7 incredible experiences you can have on a Panama Canal cruise

View of the Bridge of the Americas over the Panama Canal. ©lisastrachan/Adobe Stock

The Panama Canal is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. To truly understand its engineering complexity and magnificence, you need to see it in person.

The best way to do that? On a Princess Cruises Panama Canal sailing. The transit through the canal’s locks will wow you, and you’ll have many other exciting experiences. A Panama Canal cruise is a one-of-a-kind vacation with the added convenience of unpacking only once.

A Panama Canal cruise offers remarkable experiences

A Panama Canal cruise offers remarkable experiences. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises has an extensive history in the Panama Canal region of more than 55 years. The cruise line pioneered the first regularly scheduled Panama Canal cruises in 1967. It has been adding itineraries and innovative excursions there ever since.

Through partnerships with Discovery, Animal Planet, and Bon Appétit magazine, Princess Cruises offers expert-led excursions and programs that provide guests with unique perspectives on each destination.

On a Princess Panama Canal cruise, you’ll visit ports in North and Central America and the Caribbean. Plus, AAA offers exclusive member perks like shore excursion credits. So which of the following adventures will you book?

Panama: Visit with an Indigenous community and cruise Gatun Lake

A cultural visit to Emberá village

A cultural visit to Emberá village. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

This Princess Cruises excursion has something for everyone. It touches on Panama’s cultural, natural, and economic wonders. About 12% of Panamanians identify with one of its native ethnic groups. On this tour, you’ll visit an Emberá village in the lush rain forest outside Panama City. You’ll meet its residents and watch a traditional song-and-dance performance.

Observe wildlife while on a catamaran boat ride through Gatun Lake

Observe wildlife while on a catamaran boat ride through Gatun Lake. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Continue your tour with a 1-hour cruise on man-made Gatun Lake, which forms a large part of the Panama Canal. A local guide will share knowledge about its ecosystem and wildlife, pointing out toucans or monkeys that may appear. Another hour at the Agua Clara Visitors Center will give you an appreciation for the canal’s complexity. 

Costa Rica: Meet the sloths of Limón

Encounter sloths on a visit to The Sloth Sanctuary

Encounter sloths on a visit to The Sloth Sanctuary. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

This guided, exclusive Animal Planet excursion is one for the books. Costa Rica is among the world’s best places to encounter wildlife. At the Sloth Sanctuary outside of Limón, you’ll meet one of these slow but sweet creatures.

Visitors learn about sloths at The Sloth Sanctuary

Visitors learn about sloths at The Sloth Sanctuary. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

This is no exploitative photo opportunity. It’s a behind-the-scenes tour of the sanctuary, a rare opportunity to learn about sloth rehabilitation and conservation. The whole family will enjoy visiting the “Slothpital” veterinary hospital and a nursery for baby sloths. The kids will also love Princess Cruises’ Discovery at Sea onboard enrichment program, which aims to educate families on the places they visit.

Colombia: Taste and tour Cartagena

Immerse yourself in the rich history of Cartegena's Old City

Immerse yourself in the rich history of Cartegena's Old City. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

To truly understand a culture, you must savor its flavors. On this Bon Appétit-recommended tour of Cartagena, you’ll sample Colombia’s world-famous coffee and local delicacies as you ride a boat across Cartagena Bay from your ship to Cartagena’s Old City. Explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site encircled by 17th-century walls on a guided walk followed by some free time.

Blending old and new, this Colombian metropolis offers visitors an appreciation of the colonial architecture of Plaza de San Pedro Claver, the centuries-old history of Plaza de Bolívar, and the genius of Colombian literary great Gabriel García Márquez. As you soak in the sun in this Caribbean coastal city, shop for art, colorful textiles, and, of course, coffee.

Find colonial Spanish architecture throughout Cartegena

Find colonial Spanish architecture throughout Cartegena. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Back at sea aboard your ship, savor your experiences at The International Café in The Piazza. Specials in the main dining rooms are often inspired by the port you’re visiting. Check daily menus and more on your MedallionClass app onboard.

Jamaica: Hike up a waterfall in Ocho Rios

Visit Dunn River Falls in the scenic port of Ochos Rios in Jamaica

Visit Dunn River Falls in the scenic port of Ochos Rios in Jamaica. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios is one of Jamaica’s most famous attractions for a reason. Adults and children (36 inches or taller) enjoy the thrill of climbing the face of this waterfall. Experience this adventure via a stairway, winding path, and natural stepping platforms.

There are several spots along the hike to dip into the river, take a refreshing break to marvel at the scenery, and snap photos. After such an active day, Princess passengers can rest aboard a private, air-conditioned motorcoach for the 90-minute ride along Jamaica’s picturesque coast back to their ship in Falmouth.

Grand Cayman Island: Snorkel with stingrays

Swim with stingrays in Grand Cayman

Swim with stingrays in Grand Cayman. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Don’t miss Stingray City, the most popular excursion in the Cayman Islands. About 25 miles off of Grand Cayman, this area is replete with stingrays that are accustomed to humans. Standing on a sandbar in shallow, aquamarine water, you’ll observe their enormous size (a southern stingray can grow up to 79 inches and 214 pounds) and gentle behavior (unless stepped on).

Want to continue your aquatic excursion? Snorkel along a nearby reef teeming with fish and coral, and at another stop where starfish are common. 

Mexico: Paint and sip in Puerto Vallarta

Enjoy art and culture in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Enjoy art and culture in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

You’ve probably heard of paint-and-sip nights, where you learn to create a work of art while imbibing a little bubbly. Princess Cruises offers this experience with a twist on a shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. This creative tour encourages local connections while inspiring your inner artist.

Marina Vallarta is a long-established community distinguished by its yacht-filled harbor, golf course, and former resident Elizabeth Taylor. On this excursion, you’ll visit 2 galleries in Old Town with collections of classic and contemporary Mexican art. Then, head to La Dulce Vista, a resort villa in the Sierra Madre Mountains. There, learn about finger painting on a ceramic tile while enjoying wine and local snacks. 

Aruba: Encounter ostriches

Aruba might conjure visions of sensual sunsets and divi-divi trees blowing in the trade winds. But what about ostriches? The world’s largest bird, native to Africa, thrives on this arid Southern Caribbean island. And you can see them on a Princess tour of the island that stops at the Aruba Ostrich Farm.

On this 4-hour tour, you’ll watch a feeding demonstration at the ostrich farm, and visit Aruba’s Ayo or Casibari rock formations. These geological monoliths have otherworldly shapes and contain petroglyphs believed to have been created 1,500 years ago by the nation’s native Arawak people. You’ll also have a chance to admire Aruba’s glittering coastline from the California Lighthouse, built in 1910. Named after a shipwreck, it’s one of the most iconic photo ops in Aruba.

Sloth at The Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy Princess Cruises

Book select Princess Cruises® with 7-day fares from $399 plus 3rd & 4th guests sail free

From July 6 – September 5, book select Princess Cruises® with 7-day fares from $399 plus 3rd & 4th guests sail free!

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