Road Scholar : Home
The Southern Caribbean and Panama Canal: A Journey Through History and Nature

Program Number: 15591RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/23/2015 - 2/2/2015; 1/25/2016 - 2/5/2016; 2/5/2016 - 2/15/2016;
Duration: 10 nights
Location: Bahamas/Aruba/Panama/Costa Rica/Colombia
Price starting at: $3,650.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Ocean Cruises Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 29; 10 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 10 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Salt; Low Fat; Gluten Free    

Discover the interplay of humans and nature in the Caribbean, learn about efforts to conserve the natural wonders of Costa Rica and make a partial transit of the Panama Canal, observing the operation of its busy locks and delving into the story of one of history’s greatest feats of engineering.

Activity Particulars

Walking unassisted up to one hour at a time. Wheelchairs prohibited due to docking methods.

Some dates are 11 nights in length and include Cartagena, Colombia as a port of call. Please see daily schedule for details.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Aboard ms Zuiderdam, 10 nights.

Days 1–2: Arrival Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / embark ms Zuiderdam / Half Moon Cay (Bahamas):

View colorful fish and coral on a Glass Bottom boat ride off the coast of Half Moon Caye.

Day 3: At Sea:

Lectures cover the European and especially Dutch influence on the Caribbean, as well as the political history of Aruba.

Day 4: Oranjestad (Aruba):

Disembark for an exploration of Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad.

Day 5: Willemstad (Curaçao):

Disembark for a walking orientation of Willemstad and explore the Hato Caves.

Day 6: At Sea:

Lectures at sea address the Panama Canal from dream to reality to contemporary impact.

Day 7: Caribbean Coast (Panama):

Visit the Gatun Locks and the Old City (“Casco Viejo”). Explore the French Plaza and the Joseph Cathedral and its famous golden altar. View ships going through the Panama Canal's Miraflores Locks and learn about the history of the canal during a visit to the interpretive center.

Day 8: Limon (Costa Rica):

Visit a banana plantation for expert-led discoveries and insight into local agriculture.

Days 9-10: At Sea:

Informative lectures provide a political and economic overview of Central America and information on conservation projects underway in the area.

Day 11: Fort Lauderdale / disembark / departure

ms Zuiderdam

This 936-foot ocean liner combines high-tech features with classic elegance. Intriguing artistic touches include art deco elevators, paintings by the likes of Andy Warhol and, suspended in the three-story atrium at the ship’s heart, a Waterford Crystal Seahorse. Propelled by a diesel-electric power plant for optimal energy efficiency. It can carry over 1900 passengers, up to 40 of whom may be Road Scholar participants.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Marylin Lisowski

Marylin Lisowski has shared her love for the environment, mathematics and science with students of all ages. Among her many roles, she has served as a professor of science and environmental education at Eastern Illinois University, has taught science at the elementary, middle school and high school levels in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida and was the director of a research and education field station in the Bahamas. Marylin is the author of several series of textbooks for middle school and high school levels, and was the project director for numerous federally and state funded environmental science grant programs. She has been conducting field excursions and ecological expeditions for both students and teachers since the early 1970s, and has developed and led programs around the world. Marylin’s has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Ohio's Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year, as well as Eastern Illinois University's Distinguished Professor of the Year.
Meals and Lodgings
   M/S Zuiderdam
  Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Day at Sea
Oranjestad, West Indies
Willemstad, Curacao, West Indies
Day at Sea
Gatun Locks Panama, Panama
Limon, Costa Rica
Day at Sea
10 nights
 M/S Zuiderdam
Type: Cruise Ship
  Description: At the heart of the ms Zuiderdam, suspended in a three-story atrium, a Waterford Crystal Seahorse sets the mood for exquisite pieces of art to be seen throughout this elegant ship. On board the ms Zuiderdam, marvelous nooks and crannies contain priceless works of art. Guests will find a recurring Venetian theme throughout the ship; the most dazzling features figures in the time of Carnival in Venice, created by Daniel Ogier. Guests can also expect signature Holland America touches, such as a gracious and unobtrusive staff, gourmet meals, spacious accommodations and the very best in entertainment and activities. The ms Zuiderdam completed all Signature of Excellence enhancements to her public rooms and staterooms in Fall 2005.
  Ship Information: Ship's Registry: The Netherlands, Passenger: capacity 1,848, Crew members: 800 Gross tonnage 82,000 grt. . Length 951 feet Beam 105.8 feet Maximum speed 24 knots
  Contact info: Holland America
300 Elliott Ave. West
Seattle, WA 98119 USA
phone: 206-281-3535
  Facility amenities: Vista Dinning Room, Pinnacle Grill, Lido Restaurant, the Culinary Arts Center, The Greenhouse Spa and Salon, The Crow’s Nest
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Embarkation at Port Everglades, Florida starts at 11:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. Late arrivals will be denied boarding. You will be staying at M/S Zuiderdam that night.
  End of Program:
Disembarkation at Port Everglades, Florida starts at 9 a.m. If flying from Ft. Lauderdale, book flights that leave after 12 p.m. You will be staying at M/S Zuiderdam the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Parking: $15-$19 per day (rate subject to change by the Port Authority). Phone: 954-462-7287 * Midport Parking Garage: 6 floors; 2,000 spaces * Security-patrolled and illuminated * No advance reservations required * Parking for RVs (add. cost)
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: Check for current bus schedules with or call Greyhound at 1-800-231-2222.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  Nearest city or town:  Ft. Lauderdale
  Nearest highway: I-595 goes directly into Port Everglades
  Nearest airport:  Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
  Transportation to site: Taxi services are available at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The fare from the airport to Port Everglades is typically about $15.
  From End of Program
  Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  Transportation from site: Taxi services are available for the transfer from Port Everglades to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
    (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: Embark on Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
(Friday, January 23)

Note: For those participants that have arranged their flights with Road Scholar, please see the Holland America desk located inside the airport where a representative will direct you to the Cruiseport Shuttle. Please note that the shuttle runs only on the day of embarkation and disembarkation. Please plan for flight arrivals of no later than 11:30am or noon. Also, should you wish to forego the formal dinners, you may still attend the program and dine in an alternative location on your own.

 Afternoon: Embark ship. You may board as early at 11:30 am, but no later than 90 minutes prior to sail time (departs at 4:00 pm).
Check-in at Front Desk.
Lunch: Embarkation Buffet Lunch at Lido Deck opens at 12:00 pm.
Cabins should be ready to use by 1:00 pm.
Participate in the ship's Safety Drill.

Welcome orientation at 2:00pm.

Meet your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session. 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 . **Note: Participants will receive a full itinerary once onboard. The Road Scholar group leader will deliver an itinerary to each participant's stateroom and try to meet all members of the group prior tothe program orientation.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
 Evening: Evening at leisure.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.
(Saturday, January 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Ship scheduled to arrive to Half Moon Cay at 8:00 AM
Disembark at Half Moon Cay.
Half Moon Cay is located on 65 pristine acres of the 2,400-acre Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. The island is so unspoiled that the Bahamian National Trust designated it as an international wild bird preserve. Travel by boat to a site off the coast of Half Moon Cay to snorkel from the boat in limpid waters that teem with gloriously colored fish and coral.

Next, join your group leader on an exploratory walk that will uncover interesting facts about the nature and history of the Bahamas.

Before lunch, enjoy some time at leisure to indulge in water activities.
 Lunch: Lunch on the island.
 Afternoon: Return to the ship and cruise for Aruba.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Day at Sea.
(Sunday, January 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Time at leisure to enjoy ship-board activities.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: Lecture: The European Influence in the Caribbean. A light-hearted look at some lingering traditions inherited from bygone days.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Oranjestad, Aruba.
(Monday, January 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Time at leisure to enjoy shipboard activities.
 Lunch: Lunch on board.
 Afternoon: Disembark for Orientation of Oranjestad, the capital city of the Island.
Board the Road Scholar coach for a field trip to various historic sites on the island. Visits will include the Fort Zoutman Historical Museum, the Archaeological Museum, and the geological site and botanical gardens at Casibari.

Group leader on-site discussions will highlight the history of the island.

Time at leisure to explore the city on your own.
Return to the ship.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Willemstad, Curacao.
(Tuesday, January 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Arrive to Curacao.

Disembark and then board the Road Scholar coach for an orientation to Willemstad and nearby areas. This field trip will include visits to the historic down town, the Governor's Palace, and a floating fresh fruit market.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Visit to the Hato Caves used by the Amerindian Arawaks 1,500 years ago and in later years were used as a refuge for escaped slaves.

Return to ship and cruise to Panama.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Day at Sea.
(Wednesday, January 28)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Time at leisure to enjoy shipboard activities.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: Lecture: The Concept of a Canal from Dreams to Reality.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Panama -
Colonial Panama and Miraflores Locks.

(Thursday, January 29)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Partial transit through the Panama Canal - Gatun Locks.

Ship scheduled to arrive to Locks at 5:00 AM.

Disembark at Lake Gatun Locks Pier, tender ashore and then drive to Casco Viejo or Old City to discover Panama's rich history and culture on foot and by bus. Casco Viejo was established in 1673 by the Spanish Conquistadors; it was the second city settled in Panama.

Explore the French Plaza on foot and visit the famous golden altar in the St. Joseph Cathedral. Continue exploring the city by bus.

Time permitting, we will make a stop at a craft market to view local handicrafts including molas, embroidery, jewelry, leather, wood and much more.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: This afternoon, experience a field trip to Miraflores Locks to view ships passing through the first series of locks in the Canal. Also visit the on-site interpretive museum where you'll explore the exhibits as well as watch a movie about the history of the canal.

Transfer back to the Colon Pier and board the ship.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.
(Friday, January 30)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Early morning visit to a Banana Plantation, a working farm whose production is exported to the US. The visit includes a guided walk through the plantation, where the participants will be receiving an introduction to the farming and practices of this crop.
Transfer to the Costa Rica Sanctuary dedicated to the rescue of abandoned or injured endangered and rare animals.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Return to the pier, board the ship and begin your journey back to Ft. Lauderdale.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Day at Sea.
(Saturday, January 31)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Time at leisure to enjoy shipboard activities.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: Lecture: A Geographical Overview of Central America.
 Dinner: Dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Day at Sea.
(Sunday, February 1)
 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Time at leisure to enjoy shipboard activities.
 Lunch: Lunch onboard.
 Afternoon: Lecture: Conservation and Wildlife Projects in Central America.

Free time. Spend your last evening in on the ship with your new Road Scholar friends, finish your packing, or get a good night's sleep in preparation for international departures tomorrow .
 Dinner: Farewell dinner onboard.
Accommodations: M/S Zuiderdam
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Completion of Program.
Disembark in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

(Monday, February 2)

Note: Upon departure participants will be directed by your group leader to the airport shuttle on disembarkation day. Please do not book departure flights before 12:30 or 1:00pm on this day.

 Breakfast: Breakfast onboard.
 Morning: Disembark at the completion of the program.

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: Although the ship is expected to dock around 7AM, it should take a few hours before the ship is cleared by local authorities and guests are allowed to disembark. Upon leaving the ship, guests will undergo routine Immigration/Customs proceedings.

Participants with flight arrangements out of Ft. Lauderdale should take all of this into consideration when scheduling the return flights.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Day at Sea Casino
If your idea of a good time is trying your luck at the card table or playing slot machines, then you might wish to make a stop at the Zuiderdam's casino on the Lower Promenade Deck. Please check onboard for hours of operation and costs. For additional information, visit
  Coffee House and Library
The Explorations Café on board the Zuiderdam features a cozy coffee house and library. Guests can enjoy a cup of coffee while perusing the ship's books, checking emails, or surfing the Internet. Additional charges apply for Internet/computer ussage. For additional information, visit
  Fitness Center
Take advantage of the Zuiderdam's Fitness Center during your down time. Work out on their modern equipment or sign up for a specialty class such as yoga or Pilates. Please check onboard for hours of operation and additional costs for specialty classes. For additional information, visit
  Gourmet Cooking Lessons
The Zuiderdam has a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen (The Culinary Arts Center) where gourmands can enjoy interactive cooking sessions with the ship's master chefs or culinary guests. For additional information, visit
  Guest Speakers
Guest speakers onboard the Zuiderdam provide optional lectures and presentations during the cruise. Please check onboard for the schedule and presentation topics. For additional information, visit
  Spa and Beauty Salon
The Zuiderdam's Greenhouse Spa and Salon offers a long list of services including facials, steam baths, massages, manicures, pedicures, and hair styling. Spend a couple of hours relaxing and pampering yourself--you deserve it! Please check onboard for hours of operation and additional costs. For additional information, visit
  Vista Show Lounge
The Vista Show Lounge, on board the Zuiderdam, hosts assorted theatrical presentations that include vocalists, comedians, dancers, illusionists, and variety acts. Please check onboard for hours of operation, show descriptions and additional costs. For additional information, visit
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

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

A Traveller's History of the Caribbean

Author: James Ferguson

Description: A concise history of the Caribbean Islands, beginning with a description of the islands' formation and geologic attributes and carrying through the first civilizations in the region all the way up to the modern tourism boom.

Central America Map

Author: ITMB

Description: A detailed map of the Central American isthmus at a scale of 1:1,100,000.

Tropical Plants of Costa Rica

Author: Willow Zuchowski

Description: Organized by habitat, this photo guide to 400 species has chapters on popular destinations, including Monteverde and Tortuguero.

Lesser Antilles Map

Author: Nelles

Description: A map of the Lesser Antilles, with detailed insets of every important island.

Under the Black Flag, The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates

Author: David Cordingly

Description: Meet Blackbeard and Captain Kidd along with lesser-known rogues and brigands in this rip-roaring portrait of pirates of the Caribbean.

Fishwatcher's Field Guide Caribbean

Author: Idaz Greenberg

Description: A convenient double-sided plastic card showing 75 reef fish of the Caribbean.

Fishwatcher's Field Guide Baja California, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco

Author: Idaz Greenberg

Description: A double-sided, full-color waterproof card.

Reefcomber's Guide, Caribbean

Author: Idaz Greenberg

Description: This double-sided laminated card depicts fish, corals and other invertebrates of the Caribbean.

How Wall Street Created a Nation, J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Panama Canal.

Author: Ovidio Diaz Espino

Description: This book offers a view of the Panama Canal and the formation of Panama from a Latin American perspective. Mr. Espino details all nature of scandals, corruption, and conspiracies behind Panama's fight for independence and the construction of the Panama Canal. Although the accuracy of certain historical accounts has been called into question, this book is likely to force readers to ask themselves interesting questions and maybe prompt further research.

Culture Smart! Panama

Author: Heloise Crowther

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

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.

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