We took the half day tour which was billed at 4-5 hours. We were advised to be at the departure point 20 minutes in advance of the 8:30 a.m. departure. 8:30 came and went without explanation. Finally around 9:15 the tour leader came out and explained their tour boat is assigned a slot and the time could vary when we would depart. Finally around 10 a.m. we boarded buses and headed for Gamboa and boarded the ship and waited for another 30 minutes or so for some private tour buses to arrive and board their customers. We finally departed on the tour about 11:15 a.m. There was coffee, pastries and fruit set up buffet style for passengers to eat. The tour was in both English and Spanish. I image there were 200 to 300 people on the tour.(Cost $130/passenger). The tour leader was entertaining and informative.
Later a buffet lunch was served. Beef and rice or chicken and rice with salad. It was flavorful. Iced bottled drinks were available at no extra charge throughout the trip. Beer was available for purchase.
We had to go through three sets of locks as we descended to sea level. We went through with another tour boat, a small sail boat and a large tanker. It was great to see how the process worked. Once in the Pacific it was about 40 minutes to port. At port, there was a great deal made about how to tip which I think is part of the Panamanian culture. While the tour is advertised as 4 to 5 hours, it took 8 hours from the time we were told to arrive at the departure point until we were back there. Plan accordingly; enjoy the scenery and the history, relax and don't plan anything else that day.
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