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.
Activity note: City walking on paved and mostly flat surfaces. Some stair climbing and standing. Field trip to the Panama Canal Museum will only include the 2nd floor exhibits.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: Orientation: 8:15 a.m. at the hotel. 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 air conditioned bus, 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. After boarding the Road Scholar bus, we'll journey to Casco Viejo--the historic colonial center of the city of Panama-- in preparation for a walking field trip led by our Group Leader. 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 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. We'll then head to the Panama Canal Museum to learn about the American era of the Panama Canal.
Lunch: At a restaurant featuring authentic Panamanian cuisine.
Afternoon: After returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free. You might like to explore some of Panama City's other highlights on your own such as the Biomuseo with its fantastic design by Frank Gehry and galleries that illustrate the origins of the Panamanian isthmus and its impact on biodiversity. One of our buses 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. We'll regroup at the hotel for a 5:00 p.m. presentation on the Panama Canal past, present, and future.
Dinner: At the hotel.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: City walking on mostly flat, paved surfaces. Some standing. The visit to the starting point of Las Cruces Trail will not include walking on the trail.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: Our first field trip in the Panama Canal area will begin with a bus ride and a brief stop at Lake Alajuela/Madden Dam. While there, we'll enjoy insights from our Group Leader on the impact of Lake Alajuela/Madden Dam on the lives of people in the region and in the daily operation of the Panama Canal. Lake Alajuela came into existence in 1924 with the construction of Madden Dam. In addition to helping maintain water levels in Lake Gatun, Madden's reservoir is also the primary supply of drinking water along the Canal. During a brief visit to the starting point of the Las Cruces Trail, we'll learn the historical connection between the trail and the California Gold Rush. 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. Then, driving to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center, we'll view the museum's interactive displays and see the locks at work.
Dinner: At a local restaurant.
Evening: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure. Prepare for check out and departure early in the morning.
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: Aboard the boat plus water and coffee.
Morning: During our full day transit through the Panama Canal, we’ll be accompanied by a Canal expert who will 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: Aboard the boat, buffet meal with soft drinks and water.
Afternoon: We'll continue the Panama Canal transit until we disembark in Colon and transfer to our hotel for check in. Until 1852, Colon was an island, but was linked to the mainland once the United States started building the railroad. Contemporary Colon is known for its status as a Zona Libre (a free trade zone) and as the northern entrance/exit to the Panama Canal.
Dinner: At the hotel.
Evening: At leisure. Ready luggage for check out tomorrow.
Activity note: Early this afternoon, our luggage will be transported to the hotel in Panama City and delivered to our rooms. Meanwhile, we'll stay in Colon and prepare for the train ride back to Panama City. Please prepare a day pack with personal items you may need during the day and have luggage ready for transport before lunch. The train journey takes approximately 1 hour. Walking on unpaved, undulating nature trails and some standing and stair climbing.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: We'll depart by bus on a field trip to the New Locks Visitor Center to learn about the expansion of the Canal, including a video on the expansion project and construction of the new locks in addition to pictures of various stages. Then we'll accompany our Group Leader on a slow-paced walk on the Center's nature trails for a chance to spot resident wildlife before ending at a lookout point to view the new Panama Canal locks.
Lunch: At the hotel.
Afternoon: Free time. Our rooms will be available until we transfer to the train station. Enjoy the hotel's amenities or just relax. The bus will drop us off at the Atlantic Passenger Station and we'll board the train back to Panama City. The historic Panama Railroad paved the way for the construction of a transoceanic canal. It also became the main method for transporting equipment, supplies, and workers for the Panama Canal project. Construction of the railroad began in 1850; the ambitious project cost a total of $7,407,535.00. and took five years to complete. After disembarking at the Panama City station, we'll board a bus to the hotel and check in.
Dinner: At the hotel with Panamanian music. Share your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends on our last evening together in Panama.
Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and departure in the morning.
Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers. 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). 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!