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Grit and Glory: Exposing the Panama Canal

Program Number: 9901RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/26/2015 - 10/31/2015; 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: $1,698.00 - 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

10-26-2015, 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 26)
 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: History of Panama City, Casco Viejo, Panama Canal Museum
(Tuesday, October 27)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Program orientation.

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

Day 3: Las Cruces Trail, Madden Dam, Miraflores Locks
(Wednesday, October 28)
 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: Dinner at a local restaurant with views of the ships passing through the canal.
Return to the hotel.
 Evening: Return to the hotel.
Time at leisure to relax and get a good night's sleep in preparation for the full day tomorrow.
Accommodations: Hotel Amador
Country Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Panama Canal - Full Transit from Panama City to Colon
(Thursday, October 29)

Note: The full canal transit takes approximately 10 hours to complete.

 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: New Locks Visitor Center, Panama Canal Railway
(Friday, October 30)
 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: Free time. Spend your last evening in Panama with your new Road Scholar friends, finish your packing, or get a good night's sleep in preparation for international departures tomorrow.
Accommodations: Crowne Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Program Concludes, Return Flight to U.S.
(Saturday, October 31)
 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 (depending on flight time).
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

A Brief History of Central America

Author: Hector Perez-Brignoll

Description: A good overview of the region’s economic, political and social history through the 1980s by a professor at the University of Costa Rica. Well-written, informative and concise.

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

Author: Nova (Director)

Description: This Nova program, narrated by David McCullough (The Path Between the Seas, CAM32), covers the epic 30-year construction of the Panama Canal. With historic film footage, rare archival photographs and commentary.

Culture Smart! Panama

Author: Heloise Crowther

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

Emperors in the Jungle, The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama

Author: John Lindsay-Poland

Description: A history and expose of U.S. military adventures and incursions in Panama, from the building of the Panama Canal, to a decades-long Army program of chemical weapons testing, and an analysis of the 1989 invasion.

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

Author: Ovidio Diaz Espino

Description: An intriguing look into the treachery, behind-the-scenes financial wrangling and Roosevelt-era dollar diplomacy that resulted in both the Panama Canal and the establishment of Panama as an independent nation.

Latin America in Colonial Times

Author: Matthew Restall

Description: This scholarly primer considers the history of the continent from the arrival of the first Conquistadors in the 16th century to the dying embers of empire 300 years later, giving equal weight to the histories of the colonial rulers, the African slaves brought over to work in the New World and the indigenous groups whose lives and lands were forever changed by conquest.

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 Adventure Map

Author: National Geographic

Description: With natural areas, attractions and two inset maps of Panama City. 1:475,000.

Panama Canal by Cruise Ship

Author: Anne Vipond

Description: This outstanding guide to the Panama Canal and popular ports of call in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America features a mile-by-mile guide to the transit, a history of the building of the canal and a detailed pullout map.

Panama Fever, The Epic History of One of the Greatest Engineering Triumphs of All Time: the Building of the Panama Canal

Author: Matthew Parker

Description: Parker's epic historical adventure shows all the politics, power and bravado of building the fiercely contested route across Central America.

Panama Wildlife Guide

Author: Rainforest Publications

Description: This handy 14-panel fold-up card features expert color illustrations of dozens of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

Portrait of the Panama Canal, from Construction to the Twenty-First Century

Author: William Friar

Description: Featuring 60 color and 10 archival images, this photo-essay includes contemporary and archival photographs of the Panama Canal as well as a short history.

Redeemers, Ideas and Power in Latin America

Author: Enrique Krauze

Description: Jose Marti, Octavio Paz, Eva Peron, Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez all get a chapter in this illuminating history of political thought in modern Latin America. 12 thinkers in all.

The Birds of Panama

Author: Robert Dean, George R. Angehr

Description: Created for the field, with range maps, illustrations and descriptions on facing pages.

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 Captain and the Enemy

Author: Graham Greene

Description: Graham Greene returns to classic themes of mystery, deceit and espionage in this accomplished short novel, his 23rd and last book, set in Panama.

The Monkey's Bridge, Mysteries of Evolution in Central America

Author: David Rains Wallace

Description: Opening this absorbing account of the history and biogeography of the Central American isthmus with the tale of Columbus, Wallace often weaves his own travels in the region with a crisp overview of exploration, nature and evolution. Natural history buffs and ecologically minded travelers will appreciate this valuable resource.

The Path Between the Seas

Author: David McCullough

Description: A great story, admirably told in vivid, page-turning detail, this is the one book to read on the creation of the Panama Canal.

The Tailor of Panama

Author: John Le Carre

Description: Set in Panama, this thriller by master storyteller John Le Carre includes spymasters, corrupt officials, arms manufacturers and other unsavory types.

Tropical Nature

Author: Adrian Forsyth, Ken Miyata

Description: Two uncommonly observant and thoughtful field biologists offer a lucid portrait of the tropics through 17 marvelous essays that introduce the habitats, ecology, plants and animals of the Central and South American rainforests.

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