Activity note: This is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day. Hotel check in is usually from 3:00 p.m. A Road Scholar notice board will be available in the hotel lobby with daily schedule information.
Afternoon: Upon arriving at the hotel, check in and get your room assignment. Then, take some time to freshen up and relax.
Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
Evening: At leisure.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: Program orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Transfers to and from program activities will be by motorcoach, unless specified otherwise. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In many cases, they will be plated and served set meals; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Beverages include coffee, tea, water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Please note that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to 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 is called Casco Viejo and dates back to the 1670s. Casco Viejo showcases the multicultural history of Panama; parks and narrow streets are lined with colorful buildings in a breath-taking mix of Spanish, French and early American architectural styles. This eclectic display 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 the Plaza de Francia. Pay a visit to the Panama Canal Museum and learn more about the American era of the Panama Canal.
Lunch: At a local restaurant featuring authentic Panamanian cuisine.
Afternoon: After returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free. However, anyone wishing to use this opportunity to explore Panama City's Biomuseo will have the chance to do so at this time. One of our coasters will drop off participants at the museum, along with a group leader, before returning to the hotel with the rest of the group. The museum entrance fee, taxi fare to return to the hotel and any other expenses incurred during this activity are not included in your program cost. The museum is within walking distance from our hotel (about 1.5 miles) if you wish to forego taking a taxi to the hotel. At the time of publishing, tickets to the museum cost approximately $23.00 per person—this amount is subject to change. Panama City’s Biomuseo (aka Biodiversity Museum) is situated on the scenic Amador Causeway—a man-made breakwater found at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The colorful, eye catching architecture of the museum is the creation of internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. In addition to 8 permanent exhibition galleries, the museum also features a public atrium, temporary exhibits, and a botanical park with outdoor displays. Interactive and multi-media exhibits explain the science behind the formation of the Isthmus of Panama and its crucial role in facilitating biodiversity throughout the Americas. 5:00 p.m. Lecture at the hotel: The Panama Canal: Past, Present and Future.
Dinner: At the hotel.
Evening: Time at leisure.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: After breakfast, board the motorcoach and begin our exploration of the Panama Canal area. First, we will embark upon a field trip to view Lake Alajuela/Madden Dam. 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. Next, we will learn the historical connection between the California Gold Rush and Panama's Las Cruces Trail during a brief visit to the start of the trail. Las Cruces Trail once 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, Las Cruces Trail was the wealthiest road on earth during the colonial era. With so much gold traveling that route, just about every enterprising pirate sought a way to raid the local ports—including the notorious buccaneer Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake. Then, we will make a couple of stops to observe and discuss some of the work that was recently done to expand the Canal. The project cost an estimated $5.25 billion 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: We'll 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.
Evening: Return to the hotel. Time at leisure to relax and get a good night's sleep in preparation for the full day tomorrow.
Activity note: Early morning transfer to port to board boat. The full transit through the Panama Canal can take between 12-13 hours hours to complete depending on ship traffic.
Breakfast: Breakfast on board the boat.
Morning: Full day transit through the Panama Canal. A Canal expert will accompany us on this journey and enhance our experience with historical insights and detailed explanations of the transit process. Once the Panama Canal Commission Pilot, who will guide our vessel throughout the transit, comes on board we will be ready to start our Canal adventure. We will follow our 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 us through Miraflores Lake, Pedro Miguel Locks, Gailard Cut, Gamboa, and Gatun Lake. We 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.
Lunch: On board the boat.
Afternoon: We will continue to enjoy our Panama Canal transit. Once we complete our journey, we will disembark in Colon and transfer to our hotel. Time to freshen up before dinner. 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.
Dinner: At the hotel.
Evening: Time at leisure.
Activity note: The train journey across the isthmus takes approximately 1 hour.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: We'll depart by motorcoach to the New Locks Visitor Center to learn about the canal expansion, including a video on the expansion program and new locks construction in addition to pictures of development at various stages. At the site, we will take a nature hike to a lookout point from which we will be able to observe the completed expanded locks from a far. Board the motorcoach and return to the hotel. Before lunch, please have your luggage ready for the transfer to Panama City
Lunch: At the hotel.
Afternoon: Free time to rest or enjoy the hotel's amenities. The rooms will be available until the transfer time to the train station. Transfer by motorcoach to train station. Train ride excursion to Panama City via the isthmus. Arrive in Panama City and check-in at hotel.
Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel 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.
Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers. If you are an independent traveler (POP status), see “Ground Transportation from Last Location.” 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). 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. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!