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The Leader in Enriching Cultural Experiences since 1958

Worldwide Discovery at Extraordinary Value

2017 Panama Canal Cruise & Panama: A Continent Divided, Oceans United

Panama: Panama City, Chitre, Chorrera, Gamboa, Taboga Island, Panama Canal, San Lorenzo National Park

CRUISE COMFORTABLY IN SMALL GROUPS OF 24 ABOARD OUR PRIVATELY CHARTERED 24-PASSENGER M/S DISCOVERY
83% Traveler Excellence Rating Read reviews

12 Days from only $4395 including international airfare

Courtesy Matteo Borgardt
Resisting "the Foreign Tentacle"

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

©2014 The New York Times
36 Hours in Cartagena

Sample Cartagena’s culture, featured on our post-trip extension—from traditional cuisine to beloved art.

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.

Courtesy of David Conover & Paul Villanova
Travelogue: Panama 1936

Embark on a time traveling adventure—discover the Panama Canal in this travel film from 1936.

Courtesy Darrell Hartman
La Ciudad Vieja

Get a local perspective of Cartagena, then see it for yourself on our Panama trip’s extension.

FROM
$4395
12 DAYS
$367/DAY
including international airfare
12 DAYS FROM $3695 Small Ship Adventure Only
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NEW: Activity Level

Our NEW Activity Level rating system ranks our trips on a scale of 1 (easiest) to 5 (most difficult) to help you determine if a trip is right for you. The information below is a general guide to our rating system, but see our itineraries for much more detailed physical activity information about each trip.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5

Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5

Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

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. 

Make It Your Adventure

Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.

  • O.A.T’s team of Adventure Specialists makes every effort to provide you with non-stop flights and acceptable connection times to and from your destination. You also have several other options for personalizing your air itinerary, which include:

    • Choose your departure city and airline: We list the most popular gateway cities on our website, but not all of them. If you don’t see yours listed, or there’s one that better suits your needs, let us know. You can also tell us if you have an airline preference and we will try to accommodation your request.
    • Depart from one city and return from another: Just because your flight leaves from one city doesn’t mean you have to return there. Maybe you flew out of Boston and wish to visit friends in Los Angeles after your trip is over. Tell us where you want to go and we’ll do our best to get you there.
    • Fly the way you want to: We’ll gladly arrange a flight upgrade to business or premium economy class if it’s available. And when you fly economy class, we’ll do our best to see that you get your choice of seating preference or even add a special meal request if you have dietary restrictions or needs.
  • You can extend your time abroad and "break away" anywhere you'd like to do more exploring on your own. Stay for a day, a week, or even a month in a favorite locale. Start your adventures early in Sydney, Australia or stopover in Los Angeles for a night to break up a lengthy flight. Our Adventure Specialists can provide you with information on the accommodations we will use at the beginning of your trip so that you can make your own arrangements. That way, you'll know that you will be exactly where you need to be to meet your group.

  • Lots of our travelers choose to take another trip directly after their first one ends. Think about it: If you’re already overseas, why not see more of the region and avoid the expense and length of another international flight? Many of our travelers have taken two or three consecutive trips before returning home. One of the most common Small Ship Adventures combined with Panama Canal Cruise & Panama: A Continent Divided, Oceans United is Antarctica's White Wilderness. And now you’ll save an additional $250-$350 per person when you reserve two trips right after one another.

  • Many Grand Circle travelers simply don’t want their trips to end. With an array of pre- and post-trip extensions to choose from, you have the chance to experience more of the places you’ve traveled so far to see, including Chiriqui Highlands, Panama and Colonial Cartagena, Colombia: The Emerald of the Caribbean. Plus, you lower your average per-day costs because you’re taking advantage of your already included international airfare.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 3 nights from only $845

    Immerse yourself in the natural splendor of Chiriqui Highlands, where Atlantic and Pacific winds mingle to create a year-round spring-like climate, mountains tower over volcanic soils, and bajareque mists embrace lush rain forests. From agricultural traditions to timeless native customs, experience the charms of this unspoiled paradise.

    View Extension Itinerary
Panama City Panama City Expand All
  • 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, Chiriqui Highlands, Panama.

    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, discover Panama City via two of its cultural touchstones. First, stroll through Panama’s Central Avenue—an energetic shopping hub where you’ll find clothing, jewelry, and grocery stores. Then continue on into the Old Quarter, where you'll visit historic sites such as the 18th-century Plaza Herrera and the San Jose Cathedral, known for its gold altar.

    You’ll stop for an included lunch before continuing our tour of the Old Quarter. This afternoon, you’ll explore sites like Cathedral Plaza—the Old Quarter’s largest plaza and the site of celebrations after the country won its independence from Colombia and Spain—and the Paseo Esteban Huertas promenade where you’ll take in sweeping views of the bay. After the conclusion of your tour, you’ll meet with a local to get a firsthand perspective of life before and after Manuel Noriega—a Panamanian dictator who was removed from power by American forces in the 1980s.  

    The rest of the afternoon is yours to relax or explore more of Panama City—whether you continue to trace its history through the Old Quarter or move on to more modern areas of the city.

    This evening, you'll visit Plaza Cinco de Mayo to chat with the locals before enjoying an included Welcome Dinner, an opportunity to celebrate the discoveries to come.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, you'll depart Panama City for the Azuero region, stopping en route to explore the town of Chorrera. First, explore a local produce market in search of ripe fruits and vegetables, before taking part in a cooking lesson where you’ll learn how to make tortillas. Next 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—most vividly seen in its 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, followed by a walking tour in Chitre. This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

    hotel and enjoy an orientation walk with your Program Director, followed by a walking tour in Chitre. This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, you’ll visit a sugar cane farm to learn about the importance of this crop to Panama and the process of cultivating sugar cane. Then, after enjoying lunch in a local restaurant, you’ll head to the town of Guarare for your second exclusive Discovery Series event: visiting a pollera shop. While initially brought over by the Spanish, the lavish, embroidered pollera dress has been adapted and embraced as the national costume of Panama. Traditionally, polleras are white with 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.

    Afterward, you will return to the hotel for an evening at leisure. Dinner will be on your own.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After an early breakfast at the hotel, you may enjoy free time or choose to join an optional tour at the farm Finca El Eden in Pese. Here, you can learn about milk production as well as learning to milk a cow. Then, we will visit a traditional quincha house and learn about the traditional Panamanian corn dish changa. Afterwards, we will enjoy a traditional Panamanian lunch cooked over a fire.

    After arriving back at the hotel, enjoy a free afternoon. Later on you may choose to of visit a local pottery workshop, just a short walk from our hotel. Watch as a sculptor creates beautiful art out of a simple ball of clay.

    Or, join us on a visit to Sarigua National Park. Also known as the Sarigua Desert, the park is a dry, barren vista, in stark contrast to the rest of Panama’s green landscapes. The site was once forested until colonizers in the second half of the 20th century clear-cut all the vegetation.

    Afterwards, we’ll reconvene for dinner together at a local restaurant. 

     

  • Depart Chitre this morning. En route, stop to visit a local artisan for an exclusive Discovery Series event and witness a demonstration of indigenous Panamanian mask-making. Next, you’ll stop at a salt farm during a visit to the Aguadulce district of Panama. Aguadulce’s main exports are sugar, salt, and shrimp, which you’ll discover during your exploration of this bayside area. Learn how salt is processed and the importance of salt exports to the economy. You’ll also visit a quiet fishing village to learn about seafood’s economic role as well.

    After your visit, you'll have lunch in a local restaurant before heading to your hotel in Gamboa. Enjoy time to relax or explore more of the area. Afterward, you’ll savor an included dinner with your fellow travelers.

  • After breakfast, you'll enjoy a couple hours at leisure before heading off for a visit to the Omar Torrijos Herrera General Basic Education Center, supported in part by the Grand Circle Foundation. A brand new educational partnership, the school—which educates over 700 students from ages 4 to 11—is receiving funding for water fountains, synthetic grass for sports fields, and other infrastructural improvements. When we interact with the students, we will learn about their backgrounds and what they are learning, and better understand the challenges they face receiving an education.

    Later on, you'll transfer to the pier and then sail to 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. 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.

    When you arrive, you’ll enjoy a traditional meal during a Home-Hosted Lunch. 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 savor many of these flavors today.

    Then, set off on a walking tour of the community where you’ll be introduced to local traditions and customs, like 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. This custom is still used today during ceremonies and celebrations; solid blocks of ink are placed against contrasting patches of bare skin, or intricate patterns are 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.

    Also skilled craftspeople, the villagers will explain the technique used to make their canastas, baskets so tightly woven that they can even hold water. You'll learn about the natural fibers and vegetable dyes of the rain forest used in their creation. During your visit, you’ll also experience Embera dances and the music of flutes, drums, and turtle shells.

    After the conclusion of your village visit, head out on a tour of historical Gamboa. 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 before boarding the M/S Discovery, the 24-passenger catamaran that will be your private home throughout your three-night Panama Canal cruise. After a short onboard orientation, your ship sets sail later this afternoon.

    Your first port of call is Taboga Island, known as the “Island of Flowers,” a befitting title given an abundance of 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 canal builders, first French and then American. 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 tomorrow, when the Discovery commences its transit of the Panama Canal, the 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 103-year-old history: a new set of locks, completed in 2016, that now allow the world's largest cargo ships to pass through.

    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.” Now, 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.

    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, your ship will 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 an exclusive Discovery Series discussion that will prepare you for the rest of your cruise: the expansion of the Panama Canal and 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 visit the Agua Clara Visitor Center to get a unique panoramic glimpse of the Panama Canal. This observatory not only provides great views of the canal, but also history of its construction.

    Later, you'll return to our ship for lunch onboard and some time for a short rest, or siesta. 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 Captain's 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 and set off for San Lorenzo National Park. You’ll take a nature walk to view its diverse flora and fauna, picturesque coastline, and enjoy opportunities to spot several hundred bird species. Later this morning, 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, your afternoon is free to enjoy at leisure. 

    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

    3 nights from only $745

    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 tradewinds that waft salt air from the nearby beaches.

    View Extension Itinerary
  • 3 nights from only $845

    Immerse yourself in the natural splendor of Chiriqui Highlands, where Atlantic and Pacific winds mingle to create a year-round spring-like climate, mountains tower over volcanic soils, and bajareque mists embrace lush rain forests. From agricultural traditions to timeless native customs, experience the charms of this unspoiled paradise.

    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, Chiriqui Highlands, Panama. Dinner is on your own this evening. Your Program Director will be happy to suggest a restaurant.

  • After your morning briefing, discover Panama City via two of its cultural touchstones. First, stroll through Panama’s Central Avenue—an energetic shopping hub where you’ll find clothing, jewelry, and grocery stores. Then continue on into the Old Quarter, where you'll visit historic sites such as the 18th-century Plaza Herrera and the San Jose Cathedral, known for its gold altar.

    You’ll stop for an included lunch before continuing our tour of the Old Quarter. This afternoon, you’ll explore sites like Cathedral Plaza—the Old Quarter’s largest plaza and the site of celebrations after the country won its independence from Colombia and Spain—and the Paseo Esteban Huertas promenade where you’ll take in sweeping views of the bay. After the conclusion of your tour, you’ll meet with a local to get a firsthand perspective of life before and after Manuel Noriega—a Panamanian dictator who was removed from power by American forces in the 1980s.  

    The rest of the afternoon is yours to relax or explore more of Panama City—whether you continue to trace its history through the Old Quarter or move on to more modern areas of the city.

    This evening, you'll visit Plaza Cinco de Mayo to chat with the locals before enjoying an included Welcome Dinner, an opportunity to celebrate the discoveries to come.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, you'll depart Panama City for the Azuero region, stopping en route to explore the town of Chorrera. First, explore a local produce market in search of ripe fruits and vegetables, before taking part in a cooking lesson where you’ll learn how to make tortillas. Next 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—most vividly seen in its 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, followed by a walking tour in Chitre. This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, you’ll visit a sugar cane farm to learn about the importance of this crop to Panama and the process of cultivating sugar cane. Then, after enjoying lunch in a local restaurant, you’ll head to the town of Guarare for your second exclusive Discovery Series event: visiting a pollera shop. While initially brought over by the Spanish, the lavish, embroidered pollera dress has been adapted and embraced as the national costume of Panama. Traditionally, polleras are white with 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.

    Afterward, you will return to the hotel for an evening at leisure. Dinner will be on your own.

  • After an early breakfast at the hotel, you have the choice of joining an optional tour at the farm Finca El Eden in Pese. Here, you can learn about milk production as well as learning to milk a cow. Then, we will visit a traditional quincha house and learn about the traditional Panamanian corn dish “changa.” Afterwards, we will enjoy a traditional Panamanian lunch cooked over a fire.

    After arriving back at the hotel, enjoy a free afternoon. Later on you have the choice of visiting a local pottery workshop to watch a sculptor create beautiful art out of a simple ball of clay, or join the rest of the group to Sarigua National Park. The pottery workshop is a short walk from the hotel.

    Sarigua National Park—also known as the Sarigua Desert— is a dry, barren vista, in stark contrast to the rest of Panama’s green landscapes. The site was once forested until colonizers in the second half of the 20th century clear-cut all the vegetation.

    Afterwards, we depart for the hotel and enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant. 

  • Depart Chitre this morning. En route, stop to visit a local artisan for an exclusive Discovery Series event and witness a demonstration of indigenous Panamanian mask-making. Next, you’ll stop at a salt farm during a visit to the Aguadulce district of Panama. Aguadulce’s main exports are sugar, salt, and shrimp, which you’ll discover during your exploration of this bayside area. Learn how salt is processed and the importance of salt exports to the economy. You’ll also visit a quiet fishing village to learn about seafood’s economic role as well.

    After your visit, you'll have lunch in a local restaurant before heading to your hotel in Gamboa. Enjoy time to relax or explore more of the area. Afterward, you’ll savor an included dinner with your fellow travelers.

  • After breakfast, you'll enjoy a couple hours at leisure before heading off for a visit to the Omar Torrijos Herrera General Basic Education Center, supported in part by the Grand Circle Foundation. A brand new educational partnership, the school—which educates over 700 students from ages 4 to 11—is receiving funding for water fountains, synthetic grass for sports fields, and other infrastructural improvements. When we interact with the students, we will learn about their backgrounds and what they are learning, and better understand the challenges they face receiving an education.

    Later on we embark on an exclusive Discovery Series event when you visit an Embera village. The Embera people are an indigenous group that lives in the rain forest.

    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.

    When you arrive, you’ll enjoy a traditional meal during a Home-Hosted Lunch. 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 savor many of these flavors today.

    Then, set off on a walking tour of the community where you’ll be introduced to local traditions and customs, like 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. This custom is still used today during ceremonies and celebrations; solid blocks of ink are placed against contrasting patches of bare skin, or intricate patterns are 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.

    Also skilled craftspeople, the villagers will explain the technique used to make their canastas, baskets so tightly woven that they can even hold water. You'll learn about the natural fibers and vegetable dyes of the rain forest used in their creation. During your visit, you’ll also experience Embera dances and the music of flutes, drums, and turtle shells.

    After the conclusion of your village visit, head out on a tour of historical Gamboa. Dinner tonight is at the hotel.

  • After breakfast this morning, take part in a guided nature walk of the lush rain forest surroundings. 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.

    After lunch on your own, you'll embark the M/S Discovery, a 24-passenger catamaran that will be your private home for your three-night Panama Canal cruise. 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 visit the Agua Clara Visitor Center to get a unique panoramic glimpse of the Panama Canal. This observatory not only provides great views of the canal, but also history of its construction.

    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 zodiac where we may see sloths lounging in the trees and monkeys playing on the shores of the lake. Tonight, enjoy dinner back onboard the ship followed by an exclusive Discovery Series discussion that will prepare you for the rest of your cruise: the expansion of the Panama Canal and 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.

    Please note: Depending on the onboard activities that your Program Director has planned, the Panama Canal history discussion may be on a different day.

  • 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 103-year-old history: a new set of locks, completed in 2016, that allow the world's largest cargo ships to now pass through.

    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 canal builders, first French and then American. 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 Captain's 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, your afternoon is free for you to enjoy at leisure.

    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

    3 nights from only $745

    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 tradewinds 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

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