Tag Archives: Central America

Cruise the Panama Canal, visit sunny Palm Springs, adventure in the Maldives

The Panama Canal
Exiting the Panama Canal on the Atlantic side

This week’s deals include a trip through the Panama Canal, a great hotel deal in Palm Springs, and exotic adventure in the Maldives.

For those with flexible schedules, Princess Cruises is offering a great deal on 11-night cruises through the Panama Canal, starting at $649 per person. Set sail from Ft. Lauderdale, visiting Aruba, Cartagena, Columbia, and then a partial transit through the Panama Canal to Colon. From Colon, sail to Limon, Costa Rica and Ocho Rios, Jamaica before docking back in Ft. Lauderdale. This deal is available on the December 7, 2014 sailing on the Island Princess and the December 12 sailing on the Coral Princess. Princess Cruises offers such amenities as wine bars, live entertainment, and Movies under the Stars with 300-square foot open-air screens. There is an additional $331 fee per person the covers the cost of passing through the Panama Canal. Visit Travelzoo.com soon for more information and the book your holiday cruise.

As the holiday travel season approaches, the Palm Mountain Resort in Palm Springs, CA is offering a deal on room rates through January. Two people stay in Garden King Room for $60 per night. Select the two-night package and get a $25 dining credit at the Matchbox Restaurant. The hotel is within walking distance to downtown Palm Springs, with its restaurants, shopping, and delightful art museum. The sun shines 300 days per year here, allowing visitors to golf, hike, or just enjoy time around the pool nearly every day. Palm Springs is also the birthplace of desert modernism, and there is a self-guided tour of the midcentury modern architecture available at the Palm Springs Official Visitors Center. Visit Groupon.com soon for more information and to book your winter getaway.

The Maldives are found several hundred miles off the southern tip of India. Indus Travels is offering a seven-day trip to these exotic islands, starting at $2239 per person. This package includes round-trip airfare between New York City or Los Angeles and Malé, double-occupancy accommodations for five nights at the Fihalhohi Island Resort, five breakfasts, lunches and dinners, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and resort fees. The Maldives have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and the reef is a snorkeler’s paradise. Visit Livingsocial.com by November 13 for more information and to buy your exotic island vacation.

Like this article? Click the subscribe link at the top of the page to get the latest information by email when it’s published. For more fun deals and information, go to www.debtalkstravel.com and follow Deb on Twitter at debtalkstravel.

These deals are subject to change or cancellation at any time, and restrictions may apply. Book early for the best deals.

Adventures in Panama

We have just returned from a ten-day trip to Panama. We had been eyeing a golf resort near the beaches of this Central American country and finally decided to book the resort and travel there. The planning for this trip was a bit different than others we’ve taken because we knew we were going somewhere that didn’t have a great tourist infrastructure. Our first step in planning this trip was to book the resort and our transportation.

Traffic in Panama City
Weaving through Panama City traffic

After we booked our resort stay through our timeshare company, we started investigating transportation needs as well as potential side trips and excursions. Although it’s possible to take a shuttle to the resort near Coronado, about an hour’s drive from Panama City along the Pan-American Highway, we decided we would rent a car and drive ourselves. We wanted to have the freedom of moving around the area without relying on public transportation or taxis. We’ve never rented a car in a foreign country before, nor have either of us driven outside the U.S. and Canada.  We were assured the car would have a GPS system when the reservation was made.

Since we were getting into Panama City after dark, we decided to taxi into the city, and rent a car near downtown instead of at the airport. Rumor had it that traffic in Panama City is awful, and it didn’t seem like a good idea to drive at night in a strange, foreign city. This turned out to be a very good idea, and we’d do it again. We were prepared with maps of the area, and had the concierge at the hotel call the rental car agency to get the address.

Getting around Panama City is not an easy task for an outsider. The roads are jammed with many more cars than is reasonable, and there are very few street signs. It is not unusual for taxis to go the wrong way down the street. Traffic signals are grudgingly adhered to, usually. Stop signs are only suggestions. The roads in the city are decent, but unexpected potholes loom.  We took all this in on a walk after breakfast, going from our hotel and finding the rental car office a few blocks away. In fact, after checking out of our hotel, and getting a cab back to the rental car office, we found it would have been faster to walk to the office than take the cab.

Panama City traffic
A quiet time on the streets of Panama City.

In any case, we made it to the office and handled the transaction. Unfortunately, they do not offer GPS systems in their cars – contradicting the information I had received from the customer service agent I had talked with earlier. Since there were few street signs anyway, how well would a GPS system work? We were undeterred, took the LDW insurance, and after waiting about an hour for the car to arrive from the staging area a few miles away we headed out of the city. The rental agent did create a Google Map for us from the rental car office to Coronado – in Spanish of course.

Panama City is not a large city by our standards, and we managed to get to the right road, get over the Bridge of the Americas and on our way to Coronado. Once out of the city, we did fine – although we took a detour we didn’t mean to take through a town that really wasn’t that interesting. But in about 1 1/2 hours, we were at our resort and checking in.

We’ve learned a lot from this experience. It’s great to be able to control where and when you explore an area by car. In Panama, there are many cars, but not much parking. On a trip to Farallon, we would have stopped and spent time on the beach, but there was nowhere to park the car. Driving is much slower there, mostly because the roads are not great, narrow, and often don’t have shoulders. You’ve got to “go local” and drive like they do or you’ll never get anywhere.

We took the Collision Damage Waiver insurance, something we’ve actually never done before. Our car insurance doesn’t cover us outside the U.S. or Canada, and although we could have covered the LDW under our credit card, we decided to just take the rental company insurance. The car was not damaged while we had it, but the roads were not great and an unnoticed pothole could have done major damage. In fact, when we returned the car, the agent didn’t really even look at it.

This is the first in a series of articles on our trip to Panama. Stay tuned for the next installment!