How to Have an Enjoyable Time Exploring Panama City on Your NCL Cruise Visit

For someone embarking on a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) in January, an adventure of a lifetime awaits, especially in the case of a full transit through the iconic Panama Canal. For many travellers, the highlight is the chance to explore Panama City, where the vibrancy of a pulsating modern metropolis exists alongside the life that ebbs and flows in the labyrinth of lanes in the old quarter.

Docking on Flamenco island at the end of the Amador Causeway, you find yourself in a touristy zone for shops and restaurants, but here you can easily set off for exploring the city on your own, or with local excursions.

Panama City is divided into two main areas: The Old Town of Casco Viejo and the contemporary cityscape are both renowned, for their skyline. Both of these regions provide exceptional experiences that should be, on every travelers list of must visit destinations.

For independent explorers, getting around is fairly straightforward. You can easily reach the city by taking a taxi. If you prefer a more customized approach many people choose to hire a private driver, for their convenience. This offers a level of convenience and flexibility that allows you to customize your itinerary based on your interests.

What are the top methods, for discovering both Casco Viejo and the modern city?

Casco Viejo, which is located than 30 minutes away, from the cruise terminal is most enjoyable when explored by walking. This region is filled with a wealth of cultural significance showcasing stunning colonial architecture and charming squares. You have the option to embark on a self directed tour of Panama with the assistance of resources such, as National Geographics travel book, which provides a visually appealing guide. To enhance your experience and gain an understanding of the local area consider pre planning a walking tour that will provide you with valuable insights, from the locals.

For dining, the Coca-Cola Café, a historic landmark and typical Panamanian restaurant, comes highly recommended. It’s a place to enjoy the unique tastes of the region and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the historic town.

The modern part of Panama City is equally as intriguing. Nicknamed the “Miami of the South,” towering skyscrapers and contemporary architecture dominate the skyline. A walk along Cinta Costera rewards you with postcard-perfect views of the city, its fabulous skyline and the bay. This area is where Panama City has rapidly developed, and those skyscrapers and construction cranes looming in the background would have been an amazing sight during Eiffel’s time, too.

For nature enthusiasts, the Metropolitan Natural Park offers a glimpse into Panama’s lush jungle, while the ruins of Panamá Viejo – the original city – provide a historical perspective.

When should you think about hiring a tour guide and driver, in Panama City?

For a more structured experience, hiring a private tour guide and driver is a great option. Not only does this option allow you to maximize your time in port, but it is also a great way to ensure you see the highlights of both the old and new city. This practice also enables you to take in the views of the rich residential and the woods of the national park. Look for local guides like Camilo Bermudez, who comes highly recommended and offers a customized tour based on what interests you.

Shaun, another private driver, is known for being courteous and economical. His English is good. And as a local from the province, he puts you in the tourist’s shoes, shepherding you towards greater understanding of the history and place of culture in the fabric of a modern Panama City.

Add to that the fact you’re unlikely to find a place well enough through the channels of your contacts, and you can see why a private tour is another aspect of the comfort brought by coming as part of a bigger group. But aside from the convenience, those arranging our trip shared their local knowledge with us, suggesting where to eat, drink and get great views. This is another area in which they’re valuable – on the Cantagallo tour with Amador Charter, we visited the new Hyatt in Casco Viejo, where we had drinks on the roof while our guides explained the special detailing that made it a mini Panama museum. Another stop, Casa Casco, is famous for its views.

How can you make the most of your visit, to Panama City if you have limited time ?

If you have an amount of time, in Panama City it’s important to prioritize the most important attractions. Determine where your ship docks – Amador or Colon – as this will influence your available options. Amador provides flexibility for shorter trips due to its proximity, to the city.

Maribel’s Tourism & Travel offers several itineraries which take in all the major downtown attractions in just a few hours, and they will even pick you up at the airport, so you not only make the most of your limited transit time, but also get a top introduction to the city’s most famous highlights.A private guide is the way to truly get to know Panama City. They can create a tour which works best with your transit schedule, so you get a real feel for the city, and won’t feel like you’ve just run a marathon at high speed if you take that same downtown tour.

To sum it up your visit to Panama City while, on the NCL cruise presents a range of opportunities. Whether you decide to venture out on your own or opt for a guided tour the citys captivating history, lively culture and contemporary attractions are sure to make an impact. Don’t forget, to make your visit truly unforgettable it’s important to plan and prioritize according to your interests and the time you have available. Happy cruising!


What are some ways I can independently explore Panama City when I have a stop during my NCL cruise?

Yes, you can explore Panama City independently if you stop in at NCL. If your ship docks at Flamenco Island like mine did, it’s less than 30 minutes in a taxi to bring you to the main areas of the city. If you want to explore the historic district (my favourite part!), known as Casco Viejo, this is less than 20 minutes from the cruise port in a taxi. If you want to just go for a walk and like modern architecture, head down to Cinta Costera and stroll along the promenade. It’s beautiful and there are many interesting buildings to see along the waterfront. I had time to go to the museum of natural sciences with cool, extensively presented displays, which was about 1.5 hours one-way from Flamenco Island by taxi. Casco Viejo, which would have been much quicker to get to. But it doesn’t matter if you want to visit the museum of natural sciences or just hop on a geo-excursion from your ship, because you are in charge of where you go and how much time you spend there.

Which places, in Panama City offer a mix of charm and modern attractions?

Trying to understand the city’s history and also its contemporary development you need to explore both, those two districts. Panama City’s old quarter, officially known as Casco Viejo, offers traces of its past and the influences of many major global powers who disputed or conquered it. The presence of colonial buildings, plazas and monuments is palpable in this neighbourhood where one can see remnants such as the San José Church that was built in the 17th century or the Intendencia building built in 1804, among others. There are several museums and cafes scattered throughout the neighbourhood. You will also find gorgeous plazas in Casco Viejo, such as Plaza de Francia.
And then there’s Panama City’s modern section, which also showcases the city’s evolution over time and its increasingly modern image. Often referred to as Metro, this part of Panama City presents some of its signature landmarks, such as modern skyscrapers and urban parks such as the Cinta Costera, a 25km stretch of parkway along the waterfront that runs from Casco Viejo to Panama Viejo.

What Are the Best Dining Options in Casco Viejo?

In Casco Viejo, the Coca-Cola Café is a historic and iconic dining spot. It serves traditional Panamanian food and is highly popular, among both locals and tourists. Moreover the opened Hyatt, in Casco Viejo comes highly recommended for its exceptional dining choices and its distinctive layout that bears resemblance to a museum showcasing Panamas rich cultural heritage. These places offer an experience of Panamanian culture and cuisine.

When would be the moment to consider engaging the services of a private tour guide, in Panama City?

If you are arriving at the Panama City port in the morning and your travel time is short, I suggest hiring a private tour guide right away – a good guide such as Camilo Bermudez, or driver, such as Shaun, a fluent English speaker, can give you a tour that will hit the most important historic and modern parts of the city, and take advantage of your brief time there.

Tips for a Seamless Transportation Experience, in Panama City

To ensure smooth travel in Panama City, either hire a private driver for the day or arrange for a taxi in advance. This is extra important when docking in Amador, where Uber can be hit or miss. Private drivers like Shaun are known for their reliability and fair prices and will offer transportation anywhere while sharing their insights into the city to make for a more enjoyable overall experience.

How can I independently explore Panama City during my stop, on the NCL cruise?

8 thoughts on “How can I independently explore Panama City during my stop, on the NCL cruise?

  • 7 January 2024 at 12:22

    I booked a private tour last week, and it was a game-changer. The guide knew all the cool spots for grub, drinks, and killer views. Hyatt in Casco Viejo is a gem – part hotel, part Panama museum. Casa Cascos views? Insane!

  • 11 January 2024 at 01:12

    I hired Camilo Bermudez as my guide in the city. Best decision ever! Explored old and new spots hassle-free. Customized tour rocked, and I didnt miss a thing. Totally recommend it!

  • 11 January 2024 at 21:00

    Private tour? Sounds perfect, right?

  • 13 January 2024 at 07:20

    I hired a guide, Camilo Bermudez, for a city tour. Smart move. Covered old and new spots hassle-free. Highly recommend it. Customized to what I wanted. Great experience overall.

  • 15 January 2024 at 14:51

    I hired Camilo Bermudez for a tour; hes amazing! Saw all the cool spots, and it was totally worth it.

  • 19 January 2024 at 00:13

    Camilos tours are fantastic.

  • 28 March 2024 at 23:08

    Yeah, Casco Viejo’s a gem! It’s a quick jaunt from the cruise terminal and best seen on foot. The colonial vibe, quaint squares – so much to soak in. A self-guided tour with Nat Geo’s book? Perfect!

  • 29 March 2024 at 02:06

    Camilo’s tours? Absolutely fantastic, worth every penny!


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