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“Absolutely perfect”
Review of Canal & Bay Tours

Canal & Bay Tours
Ranked #41 of 156 Tours in Panama City
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Owner description: It does not matter if you do the Full or the Partial transit of the Panama Canal you still would have to check off #5 from the list of 100 Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic. Canal and Bay Tours has been offering both transits for over 12 years and we are committed in assisting you to create a memorable experience. Both transits are an all-day affair with breakfast, lunch, and non-alcoholic refreshments included. Your once in a lifetime experience of transiting the Panama Canal begins with check in at the Playita de Amador and boarding one of our three vessels; Tuira II, Fantasia del Mar, or Isla Morada. Aboard our vessel you be on the Pacific Ocean and will pass under the Bridge of the Americas, through the Mira Flores and Pedro Miguel Locks, beneath the Centenario Bridge, through Culebra Cut, and ending in Gatun Lake which was the largest man-made lake in the world. You will also observe the construction of the second set of locks otherwise known as the Expansion of the Panama Canal.
Level Contributor
875 reviews
668 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 838 helpful votes
“Absolutely perfect”
Reviewed June 30, 2012

Visiting the Panama Canal has been on our list forever and there was no way that we were going to go there without experiencing a full transit of the canal. We wanted to be on a boat that went from Pacific to Atlantic. It was a little difficult to find a tour as they do not go every day but through Your Friend Mario we got to go on the first Saturday of the month. We were collected from our hotel at 6am and taken to the pier where we had quite a wait while until our fellow passengers arrived. Close to an hour later we did get to board the boat on a first come first serve basis. We were lucky to be some of the first so our seats were perfect - late comers weren't so lucky. We were told that the Pacific Queen is the sister ship of the African Queen and has quite a history of its own The old wooden structure was charming, the seats were comfortable, toilets were kept clean and the breakfast, lunch & afternoon tea were more than adequate. Free soft drinks and tea & coffee were available all day. You could buy a beer if you wanted it. Our guide was perfect giving us all the facts and figures but also knowing when to keep quiet when we just wanted to enjoy the canal. If there was any complaint it would be that during the first half of the journey it was pretty crowded. That improved when the partial transit passengers left at Gamboa & we got to spread out. The second half was perfect. Yes it is a long day - we were snoozing on the coach home. Some say the $165 each price tag was expensive but given all the services we got we thought it good value. The memory of being in Gatun lock with that enormous building sized tanker almost within touching distance will remain forever. Try to go!

Visited June 2012
5 Thank elsiek
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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107 reviews from our community

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Visalia, California
Level Contributor
14 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
“Full Canal Transit Totally Worth It”
Reviewed June 14, 2012

Doing the full transit of the Panama Canal was a phenomenal experience. The problem we had was figuring out when the full transits take place and how to book in advance. It seems the full transits are only on the first and third Saturday of the month, but I still am not totally certain of that. We ended up booking through Panoramic Panama because they could schedule us for the Saturday we would be there, and we could pay in advance via credit card. Some companies we looked at said to show up at the dock with cash, which did not appeal to us. We now know that we could have booked directly with Canal & Bay Tours, but despite the hours of internet research I did before the trip, that was not clear.

Panoramic Panama sent a taxi to pick us up at our hotel at 6:00 a.m. Although they told us we would have to find a taxi home, in fact Canal & Bay Tours provided a bus to return people to their hotels. The Islamorada is a 100-year-old wooden ship, about 300 feet in length. Seating is benches along the sides and chairs set up in rows in the middle. Smoking was allowed in the back and there was additional seating on the bow, where we could also stand. We were able to move about whenever we liked. The boat holds about 100 people and I think we were about 90 to Gamboa, where perhaps one-third of the passengers disembarked.

Some of the bad reviews of tour companies was borne out at Gamboa as a group of passengers boarded whose tour company driver had taken them to the wrong dock in the morning, making them miss the boat. The tour company then tried to give them all kinds of excuses about why they couldn't make the transit that day. The group apparently coerced the company into driving them to Gamboa to get on the boat there.

We were served two delicious meals plus tea during the day. Both breakfast and lunch were plentiful and delicious. Tea at 4 p.m. was a variety of bundt cakes. Sodas and water were free and plentiful. Beer was $2. I don't know how much there was, but it was all consumed.

Taking the full transit means the long crossing of Gatun Lake, but it is completely worth it, both for the jungle scenery and to go through the Gatun Locks on the Caribbean side.

We had a bit of a problem in Colón, as the dock workers were on strike and refused to provide a gangplank for us to disembark. A couple of passengers were somewhat rudely annoyed, but I found it amusing and part of the experience. Indeed, our wonderful, well-informed Spanish- and English-speaking tour guide dubbed it a "true Panamian experience." We went to another dock where we were able to leave the boat. Driving away from the dock we were treated to a group of drummers then buglers then more drummers. I have no idea what the occasion was, but it was fun.

The boat also had a German-speaking guide as there was a fairly large contingent of Germans on the boat.

We arrived back at the hotel at about 8:00 p.m. exhausted but thrilled by the experience.

Visited June 2012
3 Thank SamRiddle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
24 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
“Great experience”
Reviewed May 14, 2012

My husband and I had a great time on our partial transit of the canal. Be prepared to wait on the boat for over an hour before the boat gets the go ahead to go through the canal. JC was our tour guide and he was very informative and had a good sense of humor. The breakfast was only so so (pineapples, bananas, and cake) but the lunch was actually surprisingly good- beef, chicken, and veggie options. There was also unlimited water and soft drinks. Actually taking a boat on the Canal and through 2 of the locks was a truly amazing experience. The trip was expensive but I thought it was well worth it for a once in a lifetime experience.

Visited May 2012
3 Thank Jem86
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pacasmayo, Peru
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Don't miss this!!”
Reviewed April 14, 2012

Read some of the bad reviews and they must have changed the staff because it was wonderful! One of the most amazing experiences\days of my life!! Defnitly worth the money!!

1 Thank travelr88
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Must do trip!”
Reviewed April 9, 2012

I went on a trnsit for the second time today and found it more interesting than the first... I did my homework and had difficult questions to ask the guide and he answered them better than I expected. This time around I was prepared and had enough batteries for my video camera. Ready to do it a third. Thanks Juan Carlos (guide) had a great time.

1 Thank D L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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