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“Go with the flow”
Review of Canal & Bay Tours

Canal & Bay Tours
Ranked #45 of 163 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.
Reviewed 2 February 2014

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.

4  Thank Thomas S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
harikensingh, Manager at Canal & Bay Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 24 June 2014

Thank you for your allowing us to show you the #5 spot on 100 Journeys of a Life Time by National Geographic

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54 - 58 of 108 reviews

Reviewed 29 January 2014

We booked a tour of the Canal through this company. The tour company did not communicate well with us once our boat tour ended. At the dock, many buses were waiting and we did not know which bus to board. We finally asked someone we recognized from the tour company and he was not clear. Many other travelers were just as confused. Once we boarded the bus, it took a very long time to reach our hotel due to the multiple stops and odd routing. We were finally fed up and got off at another hotel and walked to our hotel. The canal boat tour was informative but unfortunately long because of the lower boat traffic through the canal on that day. The food served on the boat was good. I would recommend to take extra food in case the canal traffic is low on the day that you take the tour. The boat tour operator staff was friendly. The boat was clean and had adequate places to view the ships and the locks.

3  Thank petlad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
harikensingh, Manager at Canal & Bay Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 24 June 2014

Thank you for your allowing us to show you the #5 spot on 100 Journeys of a Life Time by National Geographic.
I greatly appreciate your input and are working to ensure our future clients do not experience the
same situation.
We are actually reorganizing the procedure of picking up and dropping off our customers.

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Reviewed 23 January 2014

We decided to do the canal tour based on friends recommendations. We are not tour people but we thought we would give this a chance. First, we buy our tickets at the water front near the Almador causeway. We then sit on a bus for about 1 hour without any information. Then a 45 minute drive to Gamboa where we are to board the boat. Finally, someone comes on the bus to inform us of the delays on the canal and that it is out of their control. I understand that. So here we are in Gamboa for more then 1 hour without bathrooms, or stores and the place is littered with trash everywhere. I know delays happen however this group could have been better prepared. Then we get on the boat and have breakfast at 12:30. They have speakers for the announcements and discussions about the size of a small rock band. We were sitting in front of the boat and had to move for the fear of going deaf before the end of the tour. I told a woman about the speaker volume and was told that maybe some people would not be able to hear. I told the woman that I thought people miles around the boat could hear. Then they start selling beer and by the time they served lunch at 2:30 they ran out of beer. A tour that was to start at 8:30 and be done by 2:30 ended at 7:30. It was a total disaster and again we will remain non-tour people.

Thank hkwas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
harikensingh, Manager at Canal & Bay Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 24 June 2014

We are very sorry your experience in doing the Partial Transit of the Panama Canal was not to your satisfaction. We hope you can come back some day and allow us to try to show you how we have improved....

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Reviewed 9 January 2014

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny (barely seaworthy) ship. A 6 hour tour, a 6 hour tour. Yeah, right, try 11+ hours. We were held hostage in the locks by the Panama Canal Authority for almost 9 hours. That part of the ordeal was not the fault of Canal & Bay Tours, although they lied to us continuously about the length of the delay. I believe they knew exactly how long we were going to be held up waiting for the other ship to join us in the locks, but opted not to tell us because they knew there would be a mutiny.

This partial Panama Canal transit tour was an excursion booked through Celebrity Equinox and we had expected it to be upscale. The Fantasia del Mar was low rent instead. The ship was very old and listed to port the entire trip. When cargo ships would pass on that side and everyone ran over to take pictures, the boat was dangerously close to capsizing. The captain made several frantic announcements asking people to go to starboard but few obeyed. Our group and some crew members hung over as far as we dared on starboard side to try to keep it from tipping. Luckily it never did mostly because everyone ran inside once the torrential rains started.

Much of the seating was not under cover and there was not nearly enough for the 430+ passengers. Seating consisted of cheap plastic chairs you'd buy at Walmart. I've seen nicer seats at the DMV. The interior of the ship smelled musty and strange. The a/c units barely functioned and the one on the lower level was dripping musty water into a trash can next to where the food was being prepared. I use the term "food" loosely - plain pasta with no sauce, a dry chewy mystery chicken dish, a meager fruit salad and a small muffin. The lunch "buffet" was served ridiculously early and they ran out of food. By the time our tour was over 9 hours later at 7:30 pm everyone was starving. There were many elderly passengers with diabetes who were getting ill. Others were becoming ill from carbon monoxide poisoning due to fumes from the idling engines as we were held in the locks. Our group took turns guarding dry seats undercover and running outside in the pouring rain to get fresh air to avoid passing out.

The crew on the Fantasia del Mar were surly and disorganized. If I had to work on that boat, I guess I would be in a bad mood, too. The guy narrating the trip ran out of interesting things to say the first hour and tried to entertain us with inane chatter and false cheer the other 8 hours. Luckily I didn't have to listen to most of his spiel because the speaker by us was broken. The buffet line was one-sided and painfully slow with the line wrapping around the deck and up the stairs to the top deck. The souvenirs offered for sale were ugly and cheap. On the plus side, soft drinks and water were abundant and the bathrooms were reasonably clean and functional.

Our tour guide, Jill, was the only truly positive aspect of the tour. She provided a lot of useful information about Panama and the canals. She remained calm even when conditions deteriorated as the tour delay dragged on and on and she tried her best to make us comfortable. I hope she finds a good job with a better tour company, maybe on the Pacific Queen, a much nicer and newer tour boat that was held hostage with us in the canal.

Now we come to the end of this sad tale. When the Panama Canal Authority finally let us through the locks at 6 pm, we had to watch the other ferry (Pacific Queen) take off as we slowly crept toward shore because our boat had a pathetic motor that couldn't go more than a couple knots. By the time we got to the shore near the Bridge of the Americas, it was pouring down rain and we had to run about a 100 yards in near darkness to the bus parking area. We were dripping wet and freezing so of course they crank up the A/C on the bus! We had a miserable hour and a half trip back to the port in Colon. Our tour group was so late they had to hold the Celebrity Equinox in port for an extra 2 1/2 hours. We were given a small discount off the tour price and a bottle of wine by Celebrity. When other cruise passengers saw us, they would say, "Oh, you were on THAT tour."

2  Thank Blue_Waters_Too
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
hariken257, Manager at Canal & Bay Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 18 June 2014

We are so sorry you had complications with your partial transit through the canal. Sometimes the Panama Canal Authority makes decisions and we do not know why until several days later. Can you tell me the date of your transit?

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Reviewed 2 January 2014

We were on the Fantasia de Mar as part of a "Panama Canal by boat" excursion, which was booked by requirement through the cruise line (Princess). One cannot help humidity, heat, or showers in Panama, nor the length of the excursion, which can be dependent on the length of your transit through the locks (in our case the San Pedro & Miraflores locks).
The main issues were safety & quality. The boat listed to the port the whole time - to the point where a water bottle placed on a table would slide off. The fire extinguishers were rusted & not secured to the ship; we only hoped the life jackets were where the sign said they were. There was no safety announcement before we set off. There was inadequate seating for the number of passengers. The top level where the bridge was is covered, but a good portion of it is taken up by "handicrafts" for sale. The seating here is in plastic chairs placed in rows and crowded close together. The second level is inside & covered, but there is limited seating & tables. This is also where the food is served. The front of this level is unshaded & is in the sun; due to the crowding, some folks had to sit here. The lower level is where the bathrooms were. More on all of this.
We were seated in the front of the second level, out of the sun, but the PA system did not work here - you could hear zero commentary. The air conditioning did not reach here and the two fans were inadequate for the job. The ship's response to the sound system was to try to replace the speaker with another; when that didn't work, they removed it completely. If you went to the lowest level, where there was A/C, the engines were so loud, you couldn't hear anything. You also could not see out. The bathrooms here, had doors that didn't latch; one of our party got a good show coming down the stairs. You also noticed the A/C units (more like swamp coolers) leaked so badly, that large garbage cans were placed under them.
The food provided was barely edible - ham & velveeta on wonderbread, a couple chicken kabobs, banana muffins, a little onion square, watermelon & pineapple (sour, not sweet like the other pineapples we had had). Water & soda was provided & local beer was $2. However, due to the delays & length of the excursion, there was nothing after lunch (served around 12:30PM) except for granola bars ($2). We left the ship at 10:40AM & returned at 8:30 PM. There was no elevator, but we had folks in walkers (not sure why they weren't warned), and diabetics. If there had been an emergency, there would have been major congestion (as there was when lunch was announced) - assuming one could hear the announcement.
The sales pitches were also pretty shameless: "this will be your only chance to shop", "you can come take a picture with the captain on the bridge for $10", "we're having a sale for the next 20 minutes", and the topper: "we will have a tip container for the crew as you leave, for getting you back safely".
Bottom line - avoid at all costs. The tour was of such poor quality, the cruise line refunded half our fees.

Thank TrnrMom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
harikensingh, Manager at Canal & Bay Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 24 June 2014

We are very sorry for your bad experience doing the Partial Transit through the Panama Canal.
We have dry docked Fantasia del Mar and are continually looking for ways to improve our service.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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