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“Interesting trip, but getting to departure point is confusing”
Review of Canal & Bay Tours

Canal & Bay Tours
Ranked #42 of 158 Tours in Panama City
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Attraction details
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.
Ossining, New York
Level 2 Contributor
7 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Interesting trip, but getting to departure point is confusing”
Reviewed 9 November 2013

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.


Visited September 2013
8 Thank GRCinNY
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Haslett, Michigan
Level 6 Contributor
79 reviews
33 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 131 helpful votes
“Partial Transit from Hell”
Reviewed 30 September 2013

We did a partial transit of the canal with "Canal and Bay Tours". This is the worst tour that we have even been on. The partial transit itself is very interesting, and I have reviewed it separately. However, this company provided very poor service and a very low quality tour. In my opinion, they try to maximize the money that they make and ignore the comfort and safety of their guests and the quality of the service provided.

When I checked in, they said they had no record of our prepaid reservation. They asked me to wait while they tried to straighten that out. While waiting, another guy started announcing that there were too many people in the office (it did not appear crowded) and the "last four who entered" should wait outside. He kept looking at me and making the annoucement, and then he left the office saying "I don't care if 50 people crowd in". It turned out that he was the "announcer" on the boat. More on that later. They eventually found our reservation.

The boat that they use (Tuira II) is not the boat that is featured in the pictures on their website. This boat has two decks, both open on all sides. The seating is primarily hard, portable, plastic chairs lined up 5 and 6 deep on both sides of the boat. If it is raining, as it was when we went, there is no protection and everyone gets soaked. The rain was blowing all the way through the decks and in addition the cover for the deck above directed the water into the deck below. The boat was very crowded and they said that there were 300 people aboard. Their website states the capacity of the boat as almost 500. I would certainly hate to see the situation if they were at capacity. This is a "cattle boat".

They gave no safety briefing and there were no life vests visable. Their website says that they have life vests, but they would not do much good if the passengers did not know where they are stored. They departed the dock in a severe thunder storm, with lightening cracking all around, the wind howling, and the rain pouring down (visibility was less than 100 feet).

They provide breakfast and lunch. The breakfast was served about 9:00 AM and the lunch about 10:30 AM. Both were terrible, the worst food that I have had in a long time. The coffee tasted like instant. The food had obviously been cooked long before and had been kept warm. While standing in line for the lunch, a worker brought out a bowl with additional salad. She put the bowl down, sneezed into her hand, and then picked up the bowl putting her hand inside the bowl.

The announcer was obnoxious. He talked constantly on the loud speaker system. Much of what he said had nothing to do with the canal. He told jokes (poorly) and sang songs (also poorly). He apparently thought that he was some kind of night club entertainer. As we exited the boat in Gamboa, he was singing "New York, New York". What this had to do with the canal is beyond me.

The crew members were surly. I did not see one of them greet or even smile at a guest. It did not appear that they liked their jobs. Many of the passengers onboard were very rude. They blocked the stairways and aisles, and would not move even when asked politely. There were people standing in front of the buffet tables eating their food. This was such a contrast to what we experienced everywhere else in Panama where the people were very friendly, helpful, and courteous.

There are apparently only two companies that actually do the partial transits, this one (which departs from La Playita de Amador) and "Panama Marine Adventures" (which departs from Flamenco Marina). Many hotels and tour companies sell the tours for these companies. We saw the boat that "Panama Marine Adventures" uses anchored in Flamenco Marina. It looked much nicer than the one that we were on and their website information verifies this. That boat has three decks, two of which are enclosed, air conditioned, and have tables and chairs. The prices ($135 pp) are the same. I would recommend that anyone interest in a partial transit check out Panama Marine Adventures. It cannot possible be worse than Canal and Bay Tours.

Visited September 2013
5 Thank MIHorseman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
harikensingh, Manager at Canal & Bay Tours, responded to this review, 4 July 2014
So sorry to learn about your experience with us. We have implemented certain basic procedures that should prevent this from happening again.
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level 1 Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“great experience !! unforgettable !!”
Reviewed 23 September 2013

I took a "complete transit" tour on Sep. 7.
It was one and only reason why I went to Panama.

Unfortunately, in the morning, the weather was terrible, the downpour, frightful thunder and lightning !!
But, the guide, Martin D.Harrington tried to comfort 300 passengers in Spanish and English in that scary situation. Thanks to him, non of the passengers went into a panic.

In the afternoon, it cleared up, the boat ride through the Gatun lake was great and peaceful and we enjoyed sunbathing.
It was astonishing, in the Gatun locks, the massive boat in front of us was lowered and there was only 30cm to spare on either side.

Martin's narration was very informative and funny. As I am Japanese, his distinct pronunciation and metric conversion were very helpful.

Moreover, he had very improvisational attitude,
-under the rain, controlled the checking-in and embarking orderly,
-celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary for the couple,
-after disembarking, indicated busses to passengers and allocated bus stop to each one, etc.

All in all, without Martin, it would have been chaotic.
I really appreciate his great effort.

I strongly recommend the guide, Martin D. Harrington.

Visited September 2013
2 Thank lovefiji2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Antonio, Texas
Level 5 Contributor
47 reviews
21 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 79 helpful votes
“Good Experience”
Reviewed 26 July 2013

A cruise is the best way to see and experience the canal and the locks first hand. My wife and I booked a partial transit cruise with the Canal and Bay Tours Company. We were picked up at our hotel(10 minutes early) in a small mini bus. The bus had made one stop prior to our hotel and made one additional hotel stop before going to the departure site. At the departure site we paid for our tickets(Cash or Credit Card) and had @ a 20 minute wait before boarding the boat. Our narrated partial transit cruise took us up the canal where the mini bus was waiting to return us back to our Panama City hotel. The cruise lasted @ 4 hours and included in the price was hotel transportation, breakfast, lunch, bottled water, coffee and sodas. Adult drinks and souvenirs were available on the boat for a fee. After a period of time, the partial transit cruise can get boring. Therefore, we do not recommend a full transit cruise unless it is necessary. Overall, we were very satisfied and pleased with the cruise, the service and the company.

Visited June 2013
2 Thank Bigone77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Manhattan, NY, USA
Level 4 Contributor
46 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 64 helpful votes
“Good half-day tour of the canal”
Reviewed 13 May 2013

I booked this tour through Barefoot Panama.

We booked the half-day Canal tour on a Friday at the end of March. One annoying thing is that we were given a 45-minute window in which the bus would pick us up (I can't remember exactly when but it was around 7-8am). The bus picked us up about 10 minutes late (after the 45 minute wait), so it requires quite a bit of waiting around. The reason for this window I guess is that the bus trolls the city hotels picking people up.

After our hotel, we stopped at roughly another 8 or 10. A couple of them were very out of the way and sometimes the people didn't show up (so a total waste of time). I doubt they can do anything to fix it, but it's a nuisance. The bus finally gets to a place to buy tickets where we get out, buy tickets and then get back in the bus. Then back on the bus for another hefty drive to where the tour boat actually takes off. All in all, we started waiting for the bus around 7am and didn't get to the boat until probably 10am or so.

We finally got to the boat and boarded pretty easily. Once on the boat, the tour went smoothly. They had water and refreshments and about halfway through they served a buffet lunch which was nice as well. The tour guide on the boat gave his tour in both Spanish and English and he seemed pretty knowledgeable of what he was talking about.

The tour was very thorough and lasted probably four hours.I would DEFINITELY recommend this half-day tour rather than just going to Milaflores. Well worth the time investment.

Lesson having been learned from the endless morning bus ride, when we got off the boat at the place where we had bought tickets in the morning, we hailed a cab and paid the $15 to get back to the hotel. This probably saved us a couple hours of bus riding and visiting all the morning hotels again.

All in all, the tour is good -- aside from a few inefficiencies (i.e. they could have a city meeting point rather than spending an hour going hotel to hotel). The price was reasonable.

Visited March 2013
2 Thank MichaelMfromNYC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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