We will be taking cruise in Panama. We would like to tour Colon. There is no tour thru the ship. Please advise.
My understanding is that there are other places nearby which are more pleasant and more interesting. Why do you want to visit Colon ?
Colon is not a place to tour. It has a reputation for poverty and high crime. There are no tourist attractions within Colon proper. On the outskirts of Colon there is a large Free Trade Zone, but it's not the place to go shopping unless you're looking for a containerload of something. (Many of the people who work there live in Panama City and commute daily due to the crime in Colon.)
Your better option is to hire a SET (Servicio Especial de Turismo) taxi at the terminal and visit Gatun locks and/or Portobelo.Edited: 02 September 2013, 23:57
We'll make sure we don't get off the ship. I appreciate the info. Thanks so much.
You will miss some very interesting, historic and very scenic places if you stay on the ship. Gatun locks are less than 30 minutes away. Portobelo offers a wealth of scenic, historic and cultural sites and activities. If you don't want to go to Portobelo, then visit Gatun and Fort San Lorenzo, a Spanish colonial fort at the mouth of the Chagres River, about 20 minutes beyond Gatun locks.
The SET taxis have drivers who speak fluent English and know a fair amount of history. They certainly know the culture. They are well worth hiring for a day of sightseeing. Please check out the other posts about Portobelo and tours from Colon before you decide to spend the day on the ship. You may not have another chance to see these places.
As GB points out, get off the ship, Colon the city can be dangerous but you will only pass through it on the way out of town to many of the historic sites surrounding it, worth the trip to Portobelo,.
Sitting on a cruise ship for a day would be a waste.
Get off the ship but avoid roaming around Colon. The last thing you want to experience are the cultural traditions of its inhabitants.
GB_Williams, I'm taking a cruise departing from Colon (and returning to Colon). I'm flying in a day earlier to avoid any problems and arriving in PTY in the afternoon. I'm also departing a day after my cruise through PTY. I had thought of once arriving going directly to Colon and maybe do some sightseeing in the area that same afternoon/next morning before embarking, and when returning from the cruise going directly to Panamá City to do some sightseeing there before my plane leaves the next day. Does that make sense? Should I rather just stay in Panamá City on my way in and out? Thanks!
Have you seen gb's fuller post here - tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g298428-i3611-k678…
I would probably stay overnight in Panama City at both ends of the cruise. There are three hotels on the outskirts of Colon, but I don't recommend them. The Melia, which has a beaurtiful location, gets some pretty awful reviews. I know nothing about the Best Western. And, the Sheraton Four Points is in an area you really don't want to be stuck in -- no restaurants, too close to Colon proper. It's for people doing business in the adjacent Free Trade Zone.
I'm assuming you're embarking on your cruise in the late afternoon, and plan to board early to mid-afternoon. If so, that gives you the morning to sightsee. I'd recommend going to Miraflores (Panama Canal Visitors' Center) when they open at 9:00 AM. A couple of hours is all you need to see the museum and watch the ships going through the locks. Then, you'll be ready to head for Colon, which is a little over an hour away.
You might consider spending the first night at a hotel or B&B close to Miraflores, so you can leave your luggage there while you see the locks. (They're quieter at night than the hotels in the city.) Country Inn & Suites Amador, Holiday Inn at Ciudad de Saber and La Estancia B&B would all be convenient locations. All are within 5 to 10 minutes of Miraflores. For dinner, on your arrival night, go to nearby Casco Viejo.
I'm also guessing that you will disembark from your cruise in the early morning. Again, I recommend spending the night in Panama City. But, you might want to consider one side trip or another on your way to get there. If you like history, go to Fort San Lorenzo, which is just 20 - 30 minutes west of Colon. Along the way, you'll pass through Gatun Locks, which is also worth seeing. Or, go an hour east and you can see Portobelo. Or, just head into the city, drop off your luggage and plan your sightseeing around there.
I hope this helps.
If you are going there on a cruise, they usually dock there a few hours and not enough time to explore town. I agree Colon is not tourist friendly. There is a tourist market dockside that is safe. On previous trips to the Panama Canal, the cruise ships usually enters the canal early in the morning and anchor at Gatun Lake for a few hours. You can only get off if you booked a shore tour. I would get off. In the afternoon, the ship goes back to the Gatun Lock and docks at Colon and picks up all who got off. My wife and I are on a cruise there in November. We have chosen a shore tour to the Embrera village.