Cristobal Cruise

The Fuerte San Lorenzo
The shoreline of Lago Gatún
Portobelo’s turquoise bay

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Cristobal

A present-day view of the past

Cristóbal is the port enclave in Colón where you will arrive with an MSC cruise.

Southwest of the city, a road runs through to the enormous Gatún Locks, where you can get up close to gigantic container ships being raised and lowered between sea level and Lago Gatún.


Once across the canal, the road divides: to the right it meanders 22km through dense forest to the evocative ruins of the colonial Fuerte San Lorenzo, standing guard at the mouth of the Río Chagres; to the left, it rises above the shoreline of Lago Gatún, offering splendid views across the water and its sprinkling of tree-topped islands before undulating through agricultural land to the rarely visited coastal communities of the Costa Abajo.


MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruises also offer excursions to Portobelo. In colonial times this scenically situated town was the most important settlement on the isthmus after Panama City, since all the plunder from South America passed through here en route for Spain. 


The ruined fortresses, remnants of the conquistadors’ attempts to safeguard the treasure from the envious grasp of pirates and privateers, constitute the town’s primary tourist sites. Indeed, a soldier’s-eye view across the turquoise bay from the forts’ rusting Spanish cannons is one of the most popular postcard views in Panama, conveying the impression of a remote military outpost surrounded by dense vegetation. 


You may therefore be surprised to find the forts located in the middle of quite a poor modern town, with dilapidated houses propped up against the historical ruins and kids playing football in what was once a parade ground. The town itself is mostly squeezed along a thin strip of land between the main road and the bay, which spills into the Caribbean, and is easily walkable.

Qué ver en Cristóbal

Discover our excursions

9 results found

  • KAYAKING ON LAKE GATUN

    ACTIVE & ADVENTURE
    • Snack included

    • Limited seats

    • Active excursions recommended only for guests in good physical health

      Difficulty Level
      Strenuous

    • Duration
      3:30 h

    • Adults£56Price per person

    • Children£40Price per person

    CRI06

    Take a break from your ship, board an air-conditioned coach and enjoy the drive to your first stop, the Hotel Melia Panama Canal, which forms the starting point of your kayaking adventure on Lake Gatun. This exhilarating experience is sure to appeal to guests of an adventurous persuasion, who enjoy physical exercise and love the great outdoors. Nature’s bounty in the form of stunning scenery and an abundance of wildlife is evident at every turn as you explore the area from the watery vantage point of your kayak – without doubt the best seat in the house. The tour will include a Kayak ride around the wildlife of Gatun Lake, and also a visit to Gatun Locks Lookout where you can see the operation of the Panama Canal. Please note: Guests must be at least 8 years of age to participate and are recommended to be physically fit. As you are likely to get wet during the kayaking activity, you are recommended to bring a change of clothes, wear swimwear, sunscreen, a sunhat, sandals and bring a towel. As the transit of ships through the Panama Canal is subject to local authority permission and is dependent on daily scheduling, no guarantee can be given that any ships will be passing through the lock at the time of your visit.
  • PANAMA CITY TOUR

    CITY TOUR
    • Snack included

    • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

      Difficulty Level
      Moderate

    • Duration
      6:30 h

    • Adults£80Price per person

    • Children£56Price per person

    CRI04

    There is only one place on earth that you can reach via the Caribbean Sea, then travel overland for an hour and leave via the Pacific Ocean: Panama City. Located at the entrance to the Panama Canal – a major feat of engineering that has now been in operation since 1914 – Panama City is not simply a pleasing blend of modern and colonial architecture, but also looks back on a long and interesting history. It was from Panama City that Francisco Pizarro launched his two unsuccessful attempts to conquer the Incan empire in Peru – once in 1524 and then again in 1526 – and Vasco Núñez de Balboa ventured out to ultimately discover the Pacific Ocean in 1513. And Panama City was the first settlement to be founded on the Pacific side of the American continent, namely in 1519, at which time it formed a vital communication channel between Spain and its colonies in the Pacific. This scenic, yet acquainted visit to Old Panama then continues on again by coach to Casco Antiguo, or the Colonial City. Founded in 1673, the city replaced the old capital, which at that time had already lain in ruins for 2 years after an attack of the Englishman, Captain Henry Morgan. The Casco Antiguo is full of historical buildings, which include a cathedral, the national theatre, and the fabulous Las Bóvedas walkway. As a final extra before returning you to the ship, the tour also includes a quick visit to Gatun Locks to see how the Panama Canal operates. Please note: This tour includes a long route by bus. As the transit of ships through the lock is subject to local authority permission and is dependent on daily scheduling, no guarantee can be given that any ships will be passing through the lock at the time of your visit.
  • PANAMA OLD QUARTER

    CITY TOUR
      • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Moderate

      • Duration
        4:30 h

      • Adults£60Price per person

      • Children£43Price per person

      CRI09

      With numerous fascinating sites with a history intertwined with Spain, France and the United States that never fails to delight, Casco Viejo (Old Compound) offers highlights which include the 17th century churches, the ruins of century convents and residences, original dungeons, a French monument to the 22,000 who died building the Panama Canal and the Panama Canal Museum in an elegant, restored building that once housed the headquarters of the French company that attempted to build a sea level canal.
    • TWO OCEAN RAILROAD JOURNEY

      CITY TOUR
      • Snack included

      • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Easy

      • Duration
        5:30 h

      • Adults£120Price per person

      • Children£84Price per person

      CRI02

      Nowhere else in the world can you travel from one ocean to another, crossing the continent of the Americas in only an hour. This is what makes Panama an amazing country. This tour is an exotic cocktail of experiences and history all rolled-up together. Leaving from Colon City on the Caribbean Coast, famous characters and places are mentioned and as history unfolds over time, the scenery also changes when arriving at Gatun Lake, where large vessels carrying the world’s commerce can be seen transiting the Panama Canal. Quickly we cross the Continental Divide and find ourselves on the Pacific side, where you will drive to the Causeway for amazing views of Panama City. We will return to the Atlantic by bus on the beautiful highway for a visit to Gatun Locks, view the operation of the Panama Canal from the Lookout and learn everything related to World´s Eight Wonder. Please note: The transit of ships is subject to the local authorities. It is not guaranteed to see a ship transiting as it depends on the traffic schedule of each day. There can be delays in the train ride due to congestion in the line with cargo trains.
    • BIO MUSEUM BY FRANK GEHRY

      CULTURE AND HISTORY
      • Snack included

      • Limited seats

      • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Easy

      • Duration
        5:30 h

      • Adults£80Price per person

      • Children£56Price per person

      CRI15

      Also known as the “Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life”, the new Biomuseo in Panama City is one of the brightest – and most colourful – jewels to appear on the urban landscape of this major metropolis. The Canadian-born star architect, Frank Gehry, masterminded the innovative design of the building, which counts as his first work in Latin America. The 8 permanent galleries of the museum provide a fascinating insight into how life on our planet changed forever when the Isthmus of Panama emerged many millions of years ago. The museum visit will be followed by a drive-by tour of the Causeway of Amador and Panama City, via Cinta Costera. As a final highlight, you’ll also get a look at the Bridge of the Americas, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal and with that connects the land masses of North and South America. Your outing then comes to a close with your return to the pier and your ship. Please note: guests must be at least 10 years of age to take part. Children must be accompanied by a paying adult throughout the tour and under their constant supervision at all times. Guests are further recommended to wear comfortable clothing, comfortable shoes, high-factor sunscreen and insect repellent as well as to bring a camera.
    • EMBERA INDIAN CULTURE

      CULTURE AND HISTORY
      • Snack included

      • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Moderate

      • Duration
        6 h

      • Adults£80Price per person

      • Children£56Price per person

      CRI01

      Paradise found in its purest form. This incredible journey takes you to the jungles of Chagres, where you will encounter the Embera Indians. Our adventure begins with a 10 minute dugout canoe transfer up the Chagres River. The Embera are a unique and beautiful people. They live much as they did when Columbus arrived in the 1500's. You will soon forget the outside world as you are immersed in their cultural dance and music. Visitors are invited to explore the area’s abundant variety of birds and wildlife during a jungle trek that includes a visit to local waterfalls. During our visit, we will see that the Embera possess amazing botanical knowledge – most will be surprised to learn of their contributions to modern pharmaceuticals. We are welcome to paint our bodies as the Embera do, with a natural fruit dye called Jagua. We will also have the opportunity to view famed Embera handcrafts.
    • PANAMA CANAL CRUISE

      CULTURE AND HISTORY
      • Lunch or dinner included

      • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Easy

      • Duration
        8 h

      • Adults£124Price per person

      • Children£88Price per person

      CRI03

      The journey begins when we board the buses for a ride to either Gamboa Dredging Division Pier or Cucaracha Pier inside the Panama Canal where you will take the ferry boat that will transport you through The Panama Canal. The ferry will have suyficient space for everyone. The navigation starts through Gaylard Cut that was the most important and difficult part of the Panama Canal construction, here is where the continental divide is located. After crossing Gaylard Cut we will enter Pedro Miguel Locks on our way into Miraflores Lake. After crossing Miraflores Lake we will enter Miraflores Locks on our way to the Pacific Ocean. Centennial and America’s bridge will be seen during the adventure. Finally you will arrive at Pacific Port that is the entrance of the Panama Canal at the Pacific Ocean. Here you will take the buses back to the ship. Each passenger will receive a commemorative certificate of doing the Panama Canal Transit and contributing on the expansion of it! Please note: The transit of ships is subject to the local authorities. Transiting time depends on the traffic schedule of each day. The tour includes an approx. 1.5 hr. bus ride each way.
    • PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION

      CULTURE AND HISTORY
      • Snack included

      • Best seller

      • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Easy

      • Duration
        3 h

      • Adults£74Price per person

      • Children£52Price per person

      CRI12

      Hailed as a major feat of early 20th-century civil engineering and one of the most testing building projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal served to revolutionise global shipping when it was inaugurated after 10 solid years of construction work in 1914. Removing the need to navigate either around the notoriously hazardous Cape Horn in the south of Chile or the equally tricky Strait of Magellan, the 48-mile ship canal provided an easily navigable link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Caribbean Sea. Your trip to this iconic structure begins with a short drive to the locks on Gatun Lake, from where you’ll have a ring-side seat to watch how ships are lifted up to Gatun Lake, which is situated at an elevation of 85 feet above mean sea level. Moving on, you’ll then head for the waterway’s Expansion Observatory Platform to learn a little about the current construction project that aims to add capacities for a larger shipping lane by building a new and bigger set of locks. This experience at the canal will give you the opportunity to see the former Canal Zone, residential and military facilities that were built by USA at the beginning of the last century. Your fascinating tour of the Panama Canal then comes to a close with your return to the ship.
    • MONKEY WATCH AT GAMBOA

      NATURAL WONDERS
      • Snack included

      • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Moderate

      • Duration
        5 h

      • Adults£74Price per person

      • Children£52Price per person

      CRI08

      Natural adventure of sight and sound, combined with the thrill of speeding through the Panama Canal next to the mighty ships transiting this man-made wonder! After an exhilarating 30-minute ride at high speed right through the heart of the Panama Canal, the boat will slow down and enter the labyrinth of jungle-covered islands of Lake Gatun. In this protected area the wildlife is plentiful, and you are likely to encounter capuchin monkeys, 3-toed sloth, howler monkeys, various kinds of toucans and other bird life as well as caimans, crocodiles, turtles and a wealth of butterflies. This is an exceptional place to experience the sights and sounds of the jungle up close. Our trained naturalist guides will ensure that you have an outstanding nature experience by tracing the wildlife as well as educating you about it and its habitat throughout this exceptional jungle and canal adventure.

    The excursions in the programme above are intended to provide MSC Cruises guests with an idea of the different tours which can be arranged in each port of call; this programme is merely a guide and confirmation of each excursion and its description and prices will be made during your cruise. 
    Shore excursions programmes and itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour.
     
    Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The guides are guaranteed in English. Only for South America cruises, the guides are guaranteed in Brazilian Portuguese. Narration in other languages depends on the availability of guides. Please note that the final language of the tour will be confirmed on board during the cruise.

    Republic of Panama

    A captivating exuberance
    A captivating exuberance

    Encompassing cloud-forested highlands, glorious palm-fringed islands, vibrant indigenous cultures and Central America’s most ebullient capital city, a holiday to Panama offers a surprisingly varied landscape for such a small country.

    This slender, serpentine nation has a unique history: from the loot-laden mule trains of the Spanish Camino Real to the scything open of the rainforest by the world’s most famous canal, Panama has long proved valuable as a shortcut between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific waves


    Constituting a biological crossroads, too, the isthmus boasts an even greater density of plant biodiversity than Amazonia. 

    Panama’s compact size means the vast majority of its sights are easily accessible. 

    On a cruise to Panama you’ll encounter the irresistible juxtaposition of  ancient and modern, artificial and natural: vast computerized Panamax container ships transiting the canal slice through primeval rainforests teeming with fluorescent frogs and elusive wild cats, only half an hour by dugout from where Emberá villagers practise subsistence agriculture. 


    Visiting the country’s fringes and little-visited interior, you can explore archipelagos and untracked jungle, basing yourself in small towns, friendly villages and remote eco-lodges, and from Volcán Barú – Panama’s highest peak – you can witness the unique and breathtaking sight of the sun rising over both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.