We really enjoyed our partial transit of the canal. The commentary was continuous and interesting, and it was fun seeing the mechanics of the locks. The breakfast and lunch food was plentiful and ordinary, and the free soft drinks throughout the trip were appreciated.
It may seem pricey, but you have to realize that the tour boat has to pay canal transit fees, and for a canal pilot, just like the other ships that transit the canal. By the way, there's a senior price, so remember to ask for it if you're a senior - they don't bring it up.
The version of the tour we took involved meeting at the company's office on the Amador Causeway, traveling by bus for 45 minutes, then returning back to Panama City via the canal boat.
Unfortunately, just figuring out when and how to get to the departure point on the Amador Causeway was needlessly stressful, due mostly to incomplete information on the company's website, ambiguity about the meeting time vs the bus departure time, and conflicting answers to specific questions sent by email. And most tourists have no chance to try again if this part of the trip doesn't work.
To smooth this for others, I'm devoting the rest of this review to the details of just getting to the departure point. Hope this helps future travelers!
First, you'll be offered pickup service if you're staying in Panama City. If you read the other reviews, you'll see stories about missed or late pickups, or just uncertainty about whether the pickup has forgotten you. I also overheard some of this while waiting at the Canal&Bay office. If you want to really be stress free, just take a taxi to the Amador Causeway departure point (Say "Mi Ranchita Restaurant, Amador Causeway"). It'll cost you $15-$20 (tourist price), and you won't have to worry about the pickup issues.
Second, Canal&Bay's website tells you that the departure point is "The Amador Playita Entering from the street from Mi Ranchito Restaurant". What this really means is that just BEFORE Mi Ranchita, there's a right turn onto a service road that runs behind the restaurant and down to a parking lot about 1/4 mile along the service road. After being deposited here by the taxi (or after walking there after the taxi has dropped you at the restaurant), you'll have no clue where Canal&Bay is. This spot is actually the departure point for the ferries to Taboga and Las Perlas islands. All you'll see is the ferry ramps plus a small marine/souvenir store on the left and a little coffee/snack shop on the right.
But don't worry - you're actually in the right spot. If you look to the right you'll see a bright blue awning visible through the trees - THAT is the waiting spot and office for Canal&Bay. Just walk over there to check in for your tour. The office itself is well organized, English-speaking, and credit card accepting.
And now you have time to relax with a coffee instead of waiting in town hoping that your pickup hasn't forgotten you.
I've uploaded photos of the ferry departure arrival area and the blue awning for the Canal&Bay office.
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