Panama Canal New Cruise Terminal Still a Work in Progress

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a large building with a roof
Panama Cruise Terminal

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Introduction

As mentioned previously in this post, our cruise was not originally supposed to embark from Panama City nor was it supposed to transit the Panama Canal.  When we received the notice that the itinerary was changing and our embarkation was moving from Cartagena, Colombia to Panama City, Panama there was no explanation.  Doing some research we had two primary theories for the change.  The first was that Drought was causing Panama Canal cruises on larger ships to have to cancel due to lower water levels.  The second theory had to do with the fact that the new cruise terminal – Terminal de Cruceros de Amador, was supposed to be done in time for the Caribbean cruise season was behind schedule.  In this post -Panama Canal New Cruise Terminal Still a Work in Progress, we’re going to share our experience of utilizing the new (like so new it was still under construction) Panama City cruise terminal.

Prologue

We have sailed out of Panama City once before in February of 2022.  At that time the cruise embarkation process was fairly terrible for our cruise on the Oceania Marina a 1,200 passenger vessel that was running at 50% occupancy coming out of the pandemic.  With only 600 or so passengers boarding we were forced to stand in the sun by a retail location for close to an hour before being placed on busses for a short ride down hill only to stand in the sun again gathering our own luggage and re-tagging it before being able to embark.  This was not an experience that we were looking forward to repeating.

Entering the Port

This was a challenge in 2022 as there was little to no signage and the port was a construction site.  Fortunately we had a very patient driver who was willing to stop several times for directions before finally finding our designated drop-off point.  I’m glad to report that the situation is much improved; however, it was still very much a work in progress.

a road with a large ship in the distance
Panama Cruise Terminal Entering Port

This time our driver was able to pull up to a construction gate, talk to a guard, and eventually drive us down a gravel road that led to the new port terminal.

a construction vehicle parked in a parking lot
Panama Cruise Terminal Construction

The New Terminal

After getting through the construction area we pulled to the curb and were greeted by a number of porters ready to take our bags from the vehicle to the check-in table where we would leave our large bags for loading onto the ship.

a man in a reflective vest
Panama Cruise Terminal Passenger Drop Off Area

This process was incredibly simple, though it seemed like we were still using temporary facilities while things were finished up in the terminal.  We were ushered inside and took an escalator up to the second level of the terminal.

a woman with a hat and backpack on an escalator
Panama Cruise Terminal Escalator

From here we went through a brand new airport-style security screening with metal detectors and an x-ray scanner.

a group of people in an airport
Panama Cruise Terminal Security
a group of people in an airport
Panama Cruise Terminal Security

From here we were able to go to the suite check-in desk where we confirmed our documents, took new pictures (I never understand why we have to upload pictures only to take new ones upon arrival), and were issued our key cards.

a sign in a room with a group of people
Panama Cruise Terminal Oceania Cruises Owners Vista Suite Line

We were asked to take a seat for a few minutes while they finished up the cleaning of the ship.

It’s at this point that I should note that the day before embarkation we received a letter informing us that all boarding times were delayed by one hour for “operational” reasons.  I immediately suspected that there had been a Norovirus outbreak on board, but only time would tell.  Well while we were sitting waiting for the all-clear to line up for immigration and embarkation that we were told by the Purser for the ship that was overseeing the embarkation process, that they were still cleaning and sanitizing and they apologized for the inconvenience.

After just a 10 or 15 minute wait we received word that we could line up to clear immigration.  The cubicles where the Panamanian immigration officers were sitting were brand new with plastic protective film covering many surfaces and stickers all over the new computer equipment.  I can’t say for certain we were the first ship to use these facilities, I can confidently say we were among the first.  After a quick look at our passports and ship keys we were waved on board and started our walk first down an conditioned bridge before turning right and heading out and down an outdoor gangway.

people in a large white room with large windows
Panama Cruise Terminal Bridge to Ship

The views from here back towards Panama City and of the ship are not to be missed and worth spending a few moments to enjoy and perhaps snapping a few photos.

a covered walkway overlooking a body of water
View of Panama City Skyline and Ships Waiting to Enter the Panama Canal. Unfortunately a landfill fire was causing the nasty smog.
a view of a body of water from a window
Panama Cruise Terminal View of Ships Waiting to Enter Canal

Embarkation

After walking down the gangway and a switch-back ramp to get us to the ship’s gangway we were welcomed on board and led to our Vista Suite by a butler.  The new terminal and the embarkation process were a breeze.  While making our way to our suite we noticed massive cleaning still underway including the use of fogging machines pumping out a sanitizing mist, lots of wiping of surfaces, and a few sticky areas where some leave-on chemicals were still working their magic.  We asked the gentlemen escorting us on board if there had been a Noro outbreak and he said that yes, unfortunately, some guests had gotten sick during the course of the last cruise, but that they’d implemented the protocols and they hoped everything would be back to normal soon.  Just what the protocols were and if we would in fact get back to normal were two very interesting questions that we were mulling over as we began some light unpacking before heading to Terrace Café for lunch.

Conclusion

The new cruise terminal in Panama City, Panama looks like it will be a great facility when it’s fully up and running, which based on my experience in the industry was just a matter of a few more months beyond our March 2024 embarkation.  We look forward to seeing the facility during a future journey when it’s fully operational.  Let us know if you’ve been to the new Panama City cruise terminal and what you thought.  – Michael

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Advertiser Disclosure: Frequent Floaters is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact how and where card products appear on the site. This site does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

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