • This morning, you'll transfer to the pier and then board motorized dugout canoes to visit a village of the Embera people, one of Panama's seven indigenous tribes. While there, you will also visit the Embera's school, which is supported by Grand Circle Foundation's World Classroom initiative. You'll spend time with the children and their teacher, who will tell you about the school's plans and hopes for Panama's future generations.

    The Embera are often associated with the Wounan people, though the two cultures were effectively separated during the latter part of the last century. Since these two tribes have no written history, little is known of their early heritage. It is believed they originally were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers and fishermen, but the construction of the Pan-American Highway reduced their rain forest habitat, and they adopted a more agricultural lifestyle while still retaining their traditional ways.

    Among the most stunning of these is body painting. To facilitate their movement through the jungle, the Embera once wore minimal clothing, and would cover the top parts of their bodies with black dye from the jagua, an inedible jungle fruit. Still used today for ceremonies and celebrations, this custom can take the form of solid blocks of ink against contrasting patches of bare skin or intricate patterns etched on the skin with a bamboo stick. The indelible blue-black dye remains on the skin for up to two weeks, until it is naturally exfoliated. Your friendly hosts will introduce us to their unique way of life by demonstrating these techniques.

    Also skilled craftspeople, the villagers will explain the technique used to make their canastas, baskets so tightly woven that they can even hold water. We'll learn about the natural fibers and vegetable dyes of the rain forest used in their creation.

    Fish is an important protein among the Embera, and even youngsters are experts with the harpoon, spear, and hand line. The local diet also relies heavily on jungle plants, plantains, bananas, rice, beans, hearts of palm, and yucca root. You'll enjoy an authentic taste of local cuisine during a Home-Hosted Lunch, and also experience Embera dances and the music of flutes, drums, and turtle shells.

    You'll return to your hotel this afternoon, with some free time to relax and enjoy the lush scenery. Or, you may choose to join a nature walk on hotel grounds. Dinner tonight is at the hotel.

  • After breakfast and morning at leisure, you'll depart for Panama City. You'll enjoy lunch on your own and then board the M/S Discovery. This 24-passenger catamaran will be your private home throughout your three-night Panama Canal cruise. After a short onboard orientation, your ship sets sail later this afternoon.

    Our first port of call is Taboga Island, known as the “Island of Flowers,” a title it lives up to with birds of paradise, orchids, and other tropical species. It's a colorful island with an equally colorful history. The birthplace of Santa Rosa de Lima, the Southern Hemisphere's first saint and a role model to Mother Teresa, the island also beckoned artist Paul Gauguin, who began incorporating bright colors into his work more often after his stay here. The island also played an important role in the construction of the canal, serving for more than three decades as a retreat for French and then American canal builders. Here you'll have time to either kayak in the bay or disembark to explore the island, a mostly pedestrian haven, with your Program Director.

    This evening, enjoy dinner onboard the ship and after-dinner activities on the Top Deck. Our overnight stay here allows us to be in prime position for the commencement of tomorrow's transit of this vital link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

  • Balsa Trees – Natural History

    Discover the fantastic array of animals nourished by Panama's balsa trees, which bloom when food is scarce.

    You'll wake up this morning to find yourself at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, where you'll begin your northbound canal passage. You'll witness a new chapter in the canal's 102-year-old history: a new set of locks that allow the world's largest cargo ships to pass for the first time in the canal's history.

    The notion of building a path between the seas here is as old as the voyages of Christopher Columbus, but it wasn't until 1879 that Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez Canal, made the first attempt. The scope of the effort proved too great, and the project languished until 1902, when Teddy Roosevelt brought the dream to life.

    In 1913—a full year ahead of schedule and nearly $23 million under budget—the Panama Canal was completed. It officially opened on August 15, 1914, and a dream became a reality. A journalist who witnessed its opening wrote, “This canal is both a first and a last … man will never again build with such scope, such imagination.” More than 40 ships a day, or more than 14,000 annually, traverse its 50-mile length—eliminating a 9,000-mile trip around the tip of Cape Horn.

    You begin your own transit by cruising beneath the soaring Bridge of the Americas, which connects the two land masses that were separated by the canal's construction, to join today's convoy of ships from around the world for your northbound canal passage. As you cruise, you'll take in the full spectrum of everyday life on the canal's banks, from the bustling activity at the commercial port of Balboa to crocodiles lounging in the sun.

    You'll pass through the Miraflores Locks and the Pedro Miguel Locks, experiencing for yourself the thrill of these engineering marvels. Then, you'll navigate the Gaillard Cut; the narrowest section of the canal that bisects the Continental Divide, it is named for the American who oversaw its construction and then died just before it opened. You'll see up close the dramatic landscape 6,000 canal laborers toiled to cut. At the peak of construction, up to 600 holes daily were drilled and then blasted with as much as 50,000 pounds of dynamite. Steam shovels dug out the rubble, which was loaded onto 160 trains a day for the twelve-mile trip to the dumps. Your Program Director will describe how, nearly a century later, this section of the canal requires continuous maintenance due to its susceptibility to landslides.

    After a leisurely lunch onboard, experience the highlight of the day's cruise when the Discovery is raised 85 feet above sea level to Gatun Lake. This man-made lake was created during the construction of the canal by damming the Chagres River, which supplies the Gatun Locks with more than 52 million gallons of fresh water per ship that passes through. You may explore the lake by kayak today, if you wish.

    The Discovery will anchor for the night in Gatun Lake, where you'll enjoy dinner together followed by a discussion that will prepare you for the rest of your cruise: The Expansion of the Panama Canal & History of the Chagres River. You'll spend the night moored at the lake, listening to the lullaby of the rain forest as you drift off to sleep.

  • This morning you'll see Gatun Dam and its hydroelectric generation station, responsible for generating electricity to operate and light the locks and light canal villages. At the time of its completion in 1913, it was the largest earthen dam in the world, and the resulting Lake Gatun was the largest artificial lake on the planet.

    Later this morning, you will enjoy a nature walk at San Lorenzo National Park to view its diverse flora and fauna, some of its twelve miles of picturesque coastline, and have opportunities to spot some of the park's several hundred bird species.

    You'll return to our ship for lunch onboard and some time for a short rest, or siesta.

    Late in the afternoon, your ship will continue your transit of the canal, as you pass through the Gatun Locks—the largest of the Panama Canal locks. The ship will begin its descent back to sea level here, a process that takes about two hours. You'll enjoy a Farewell Dinner onboard.

  • Diablo Rojo

    Witness the demise of the Diablos Rojos, the wildly decorated school buses that once comprised Panama City’s bus system.

    Disembark the Discovery this morning before arriving at Expansion Project Visitor Center to learn about modern-day expansion of the canal. Later, your discoveries continue with a visit to the Panama Canal Administration Building, inaugurated exactly one month before the canal itself.

    After lunch on your own, you'll visit Reprosa jewelry shop, famous for its reproductions of pre-Columbian art and jewelry. Tour the shop and admire how artisans bring these ancient "treasures of Panama" to life in finely wrought silver and gold.

    This evening, check into your hotel before gathering with your fellow travelers to reminisce over dinner.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to the U.S. Or begin your post-trip extension in Colonial Cartagena, Colombia: The Emerald of the Caribbean.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Colonial Cartagena, Colombia: The Emerald of the Caribbean

    5 nights from only $1045

    On a small Caribbean peninsula, discover Cartagena, Colombia, a city with a rich history and languorous charm. Find Spanish, Indian, and African influences in Cartagena’s colorful architecture and percussion-heavy music, and enjoy gentle trade winds that waft salt air from the nearby beaches.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 3 nights from only $795

    Explore Panama's wild archipelago Bocas del Toro

    At Bocas del Toro, you’ll find the same crystal waters and lush greenery that enchanted Columbus 500 years ago, alongside a colorful contemporary calypso culture. Immerse yourself in an unspoiled paradise, get to know villagers from the indigenous Ngobe tribe, and discover the tropical birds and sea creatures that thrive in this wild archipelago.

    View Extension Itinerary
Panama City Panama City Expand All
  • Discover Panama City before embarking on your Panama Canal cruise

    Depart from the U.S. today and fly to Panama City, Panama's capital and largest city.

    Your Grand Circle Program Director or a member of our local staff will meet your flight at the airport and help you transfer to your hotel, where you will meet fellow travelers who took our optional pre-trip extension, Bocas del Toro, Panama: Wild Archipelago. Dinner is on your own this evening. Your Program Director will be happy to suggest a restaurant.

  • After your morning briefing, you'll depart for San Felipe, Panama City's Old Quarter. Here we'll stroll through the famous San Felipe de Neri market before taking a walking tour of the Old Quarter. There we will visit historic sites such as Santo Domingo Convent and the San Jose Cathedral, known for its gold altar.

    Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in the Old Quarter before taking a dynamic panoramic tour of modern Panama.

    This evening, you'll enjoy an included Welcome Dinner.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, explore the town of Chorrera. You'll arrive at Feuillet Park, a vibrant urban oasis where you'll meet local entrepreneurs, visit the town health center, and mingle with people as they shop, work, and socialize. Then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    Later that afternoon, you'll depart to Chitre. One of Panama's oldest communities, Chitre is a charming modern city with vestiges of its colonial past, such as the ornate, red-tiled Spanish houses. Chitre has also been called "the gateway to the Azuero Peninsula," a less-touristed area of Panama known for its colonial traditions, festivals, and handicrafts.

    Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and enjoy an orientation walk with your Program Director. That evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, enjoy breakfast at your hotel before departing for a city tour of Chitre. Once you arrive, get a taste of everyday life as you explore the town's central plaza, perhaps stopping at one of its enticing local food or juice cart vendors.

    Your next stop will be the town of Santo Domingo where you will visit a pollera shop. The pollera is a lavish embroidered dress that was brought over by the Spanish, but adapted and embraced as the national costume of Panama. Traditionally, polleras are white, feature a full, two-tier skirt and are hand-embroidered with exquisite details that can increase the value of the garment from hundreds to thousands of dollars. During your visit, you'll learn all about the painstaking craftsmanship that goes into creating these adored Carnival costumes.

    Next, you will visit the city of Las Tablas, the capital of Carnival—as well as the capital of the Los Santos region. Here, you'll visit one of Las Tablas's Carnival artisans, who designs floats, gowns, and costumes for the annual celebration. You'll learn about the history and excitement of Carnival through his personal anecdotes and have a chance to marvel at some of his creations. Later you will depart for the coastal town of Guarare where you will enjoy lunch by the beach.
     
    Late that afternoon you will return to the hotel for an evening of leisure. Dinner will be on your own.

  • After breakfast this morning, depart for La Arena. A small village just north of Chitre, La Arena is famous for two things: its fine pottery and its fresh bread. Today, you will have the opportunity to find out why.

    Your first stop will be one of La Arena's many panaderias (bakeries). Most panaderias are family owned and operated, and offer bakery treats of all kinds—from pastries to cookies. But it is the bread that travelers come to sample, as you will get a chance to today.

    Next you will visit a traditional pottery workshop. Watch as a local sculptor transforms a humble ball of clay into a beautiful piece of art. Plates, bowls, and other tableware are highly sought after by local restaurants and hotels, while the more decorative items are embellished with folkloric designs.

    After the day's discoveries in La Arena, you may choose to take an optional tour to Varela Hermanos, one of Panama’s leaders in rum production. Your visit to the mill will take you from the sugar cane plantation into the distillery itself, where you will enjoy a tour and a tasting.

    Or, return to Chitre in time for lunch at a local restaurant. The balance of the day will be on your own. Perhaps you will explore Herrera Museum, a treasure trove of well-preserved, indigenous pottery dating from 5000 BC to the Spanish conquest. Or visit the San Juan Bautista Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas.

    Meet your fellow travelers back at your hotel tonight for an included dinner, after which you will take part in a mask-making demonstration.

  • This morning, you depart Chitre and visit a sugarcane farm. You'll meet a local family who continues the traditional business of growing sugarcane, followed by a lunch in a local restaurant.

    After your visit, you'll travel to Gamboa, your next destination. You begin by crossing the Gaillard Cut of the Panama Canal by way of the Centennial Bridge that carries the Pan-American Highway across the canal. When you arrive in the mid-afternoon, you'll check into your hotel.

    You'll have some free time to relax or explore before visiting a butterfly garden to observe their delicate fluttering and unique wing patterns. Dinner tonight is at the hotel.

  • This morning, you'll transfer to the pier and then board motorized dugout canoes to visit a village of the Embera people, one of Panama's seven indigenous tribes. The Embera are often associated with the Wounan people, though the two cultures were effectively separated during the latter part of the last century.

    While there, you will also visit the Embera's school which is supported by Grand Circle Foundation's World Classroom initiative. You'll spend time with the children and their teacher, who will tell you about the school's plans and hopes for Panama's future generations.

    Because these two tribes have no written history, little is known of their early heritage. It is believed they originally were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers and fishermen, but the construction of the Pan-American Highway reduced their rain forest habitat, and they adopted a more agricultural lifestyle while still retaining their traditional ways.

    Among the most stunning of these is body painting. To facilitate their movement through the jungle, the Embera once wore minimal clothing, and would cover the top parts of their bodies with black dye from the jagua, an inedible jungle fruit. Still used today for ceremonies and celebrations, this custom can take the form of solid blocks of ink against contrasting patches of bare skin or intricate patterns etched on the skin with a bamboo stick. The indelible blue-black dye remains on the skin for up to two weeks, until it is naturally exfoliated. Your friendly hosts will introduce us to their unique way of life by demonstrating these techniques.

    Also skilled craftspeople, the villagers will explain the technique used to make their canastas, baskets so tightly woven that they can even hold water. We'll learn about the natural fibers and vegetable dyes of the rain forest used in their creation.

    Fish is an important protein among the Embera, and even youngsters are experts with the harpoon, spear, and hand line. The local diet also relies heavily on jungle plants, plantains, bananas, rice, beans, hearts of palm, and yucca root. You'll enjoy an authentic taste of local cuisine during your Home-Hosted Lunch at one the villager's homes, and also experience Embera dances and the music of flutes, drums, and turtle shells.

    You'll return to your hotel this afternoon, where you will enjoy a nature walk on the hotel's tropical grounds. Dinner tonight is at the hotel.

  • After breakfast this morning, take part in a guided nature walk of the lush rain forest surroundings. Then you'll tour the Expansion Project Visitor Center and learn about canal expansion projects.

    After lunch on your own, you'll embark the M/S Discovery, a 24-passenger catamaran that will be your private home for the next three nights as we transit the Panama Canal. After a short onboard orientation, you'll experience the highlight of the day's cruise when the Discovery is raised 85 feet above sea level to Gatun Lake. This man-made lake was created during the construction of the canal by damming the Chagres River, which supplies the Gatun Locks with more than 52 million gallons of fresh water per ship that passes through.

    The Discovery will anchor for the night in Gatun Lake, where you'll enjoy dinner together. You'll spend the night moored at the lake, listening to the lullaby of the rainforest as you drift off to sleep.

  • This morning you'll see Gatun Dam and its hydro-electric generation station, responsible for generating electricity to operate and light the locks and light canal villages. At the time of its completion in 1913, it was the largest earthen dam in the world, and the resulting Lake Gatun was the largest artificial lake on the planet.

    Later this morning, you will enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event—a nature walk at San Lorenzo National Park to view its diverse flora and fauna, some of its twelve miles of picturesque coastline, and have opportunities to spot some of the park's several hundred bird species.

    You'll return to your ship for lunch onboard as you continue on your course across Gatun Lake. Here you will have the opportunity to tour the lake by kayak. Following dinner, gather in the lounge for another exclusive Discovery Series event. This discussion that will prepare you for the rest of your cruise: The Expansion of the Panama Canal & History of the Chagres River.

  • This morning, you'll navigate the Gaillard Cut; the narrowest section of the canal that bisects the Continental Divide, it is named for the American who oversaw its construction and then died just before it opened. You'll see up close the dramatic landscape 6,000 canal laborers toiled to cut. At the peak of construction, up to 600 holes daily were drilled and then blasted with as much as 50,000 pounds of dynamite. Steam shovels dug out the rubble, which was loaded onto 160 trains a day for the twelve-mile trip to the dumps. Your Program Director will describe how nearly a century later this section of the canal requires continuous maintenance due to its susceptibility to landslides.

    Then you'll make your descent back to sea level as you pass through the Pedro Miguel Locks and the Miraflores Locks. You'll witness a new chapter in the canal's 102-year-old history: a new set of locks that allow the world's largest cargo ships to pass for the first time in the canal's history.

    After a leisurely lunch onboard, you'll sail triumphantly into the Pacific Ocean, passing beneath the soaring Bridge of the Americas, which connects the two land masses that were separated by the canal's construction. Enjoy views of the full spectrum of everyday life on the canal's banks, like the bustling activity at the commercial port of Balboa.

    Your final port of call is Taboga Island, known as the "Island of Flowers," a title it lives up to with birds of paradise, orchids, and other tropical species, not to mention pineapples and mangoes. It's a colorful island with an equally colorful history. The birthplace of Santa Rosa de Lima, the Southern Hemisphere's first saint and a role model to Mother Teresa, the island also beckoned artist Paul Gauguin, who began incorporating bright colors into his work more often after his stay here. The island also played an important role in the construction of the canal, serving for more than three decades as a retreat for French and then American canal builders. Here you'll have time to either kayak in the bay or disembark to explore the island—a mostly pedestrian haven—with your Program Director. You'll enjoy a Farewell Dinner onboard tonight.

  • Disembark the Discovery this morning before arriving at Expansion Project Visitor Center to learn about modern-day expansion of the canal. Later, your discoveries continue with a visit to the Panama Canal Administration Building, inaugurated exactly one month before the canal itself.

    After lunch on your own, you'll visit Reprosa jewelry shop, famous for its reproductions of pre-Columbian art and jewelry. Tour the shop and admire how artisans bring these ancient "treasures of Panama" to life in finely wrought silver and gold.

    This evening, check into your hotel before gathering with your fellow travelers to reminisce over dinner.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to the U.S. Or begin your post-trip extension in Colonial Cartagena, Colombia: The Emerald of the Caribbean.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Colonial Cartagena, Colombia: The Emerald of the Caribbean

    5 nights from only $1045

    On a small Caribbean peninsula, discover Cartagena, Colombia, a city with a rich history and languorous charm. Find Spanish, Indian, and African influences in Cartagena’s colorful architecture and percussion-heavy music, and enjoy gentle trade winds that waft salt air from the nearby beaches.

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Panama Canal Cruise & Panama: A Continent Divided, Oceans United

Read Travel Planning Guide