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Grit and Glory: Exposing the Panama Canal

Program Number: 9901RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/27/2014 - 11/1/2014; 2/22/2016 - 2/27/2016; 2/29/2016 - 3/5/2016; 3/7/2016 - 3/12/2016; 3/14/2016 - 3/19/2016; 10/24/2016 - 10/29/2016; 11/7/2016 - 11/12/2016; 11/12/2016 - 11/17/2016; 1/14/2017 - 1/19/2017; 1/21/2017 - 1/26/2017; 1/28/2017 - 2/2/2017; 2/4/2017 - 2/9/2017; 2/11/2017 - 2/16/2017; 2/18/2017 - 2/23/2017; 3/4/2017 - 3/9/2017; 3/11/2017 - 3/16/2017; 3/18/2017 - 3/23/2017;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Panama
Price starting at: $1,676.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt; Gluten Free    

The Spanish thought about it. The French drew plans for it. In the end though, it took a revolution, technology, money, determination and grit to complete the Panama Canal. On this unique journey, traverse the canal by boat and learn about the epic struggle to carve a nautical shortcut from one ocean to another. Learn about the canal’s construction and its impact on world history, commerce, and medicine.


• Learn about the history of the Panama Canal during an all-day transit with commentaries and discussions aboard the boat.
• Witness the workings of the busy Miraflores and Gatun Locks and the Alajuela Dam.
• Board the transcontinental train at Colon for a historic ride alongside the Panama Canal.

Activity Particulars

Walking and standing for up to 90 minutes at a time in hot, humid weather.

Due to the popularity of this program the group size has been limited to 54.

Date Specific Information

10-27-2014, 2-22-2016, 2-29-2016, 3-7-2016, 3-14-2016, 10-24-2016, 11-7-2016, 11-12-2016, 1-14-2017, 1-21-2017, 1-28-2017, 2-4-2017, 2-11-2017, 2-18-2017, 3-4-2017, 3-11-2017, 3-18-2017

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Panama City, 3 nights; Panama Canal transit to Colon, 1 night; train to Panama City, 1 night; departure.

Flight from the U.S.A.
Arrival Panama City
3 nights
Coach to Colon
1 night
Train to Panama City
1 night

Explore Panama City, both a thriving center of international commerce thanks to the Panama Canal and a cradle of colonial history dating to the 16th century. Expert-led excursions illuminate the city’s history and its role in today’s globalized world. Discover the Las Cruces Trail, a treacherous path through the jungle that was the only way to cross Panama from coast to coast before there was a railroad or a canal. Visit the Pacific Canal Commission Compound and watch ships passing through the Miraflores Locks. Embark on a ship at Balboa on the Gulf of Panama to voyage through the entirety of the canal, ending at Colon on the Caribbean. Relax onboard while a canal official narrates the journey with historic accounts of the construction and operation of the canal and how the locks make it all possible. Admire views of the rainforest and Gatun Lake as you sail through the canal. Return to Panama City on a scenic, narrated train ride along tracks that were built to aid the building of the canal. Meet Panamanians and gain an insight into their culture during an evening of traditional Panamanian music and dance.


Panama’s abundance in transient wealth attracted the likes of English explorers Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan in search of goods. The historical reliance on commerce has made this tropical oasis a melting pot of culture. Located between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, its dominant features are the mountainous highlands – formed along the central spine of the country, grasslands and over 500 rivers, 125 of which flow into the Caribbean Sea.

Panama City: Hotel near the entrance of the Panama Canal with outdoor pool. Colon: Resort on Gatun Lake. Panama City: Modern downtown hotel.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hotel Amador
Country Inn & Suites
  Panama City, Panama 3 nights
   Sol Melia Panama Canal
  Colon, Panama 1 night
   Crowne Plaza Hotel
  Panama City, Panama 1 night
 Hotel Amador
Country Inn & Suites
Type: Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel located at Fort Amador, on the boardwalk overlooking the entrance to the Panama Canal and the Bridge of the Americas.
  Contact info: Amador Avenue & Pelicano Avenue
Panama City,  00000 Panama
phone: +5072114500
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, balcony, cable TV, coffee maker, microwave oven, and data ports for Internet/fax.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, pool, jacuzzi, laundry services, health club, spa services, tennis courts, meeting rooms, and tour desk.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Subject to change. Additional nights subject to hotel availability.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Sol Melia Panama Canal
Type: Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel located on Gatun Lake, just 10 minutes from the city of Colón.
  Contact info: Espinar Colón
Former Las Americas Military School
Lago Gatun,  000000 Panama
phone: +5074701100
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, cable TV, hair dryer, safe, direct dial phone, and mini refrigerator.
  Facility amenities: Restaurants, bar, pool, meeting rooms, spa services, laundry services, gym, and tennis courts.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Crowne Plaza Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel located approximately 2 miles from downtown Panama City.
  Contact info: Ave Manuel Espinosa Batista
Panama City,  000000 Panama
phone: +507-2065500
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, cable/satellite TV, coffee maker, hair dryer, mini refrigerator, iron/ironing board, and Internet access.
  Facility amenities: Pool, restaurant, tour desk, Internet cafe, business center, fitness center, laundry/dry cleaning services, and gift shop.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: Price subject to availability. Type of accommodations and rates are subject to hotel availability. Please contact the program provider at 1-800-866-7111 or for assistance in booking additional nights.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Arrivals at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama. Hotel check-in starts at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Hotel Amador
Country Inn & Suites
that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from Panama City's Tocumen International Airport in Panama. Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. You will be staying at Crowne Plaza Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Panama City
  Transportation to site: Taxi services are available at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. For information about the airport transportation options, please consult the airport's official website:
  From End of Program
  Location: Panama City
  Transportation from site: Taxi services are available at the hotel. Please ask for assistance at the hotel's front desk.
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrive to Panama City.
(Monday, October 27)
 Arrive To: Arrive at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama.

Proceed through Immigrations, Baggage Claim and Customs before exiting the secured area of the airport. The Road Scholar representative will be waiting outside the exit door with a Road Scholar sign (only applies to Road Scholar group flights).

Transfer to the hotel and check-in, followed by time at leisure.

Please note that this is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day. Hotel check-in usually begins at 3PM.
Accommodations: Hotel Amador
Country Inn & Suites

Day 2: Panama City -
The History of Panama City/Casco Viejo/Panama Canal Museum.

(Tuesday, October 28)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Program orientation.

Get to know your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session at the hotel. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have.

Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Field trip to Casco Viejo, the historic colonial center of the city of Panama, and the Pacific Canal Commission Compound.

Panama City's old historic quarter (a.k.a. Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo) dates back to the 1670s, when the destruction of Panama Viejo made relocation a necessity. Casco Viejo’s parks and narrow streets are lined with colorful buildings representative of Spanish, French and early American architectural styles. This eclectic collection of architectural styles reflects the city's role as an international trade center and cultural melting pot that began well before the building of the Canal. Some of Casco Viejo's must-see sites include the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Municipal Palace, the National Theater, the Panama Canal Museum (originally the Grand Hotel), the French Embassy, and France Plaza.

Before lunch, pay a visit to the Panama Canal Museum, showcasing the American era of the Panama Canal.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Return to the hotel.

Lecture: The Panama Canal: Past, Present and Future.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Free time.
Accommodations: Hotel Amador
Country Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Panama City –
Las Cruces Trail/Madden Dam/French Monument/Miraflores Locks.

(Wednesday, October 29)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: View Lake Alajuela/Madden Dam and learn about its impact on the lives of people in the region and in the daily operation of the Panama Canal.

Lake Alajuela was "created" in 1924 with the construction of the Madden Dam. The dam's reservoir maintains the water levels in Lake Gatun and provides primary supply of drinking water along the canal. Lake Alajuela is surrounded by a 129,000 hectare national park of primary rainforest.

Field trip to Las Cruces Trail, used by early travelers to California lured by the Gold Rush.

In the past, Las Cruces Trail served as the primary artery for sending most, if not all, of the gold brought from the Incan Empire to port for shipment back to Spain. In many ways, the Las Cruces Trail of the colonial era was the wealthiest road on earth. At the same time, because so much gold traveled the same route, just about every enterprising pirate sought access to this trail.

During our explorations along the Panama Canal we will also make a couple of stops to observe and discuss some of the work being done to expand the Canal. The estimated $5.25 billion project is set to add a third lane with larger locks, thus making it possible for bigger container and cargo ships to make use of the shortcut.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, make a stop at the French Cemetery Monument and review the role of immigrant workers in making the Panama Canal a reality.

Transfer to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center to view the locks at work and enjoy the museum's interactive displays.
 Dinner: At a local restaurant with views of the ships passing through the canal.
 Evening: Return to the hotel.

Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Amador
Country Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Transiting the Panama Canal –
Full Transit from Panama City to Colon.

(Thursday, October 30)
 Breakfast: Early morning transfer to port to board boat.

Breakfast on board the boat.
 Morning: Full day transit through the Panama Canal.

This transit leaves at 7:30 am and heads out the Pacific entrance of the Canal, just outside Flamenco Island. Here you will wait for the Panama Canal Commission Pilot who will guide you through the transit. Follow your companion vessel for the transit of the Miraflores locks (by Canal standards, we are a small vessel, so we rarely transit the locks alone).

The transit will take you through Miraflores Lake, Pedro Miguel Locks, Gailard Cut, Gamboa, and Gatun Lake. You will exit the canal at the Atlantic Ocean and dock at Cristobal.

Throughout the transit there are numerous opportunities to see dolphins, birds, monkeys and crocodiles. The whole experience will take about 10 hours.
 Lunch: On board the boat.
 Afternoon: Continue with canal transit.
Disembark in Colon.

Colon Province was once known for its wealth and its seemingly endless supply of gold and silver. This is where the stolen Inca gold was stored and sorted before being shipped back to Spain. The gold is gone and swashbuckling pirates no longer visit the province these days but Colon, the provincial capital, maintains a reputation as a place to make money.

Until 1852, Colon was an island, but was linked to the mainland when the United States started building the railroad. Contemporary Colon is known for its status as a Zona Libre, a free trade zone. Next to Hong Kong, Colon is the largest free-trade zone and marks the northern terminus of the Panama Canal.

Transfer to the hotel.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
 Evening: Time at leisure.
Accommodations: Sol Melia Panama Canal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Colon to Panama -
New Locks Visitor Center/Train Ride Via the Isthmus/Panama Canal Railway.

(Friday, October 31)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast depart to New Locks Visitor Center to learn about the new canal expansion, including a video on the expansion program and new locks construction in addition to pictures of development at various stages. After a nature hike, the visit will end at the view point to observe the work being done at the new lock from afar.

Return to the hotel.
 Lunch: At the hotel.
 Afternoon: Free time to rest, do some packing or enjoy the hotel's amenities. The rooms will be available until the transfer time to the train station.

Train ride excursion to Panama City via the isthmus.

Arrive in Panama City and check-in at hotel.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner with Panamanian music.
 Evening: Enjoy your last evening in Panama at your leisure, among your new Road Scholar friends.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Depart Panama/Flights to the U.S.
(Saturday, November 1)
 Depart From: Transfer to the Tocumen International Airport for flight to the U.S.

This concludes the program. We hope you enjoyed your Road Scholar adventure! When you get home, remember to stay in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network; share memories, pictures, and comments about your recent travels.

Note: Participants with independent travel arrangements and/or scheduled on later flights can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day.
 Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight times).
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide

Author: Louise H. Emmons & François Feer

Description: This beautifully illustrated field guide contains all you need to know about rainforest mammals in Central and South America. It has color plates, range maps and detailed descriptions of each animal, including information about their biology, behavior and natural habitats.

A Guide to the Birds of Panama

Author: Robert Ridgely, J.A. Gwynne

Description: This comprehensive field guide, noteworthy for its beautiful color plates, covers additional species found in Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica.

Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish

Author: Joseph Keenan

Description: Idioms, common mistakes in word usage, and other helpful advice on tackling spoken Spanish. You'll need some foundation to take full advantage of this book – but even a complete novice will appreciate the author's playful sense of humor.

Culture Smart! Panama

Author: Heloise Crowther

Description: This practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture is concise and well-illustrated.

Lonely Planet Panama

Author: Lonely Planet

Description: Written in the tradition of Lonely Planet travel guides. This book is a good general resource and provides accounts of the Panamanian history and local culture and also detailed descriptions of sites of interest.

National Geographic Panama

Author: Christopher Baker

Description: Award-winning travel writer and photographer Christopher Baker introduces the history, nature and attractions of Panama, thoroughly illustrated in National Geographic’s style

Panama Map

Author: ITMB

Description: A full-color, double-sided map of Panama for the traveler at the detailed scale of 1:480,000.

Panama Wildlife Guide: Birds

Author: Rainforest Publications

Description: PLASTIC CARD, 14 PAGES/A handy 14-panel fold-up card featuring accurate color illustrations of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects. We also carry Panama Wildlife Guide: Birds.

The Building of the Panama Canal in Historic Photographs

Author: Ulrich Keller

Description: These archival photographs tell the story of the people who built the Panama Canal, the engineers who designed it and the changes wrought on the landscape through its construction.

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

Author: David McCullough

Description: The national best-selling chronicle of the conception and building of the Panama Canal. Applying his remarkable gift for lucid, lively writing, McCullough tells the story of one of humankind's greatest accomplishments. Winner of countless book awards, this is probably the most acclaimed history of the Canal ever written.

Tropical Nature

Author: Adrian Forsyth, Ken Miyata

Description: A lively, lucid portrait of the tropics as seen by two uncommonly observant and thoughtful field biologists. Its 17 marvelous essays introduce the habitats, ecology, plants and animals of the Central and South American rainforest

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