A seaport on Panama’s Caribbean coast, the country’s second-largest city offers numerous parks and monuments, as well as the largest duty-free shopping zone in the Americas. Embark your luxurious floating hotel and enjoy time to settle into your stateroom before the ship casts off late this evening for your Panama Canal cruise.
Discover Portobelo, a fishing village on the northern part of the Isthmus of Panama whose sleepy nature today belies its storied history. Here, you can see remnants of the 17th- and 18th-century fortifications built when it was the greatest port in Central America and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This evening, you’ll experience a transit of one of the world’s great engineering marvels: the Panama Canal. During this 51-mile cruise, which ranks high on the “must-see” list of most cruise enthusiasts, you’ll enter the series of locks that raises ships about 85 feet above sea level, then lowers them back down again at the other side of the isthmus—all by force of gravity, without the use of any pumps. In the middle of the canal, you’ll sail through the 166-square-mile Gatun Lake—once the largest manmade lake in the world.
Spend the day discovering the capital of the Republic of Panama and Central America’s capital of international finance. You might wish to explore Panama Viejo, the original founding site, which was destroyed in 1671 by the pirate Captain Henry Morgan, or Casco Viejo, built later that year and surrounded by fortifications to protect against future pirate attacks. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You might also view the Canal from the Miraflores Visitors Center and browse the museum … venture out to the scenic Amador Causeway, where Frank Gehry’s Biomuseo (Biodiversity Museum) is expected to open in 2013 … or shop for handicrafts from one of Panama’s seven living Indian tribes.
A port call on Isla de Coiba, the largest island in Central America, gives you the opportunity to experience Coiba National Park. A Panamanian penal colony until 2004, it is comprised mostly of unspoiled virgin rainforest. Perhaps you’ll search for rare indigenous plants and a host of wildlife, including howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, crested eagles, and turtles. Or head for the beautiful white-sand beaches at the north end of the island.
Literally “Little Bay,” this small port town is located on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, near the border of Panama. Admire the excellent beaches set against the backdrop of the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Golfito (Golfito Wildlife Refuge), part of Costa Rica’s national parks system, featuring steep hills carpeted with pristine rainforest. Or take advantage of the sportfishing and duty-free shopping for which Golfito is renowned.
Set on an inlet surrounded by tropical rain forest, this Costa Rican village was home to the Quepo Indians until the mid-1700s. Today, it is an ecotourism and sportfishing mecca. Enjoy the high-spirited, friendly locals, who celebrate life with dancing in the streets and frequent festivals and other events. Explore the village center, a charming, compact area brimming with shops, galleries, restaurants, and bakeries set on the beach. Or venture the short distance to Manuel Antonio National Park—the country’s smallest park, yet one of the most biodiverse places in the world, with beautiful rain forests, beaches, and coral reefs.
Literally “Turtle Island,” Isla Tortuga, off the southern tip of Nicoya Peninsula, is home to wildlife reserves and refuges, with plenty of walking trails. As you cruise here, you might spot manta rays, pilot whales, or whale sharks. Then, come ashore to enjoy white-sand beaches shaded by coconut palms and perhaps go swimming or embark on a glass-bottom boat ride on emerald waters. Snorkelers can search for stingrays, angel fish, spinner dolphins, octopus, and sharks, while divers can explore the shipwrecks that have become havens for a variety of marine life.
In the afternoon, The Moana sails to Curú Wildlife Reserve, a privately owned wildlife reserve on Nicoya Peninsula. The park is pioneering in its combination of protected wildlife reserve and sustainable, low-impact agriculture. Among the animals you might see in the wild here are white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, scarlet macaws, collared peccary, coati, coyotes, iguanas, and hundreds of species of tropical and migratory birds. Curú also boasts one of the most beautiful beaches on Nicoya Peninsula.
Your voyage comes to an end in Puerto Caldera, a small port town on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. You’ll disembark The Moana here after breakfast this morning.