Many Panama Canal cruises have started making a port call in Fuerte Amador, the port for Panama City. Since we are always looking for new and different experiences, we pre-booked an Aquabus tour through Panama Marine Adventures using the company's website.
Our tour was scheduled to depart Flamenco Marina at 10:30. Flamenco Marina is where most cruise ships' tenders drop guests who are going ashore on tour. We boarded our tender about 9:30am for the 10-minute ride over to Flamenco Marina.
At Flamenco Marina, you will find a small, modern mall with lots of little souvenir shops and a huge Duty Free store that sells liquor, fragrances, candy, tobacco and even some electronics.
If you wander around the marina, you will likely be approached by several local taxi drivers who will offer to take you on a private tour of the area. One driver, Roberto, was persistent, but polite. He offered to show us all of the sights for $20 per hour. A good deal, I suppose, but we already have other plans. As soon as we arrived at the marina, we searched for, and quickly found, the Panama Marine Adventures kiosk located in front of the Duty Free shop.
We approached the window and were greeted by Liliana, the PMA representative. She was gracious and welcoming, and told us where to meet the bus for the tour.
Our Aquabus tour departed at 10:30 as scheduled and within a few minutes we were driving into the ocean! In addition to our driver/Captain, there was a tour guide on board who kept us informed of the local sights and points of interest in both Spanish and English.
The most exciting part of the experience is when the bus plunges into the water. It makes quite a splash and everyone on board squeals in excitement (or was it terror?!)
For a bus, the Aquabus is actually a pretty capable, and stable boat. We initially enter the water using a boat ramp at Flamenco Marina, following one of the Azamara Quest tenders. We followed the tender all the way to Azamara Quest, which was anchored off the coast. We circled Quest, allowing everyone to get some good photos of the ship.
The Aquabus is air conditioned, but the cold air cannot keep up with the heat when people begin to take photos through the open windows. The ability to slide open the windows for photo/video is a great feature, but guests pay a price in comfort. Nevertheless, it was morning, so it was not hot enough to become uncomfortable.
When the bus was back on land, we drove from Fuerte Amador to Panama City, a trip of about 15 minutes. We passed a few significant monuments along the way, which our guide described. As the incredible skyline of Panama City got closer, we were taken in by the architecture and scale of the place. We had no idea Panama City was this big.
For two hours, we "sailed" and drove around Fuerte Amador and Panama City. The tour ended back at Flamenco Marina. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to see Panama City, Aquabus is a good, affordable option ($49 adult/$39 Child). Be aware that there is a somewhat steep ladder with maybe four or five steps that you must climb to enter and exit the Aquabus. Check Panama Marine Adventures website for more information, or to make a reservation www.pmatours.net.