The Cristobal Pier is located in Colon, Panama on the eastern side of the Panama Canal. Cruise ships docking here may enter the locks and then be raised up to Gatun Lake where they then tender passengers ashore for their shore excursions. Passengers who do not take a shore excursion generally stay aboard and return back down the locks into Cristobal. However, some ships do not enter the locks at all and start their shore excursions in Cristobal.
Cristobal itself does not offer many shopping opportunities, but the cruise terminal houses a huge shopping complex and flea market featuring handcrafted and souvenir items, restaurants and telephones. The terminal also features native dancers and entertainment.
The Colon 2000 cruise terminal is one of two cruise terminals in Colon and is located within the world's largest free zone and duty free shopping area. The Colon 2000 terminal is generally for cruise ships that are docking in Colon for the entire day and not entering the Panama Canal. The terminal building features lounge areas, an internet café, a duty free mall, restaurants and native craft boutiques. Although Colon is home to this relatively new cruise terminal, Colon remains essentially an industrial area with few tourist attractions. The Free Zone is typically not for tourists buying a single item, but seems more geared toward businesses. However, Colon is an ideal gateway for visits to the nearby Panama Canal locks, is just two hours away from the Pacific Coast and a 45 minute drive from Panama City.
For cruise passengers, you generally board shore excursions right outside the Colon 2000 terminal. If you take an organized tour, you will board your bus in the parking area just a few yards from the gangway. Otherwise, you have to walk past the parking lot perimeter into the terminal and across the overhead walkway to the shopping center.
The Colon railway was originally intended to carry freight, but was remodeled into a passenger train in 2001. The railway runs from Colon to the Comzal station near the Miraflores Locks.
There is frequent bus service from the Albrook bus terminal on Avenida Bolivar, Colon, to Panama City, and one-hour trips to Portobelo, costing $2 and $3 one-way respectively. Taxi prices are fixed by the central desk in the Colon 2000 center. If you book through them, your details are taken so that they know where you are and in which taxi if there is any problem. You can secure lower prices by approaching the drivers directly, but then you lose that safety net. The tourism taxis are allowed into the port once the cruise tours have departed.
A taxi ride to anywhere in the city of Colon costs around $3. The cathedral on Calle/Street 5 (open 2 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.) is an attractive building as is the restored Washington Hotel, which has a terrace where you can enjoy a drink or lunch while watching ships waiting to transit the Panama Canal.
The port of Fuerte Amador is located right at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal in the Pacific Ocean. It is made up of a one mile causeway extending out into the Pacific Ocean and connecting four small islands in the area, Flamenco, Perico, Culebra and Naos. The causeway includes the cruise port, marina, the Fuerte Amador shopping and restaurant plaza, a convention center and a second shopping and restaurant plaza.
Fuerte Amador lies just southwest of Panama City, and so provides an ideal location for further exploration of the city and surrounding islands. The island of Culebra is the home of the Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research.
Balboa was named after the first European to explore the eastern shore of the Pacific, Vasco Nunez de Balboa. The city of Balboa is located at the first lock on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, a bit southwest of Panama City. Balboa’s main port is called Balboa Harbor, and is also were the Panama Canal Administration Building is located. The port is one of two ports operated by the Panama Ports Company (PPC). The other port is Cristobal, Panama.