The 7-Day Discovery Catamaran cruise takes you on a once-in-a-lifetime journey, showing its guests the best of Panama. Witness the unique flora and fauna of the region and learn from the traditional Emera and Kunda natives in the Darien Jungle.
Sail to paradise to discover the white sandy beaches of the Pearl Islands and get up-close and personal with the Panama Canal, a world famous engineering marvel. Your crew of ten, will ensure your adventure on the 24-passenger Discovery is the best one yet.
Please note that the itinerary below is dependent on canal regulations, sea and weather conditions, wildlife behavior, and accessibility to locations, so may vary. All times indicated are approximate, and are also subject to change. The itinerary below is the 'Northbound' itinerary, but may be done in reverse as a 'Southbound' itinerary.
Panama City - Flamenco Marina - Northbound Journey
The capital and largest city in Panama with a population of more than 880,000, the city is located on the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal and this is where our exciting adventure begins.
As we sail the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean towards Contadora, where the Discovery will stay for the night, take the opportunity to meet the fellow passengers and crew whilst relishing in the local Panamanian cuisine served onboard. In the morning, the Discovery will navigate to the Darien Jungle, where the first full-day adventure begins.
Step aboard a time machine and travel back more than 600 years to a place that not many have had the privilege of experiencing.
Darien national park consists of a variety of different terrains and habitats varying from rocky coastlines to sandy beaches, swampland to the tropical rainforest. This rainforest is commonly known as the Darien Gap and it acts as the only break in the 30,0000 mile long Pan American highway that stretches from Patagonia up to northern Alaska.
The rainforest is not only home to a vast diversity of wildlife but it is also the home to two different indigenous tribes, the Embera and Kuna Indians who have inhabited the area since before Spanish colonization.
A proud people who have been able to maintain their traditions and lifestyle as they were before the Spaniards colonized the region. When we pause to see these villages, the unique lifestyle and complete self-dependence of the people is overwhelmingly apparent. These indigenous tribesmen are master crafters in Cocobolo woodcarvings and basketry and we will be able to see them make such treasures. The Darien Jungle is one of the last remaining places in the world in which people inhabit a protected ecosystem.
Pearl Islands – San Telmo & Mogo Mogo
The Pearl Islands are simply spectacular. Crystal clear waters with white sand beaches and lush vegetation combine to give the islands the aesthetically pleasing landscape that beach-dwellers and Scuba Diving enthusiasts can only dream of. We will have the chance to swim, snorkel and kayak in their precious waters. The archipelago owes its name to the abundance of pearl oysters which supported a substantial fishery in the early 1900s. On the outer portion of the archipelago, the islands of San Telmo and Mogo Mogo are home to some pristine beaches and fertile fishing grounds. View the remains of the submarine Explorer, built in 1865 during the Civil War, which sunk off the coast of San Telmo during the late 1800s.
Panama Canal Daylight Transit
It is here that we enter the famous Panama Canal! Wake up at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal and join the morning’s ship convoy for our northbound canal passage traversing Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel Locks.
The Discovery will be raised 85 feet above sea level to Gatun Lake. This is an essential part of the Panama Canal, which forms a water passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. Gatun Lake also provides the millions of gallons of water necessary to operate the Canal locks each time a ship has to pass through.
You will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience up close the history and operation of this engineering marvel. Navigate the Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the Panama Canal, bisecting the Continental Divide. This section of the canal is full of history and geological value and you will be able to appreciate the continuous maintenance that this area requires, because it is very susceptible to landslides. Spend the night in Gatun Lake on Panama Canal waters.
Panama Canal – Gatun Lake
Prior to the construction of the Panama Canal, the vast jungle area that is now the Gatun Lake was teeming with an overwhelming abundance of wildlife. As the region was flooded to create the lake, animals took refuge in the mountain peaks, which are now the many islands that dot the renowned lake.
Explore Gatun Lake and kayak in Panama Canal waters. Your expedition leader will take you on board small crafts past lush rainforests to secluded areas of the lake to witness first-hand the splendor and excitement of the jungle. Exotic birds, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and crocodiles are just a few of the animals that you could see in their native surroundings. The sights, sounds and scents that make up this beautiful, tropical jungle will engulf you. Cameras are a must as this is considered the world’s premier location for viewing monkeys and other animals in the wild.
The Discovery will exit the Panama Canal in the afternoon on its way to the mouth of the Chagres River.
Chagres River - Fort San Lorenzo
The Chagres River is the largest river within the Panama Canal and it is the canal's principal source of water. Dense tropical forest covers the river’s upper basin and to protect this ecosystem, the Panamanian government created the Chagres National Park.
The Chagres River was originally founded in 1502 by Christopher Columbus on his fourth and final voyage to the Americas. By 1534, the Spanish monarchy began to use the Chagres River as a route to transfer the gold they had been collecting in Peru and transport it back to Spain. Attracted to these treasures, pirates began to attack the Panama coast in the 1560’s and this lead to the creation of Fort San Lorenzo by the Spanish navy. Some 100 years later in 1670, Henry Morgan, a Welsh pirate attacked Fort San Lorenzo leaving it in ruins. He then went on to invade Panama City using the site as his base. During the 1680’s, however, the Spanish created a new fort on a cliff overlooking the entrance to the Chagres River. This fort was even more protected with a moat and drawbridge constructed on its landside to prevent another invasion. The Spanish abandoned the fort in 1821 when Panama became independent.
When touring the Fort, we will see that it is an exceptional sample of Spanish colonial military architecture and the reasons as to why UNESCO has named it a World Heritage Site. The tour leader will expand on Spanish colonization and inform us on the great amounts of history that the site has to offer. We will then travel to Colon in the evening and spend our last night together before disembarkation the next day.
Portobelo – Caribbean
Our final stop is to Portabelo on the Caribbean Sea. After a farewell breakfast, we will disembark the boat one last time and travel by motor coach to Portabelo. Christopher Columbus discovered Portobelo, now a port city in the Colon district of Panama, on his fourth voyage to the Americas. The legend states that Columbus originally named the town ‘puerto bello’ meaning beautiful port and it is also rumored that the famous explorer, Francis Drake, was buried in Portobelo Bay after dying of dysentery out at sea in 1596. In 1726, British naval forces attacked the port and successfully defeated the Spanish leading to an outburst of popular acclamation from the British Empire. It was this victory that that lead to the naming of the famous Portobello Road in London, Portobello area in Edinburgh and Portobello barracks in Dublin.
Today, Portabelo is a very quiet city with a population of fewer then 3,000 people. Nevertheless, it is currently experiencing somewhat of a cultural revival with a growing interest in the local customs of Congo art and dance. We will visit the Church of San Felipe, the sanctuary of black Christ as well as more fortifications built by the Spanish colonizers to protect her treasures from the pirates. The Panama Canal railway, a short one-hour scenic ‘interoceanic’ trip running parallel to the Canal passing through lush rainforests and the historic Gaillard Cut, will take us back to Panama City where we part ways and our excursion comes to an end.
Please note that all cruise itineraries are subject to change due to seasonal weather conditions (and resultant variations in sea levels) affecting accessibility to locations. Thus navigation routes, times and excursions may need to be modified at the cruise captain’s discretion.
Passengers should also be aware that animal sightings cannot be guaranteed due to the unpredictability of wildlife behavior.