Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures (Northbound)

Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures (Northbound)

Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures (Northbound)

Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures (Northbound)

Travel information 15 MS Fram
Departure
April 2, 2023
Price from $ 7,104
$ 6,038
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

This expedition from Chile to Panama explores four Latin American countries, uncovering ancient pyramids, exceptionally beautiful national reserves, and delicious local delicacies.

Our small ships can take you to places that larger ships can’t sail, opening the door to a wide range of places, from cities to remote islands. At times, due to weather, we may need to change or cancel our plan for that day. For an authentic adventure in this exotic region, this is par for the course.

Chilean cities and Peruvian pyramids

From UNESCO-listed Valparaíso, we’ll journey to the Neo-Colonial enclave of La Serena, then to the sun-soaked resort towns of Iquique and Arica. Next it’s on to Paracas, where you may have the opportunity to visit the Ballestas Islands, which are teeming with biodiversity. Then it’s on to the sumptuous cuisine in Lima, the capital of Peru. Our plans are to then land at Salaverry to tour the ancient temple and city ruins around Trujillo.

Ecuadorian paradise and the legendary Panama Canal

We’ll stop at the important Ecuadorian port of Puerto Bolivar to learn about ‘oro verde’ (‘green gold’). From there, we head northbound to the busy and prosperous town port of Manta. We then cross the Equator and sail to the isthmus of Panama. The grand finale of your cruise will be to cross from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea through the Canal.

Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures (Northbound) Panama Canal, Indigenous Communities, and Cultures (Northbound)
  • Day 1
    Valparaíso, Chile

    Vibrant hilltop city

    April 2, 2023

    Your expedition ship MS Fram will be waiting for you in Valparaíso in central Chile. Built on steep hillsides overlooking the ocean, this UNESCO World Heritage Site–listed city is a maze of monuments, churches, historical funicular cable cars, trendy neightborhoods, cobblestone alleys, colorful houses, and charming plazas. Cerro Alegre and Concepción have arguably the best views, while the historic port district has Colonial architecture, bustling mercados, and the maritime and modern art museums.

    Consider arriving a few days early to explore more of ‘Valpo’ by adding a night in Santiago de Chile, followed by a Valparaiso City Tour and transfer to the ship. You could also join our Pre-Program to the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world.

    Once you board the ship, you’ll pick up your complimentary expedition jacket, settle into your cabin, explore the ship, and attend a mandatory safety drill. After the welcome dinner (featuring a toast by the captain), you’ll meet your Expedition Team, who will run through important health and safety aspects with you.

    Day 1
    Valparaíso, Chile

    Vibrant hilltop city

  • Day 2
    La Serena, Chile

    Neo-Colonial and classy

    April 3, 2023

    Perched on terraces above the ocean, La Serena is blessed with beautiful sandy beaches all along Avenida del Mar and beyond. You’ll find that Chile’s second-oldest city has a distinct and purposefully crafted Neo-Colonial look and feel to it. Its modern buildings meld with classic architecture, such as the 30 or so carefully restored stone churches, some of which are 350 years old. You’ll notice that the stone churches can be distinguished by their different styles of belfries.

    Aside from wandering the beaches, promenades, and plazas, you can also stroll through manicured public gardens like the Japanese-inspired Jardín del Corazón or shop for handicrafts at Recova Market. Contemplate Pre-Colonial artifacts at the archeological museum or head to the Patio Colonial, near Balmaceda, for relaxed cafés and eateries.

    • Included Coquimbo and La Serena
    Day 2
    La Serena, Chile

    Neo-Colonial and classy

  • Day 3
    At Sea

    Kick back on board

    April 4, 2023

    Enjoy the serenity of this day at sea. Relax and admire the scenery from the observation deck or from the lounge.

    Throughout your journey, the Expedition Team will give lectures in the Science Center and share their extensive knowledge of the region. Topics may include periods of pre-Columbian history, the geology of the surrounding mountains and islands, the folklore of the local communities, and much more. Not all of our lectures are indoors, though! If curious seabirds come fly alongside the ship, the Expedition Team might also help you spot and identify them from the deck.

    Day 3
    At Sea

    Kick back on board

  • Day 4
    Iquique, Chile

    Premier beach resort

    April 5, 2023

    Welcome to a slice of paradise by the Pacific, complete with palm trees and promenades. As one of Chile’s top seaside cities, Iquique is buzzing with activity all year around. Shoppers stream to the duty-free Zofri Mall, while ship enthusiasts will love the tour of La Esmeralda, a steam-powered warship used and sunk during the War of the Pacific. You might have the opportunity to visit the nearby abandoned saltpeter mining town of Humberstone in the Atacama Desert. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a slice of history that you can literally walk through.

    Back in Iquique, stroll the La Costenera boardwalk next to Playa Cavancha and admire the city’s skyline on one side and the parasailors and surfers on the other. Baquedano Street showcases 19th-century Georgian architecture and leads to Astoreca Palace. Don’t miss the photo op at the clock tower, located in the town center. You’ll pass an array of chic cafés, where you can indulge in local coffee culture or sip a traditional creamy mango sour. You’ll find Iquique’s Chinatown near the mercado, bringing with it the unique ‘chifa’ cuisine, which marries Peruvian and Chinese flavors. Aside from a wide range of seafood dishes, you’ll definitely want to try chumbeque, a local dessert that features a cookie sandwich coated with an anise-flavored syrup.

    • Included Humberstone and Santa Laura
    Day 4
    Iquique, Chile

    Premier beach resort

  • Day 5
    Arica, Chile

    ‘City of Everlasting Spring’

    April 6, 2023

    Arica enjoys a constant desert climate, which is atypical for a city by the sea. In fact, it is even one of the driest cities in the world. This also means that it is bathed in glorious sunshine almost every day of the year, and residents proudly describe Arica as being immersed in a never-ending spring. The beaches are popular with sunbathers and surfers alike. The 15-minute hike to the top of the tall, sandy El Morro cliff is well worth it. Once you find the fluttering Chilean flag on top, you’ll also be rewarded with great views.

    Another hotspot for visitors is San Marcos Cathedral, designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Parisian fame) and inaugurated in 1876. Calles 21 de Mayo and Bolognesi are lively pedestrian areas filled with eateries and artisan stalls, and the El Agro market and food court is full of sights and scents. At the San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum, peruse artifacts from Chinchorro culture and marvel at mummies who are even older than even the ones found in Egypt. Head to the south of the city to trek the more rugged Playa Corazones and explore Cuevas de Anzota (the Caves of Anzota). You also might have the opportunity to go on an optional excursion to see geoglyphs in Lluta Valley and Lauca National Park.

    • Included Atacama Coastal Walk
    Day 5
    Arica, Chile

    ‘City of Everlasting Spring’

  • Day 6
    At Sea

    Fresh sea air

    April 7, 2023

    As we sail northward toward Peru, continue to enjoy the Expedition Team’s lecture program. On deck, a healthy salt-tinged breeze and magnificent views will invigorate you, as well as all the facilities the expedition ship has to offer. These waters are part of the Humboldt Current, a cold-water current that cools the climate in the region and causes clear blue skies. It also sustains the region’s highly productive marine ecosystem, causing large quantities of sardines, anchovies, and mackerel.

    If you like to stay active, there is a well-equipped gym on board, a sauna, and two outdoor hot tubs.

    Day 6
    At Sea

    Fresh sea air

  • Day 7
    Paracas, Peru

    Birds and brandy

    April 8, 2023

    Nestled on a bay behind a peninsula, the humble and sleepy resort town of Paracas is surrounded by brown-sugar–colored cliffs and beaches. Known to most as ‘El Chaco,’ the town’s main shorefront and boulevard features a wide array of restaurants where you can taste jalea, a mix of fried seafood with salsa criolla (Creole sauce) and yuca root. Another specialty is Peruvian silverside fish, known as pejerry, best washed down with a glass of pisco, a grape brandy produced at several of the region’s tourable distilleries. Be careful though, pisco can pack a punch!

    Opposite Paracas harbor is the mysterious local geoglyph of a candelabra that possibly dates back to 200 B.C. It could be related to the famous Nazca Lines, which you can visit in the Pisco Valley. This optional excursion is just a short drive south. The Nazca Lines could be older than the candelabra, but new ones are still being discovered. Could these be extra-terrestrial in origin? You decide.

    You may also have the opportunity to take a boat tour of the nearby Ballestas Islands. The Ballestas Islands support a wide range of wildlife, including Humboldt penguins, turtles, Peruvian boobies, cormorants, pelicans, sea lions, dolphins, Inca terns, and humpback whales. Nearby, you can also find the Paracas National Reserve, whose territory includes a rare combination of desert and marine ecosystems. The Martian-like yellow dunes and red-sand beaches hide more than 100 archaeological sites of the Paracas civilization. Also keep your eyes on the sky for the Andean condor and Chilean flamingo.

    • Included Ballestas Islands
    Day 7
    Paracas, Peru

    Birds and brandy

  • Day 8
    Callao / Lima, Peru

    Food, glorious food

    April 9, 2023

    Set on a strip of desert between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, we find the capital city of Lima, served by the Callao seaport. Lima is the country’s largest city, and it is a modern, sprawling metropolis where traditions and trends converge in an exciting cocktail of culture and cuisine.

    The UNESCO World Heritage historic center is full of Colonial era architecture, such as Plaza Mayor and the San Francisco Monastery. In contrast, the clay ruins of the Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca ceremonial pyramids are remnants of the long-lost Incan civilization. There are at least four different museums you can explore for a deeper dive into pre-Columbian archeology. You might enjoy the bright and arty area of Barranco, complete with murals, creative cafés, and two of Lima’s contemporary art museums.

    Many say the ultimate Lima experience revolves around the food. Cuisine from the capital has made a splash the world over. Try it in one of the many internationally recognized and award-winning restaurants found here. One of Peru’s all-time gastronomic greats is ceviche, fresh fish marinated in tangy lime juice and other seasonings. This staple dish can be savored in many locations around the city, from upscale diners in Miraflores to salt-of-the-earth cevicherías at the fishing docks over in Chorrillos.

    • Included Panoramic Tour of Lima
    • Included Beach Clean-up in Callao
    Day 8
    Callao / Lima, Peru

    Food, glorious food

  • Day 9
    Salaverry / Trujillo, Peru

    An archeologist’s dream

    April 10, 2023

    Pummeled by the Pacific’s wind and waves, Salaverry can be a hard port to access. If we are able to land there, though, it’ll be a good starting point to explore Trujillo, Peru’s third-largest city, and the array of archeological sites scattered throughout the region.

    Trujillo sits in a fertile valley oasis irrigated by the Moche River. It boasts a colorful Baroque 17th-century cathedral, 10 colonial churches, and many Neoclassical mansions, not to mention one of the longest mosaic murals in the world at the local university. It’s more likely, however, that your focus will be further back on the past.

    The city of Chan Chan was created by the Chimú Empire, which appeared in the region around 900 A.D. The vast ruins of the complex, measuring almost 8 square miles, include the Tschudi temple-citadel and Huaca Esmeralda. On the other side of Trujillo are you’ll find the Mochican pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. These pre-date Chan Chan by a few hundred years! Huaca del Sol stands out as the largest adobe structure on the continent, while Huaca del Luna is a more detailed specimen, with many of its pastel frescos still visible.

    • Included Onboard Marinera Dance Show
    Day 9
    Salaverry / Trujillo, Peru

    An archeologist’s dream

  • Day 10
    At Sea

    At your leisure

    April 11, 2023

    As we leave Peru behind and set sail for Ecuador, enjoy another day at your leisure aboard the ship. Spend part of your day walking on deck. Enjoy the seascapes and keep an eye out for marine life such as whales, dolphins, and seabirds. Want to feel closer to the water? Go for a dip in the outdoor hot tubs (where you can still admire the scenery).

    Head to the Science Center and make the most of the Expedition Team’s lectures to learn about what you will experience in the following days. Participate in a Citizen Science project, where you will help contribute to current scientific research being conducted around the world. When darkness falls and it’s a starry night, you can also join the Expedition Team on deck for some stargazing. Or settle into a seat in the Explorer Lounge & Bar to raise a glass or two with your new-found friends.

    Day 10
    At Sea

    At your leisure

  • Day 11
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

    April 12, 2023

    Machala’s main claim to fame is Puerto Bolivar, an important Ecuadorian port where coffee, cocoa, shrimp, and bountiful bananas (which the locals call ‘oro verde’, or green gold) leave for export. As part of one of our optional excursions, you may have the opportunity to visit a local banana plantation, or to try and spot hummingbirds, parakeets, and howler monkeys in the Buenaventura Nature Reserve to the south. The nearby Puyango Petrified Forest has one of the largest collections of fossilized trees in the world, thought to be about 100 million years old—as old as the Andes Mountains themselves.

    Feast on fresh seafood at Puerto Bolivar at one of the harbor’s many restaurants, and enjoy views of the natural mangrove swamps of Isla Jambeli. Machala has all the charm you’d expect from a small coastal city. Stroll through quaint plazas filled with friendly locals, and admire unusual monuments dedicated to sorting fish and bananeros. The restaurants here are evolving and have started dabbling in the hip, modern cuisine for which Ecuador and Peru have increasingly become known.

    • Included Machala City Tour
    Day 11
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

  • Day 12
    Manta, Ecuador

    Sea, sand, surf, and… tuna?

    April 13, 2023

    Manta is a bustling and prosperous port city with high-rise buildings, resort hotels, and several casinos. It is well-known for its long stretches of beach whose blessed wind and waves draw surfers, body-boarders, and kitesurfers from across the globe. You can mingle with casual beachgoers at the shops, restaurants, and bars of Malencón Escénico at Playa el Murcielago. You can also head to San Lorenzo for surfer-sweet swells or go to Playa Bonita at Santa Marianita to watch kitesurfers take off from the sea into the sky.

    Aside from tourism, the city’s tuna fishing and canning industry is a successful and key industry here. As is typical for a coastal city, seafood is the specialty on the menu at most restaurants in the area. Try succulent wild-caught shrimp, black clams, octopus, red snappers, and much more. Make a point to try a bowl of the local encebollado broth made with fresh tuna, the pride of Manta. The Museo Municipal Etnografico Cancebi showcases Ecuadorian art and artifacts from the local pre-Columbian civilization, including ancient fishing tools. You may also have the opportunity to visit the nearby town of Montecristi, famous for handicrafts, and where traditional Panamanian straw hats were first created and still hand woven to this day.

    • Included Manta and Montecristi Highlights
    Day 12
    Manta, Ecuador

    Sea, sand, surf, and… tuna?

  • Day 13
    At Sea

    Serenity at sea

    April 14, 2023

    A day at sea means the opportunity to attend interesting lectures, learn basic expedition photography, try your hand at an art workshop, and enjoy the fresh sea air out on deck as you watch for wildlife. You can also use microscopes in the Science Center to analyze samples taken during the cruise. As we cross the Equator, it’s the tradition of Norwegian sailors to hold a ceremony to seek King Neptune’s blessing. If we’re in luck, he may even make an appearance.

    By this stage of your journey, you can now regard your fellow explorers as friends, after finding so much in common in your interests and passion for nature. Chat with them over a snack at the bistro-style Fredheim restaurant, and share your favorite stories from the expedition so far. The Explorer Bar is also open for drinks—you might even catch the crew and Expedition Team here in the evening for some friendly banter. As night falls, there is nothing as romantic as stargazing on deck with the one you love.

    Day 13
    At Sea

    Serenity at sea

  • Day 14
    Panama Canal

    Connecting two oceans

    April 15, 2023

    Today, we will sail through the Panama Canal, transiting from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean. The complex canal network is over a hundred years old, stretching almost 50 miles through natural and man-made waterways. We’ll wait eagerly for our allocated slot to enter the first of a series of huge locks. In a feat of modern engineering, these ingenious locks effectively lift the ship more than 80 feet above sea level. If weather allows, the Expedition Team will be on deck to point out sites of interest around the canal and talk about the history of this ambitious project.

    Roughly halfway through the 12-hour transit of the canal, the ship will enter the Gatun Lake section. Created after the nearby Chagres River was damned, it’s one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. In contrast, the surrounding rainforest is virtually untouched by any development. The flora and fauna native to Central America flourish here, undisturbed. If you’re lucky, you may spot a crocodile or alligator ashore. Watch the trees and you may also catch a glimpse of a monkey (and maybe even a sloth or two).

    After a few more locks and lakes, the ship will eventually sail into the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In one day, you’ll have experienced the culmination of centuries of planning, hard work, and resourcefulness, and cross from one great ocean to another in the process. It’s sure to be an experience you won’t forget.

    Day 14
    Panama Canal

    Connecting two oceans

  • Day 15
    Colón, Panama

    Entrance to the Panama Canal

    April 16, 2023

    Your expedition concludes at the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. This bustling port town is a popular stop for cruises going to the Caribbean and has a diverse population for such a small size.

    Not quite ready to end your adventure? Add three extra nights with our Post-Program and stay at an exotic jungle lodge nestled in the rainforest next to the Chagres River. During your stay, you’ll also visit a rainforest center and a farm dedicated to reforestation, explore the jungle on a night boat safari, and enjoy views of the area by cable car.

    Another Post-Program travels to Casco Viejo, arguably the most charismatic neighborhood in Panama City. Stroll the rustic cobblestone streets and plazas. Admire the architecture of Colonial churches, mansions, and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Along the way, try local specialties like coffee and cocoa.

    You can even book another expedition cruise from here that takes you through the ingenious man-made locks of the Panama Canal and through to the Pacific Ocean on the other side. Then go on to explore the many sights and coastal cities of South America.

    Whatever’s next for you, we wish you a safe onward journey and look forward to seeing you on your next adventure!

    Day 15
    Colón, Panama

    Entrance to the Panama Canal

Departures

2023

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April:
2.

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What's Included

Included in Your Expedition

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in the cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurant Aune
  • Fine-dining À la carte restaurant Lindstrøm is included for suite guests
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organizes and guides activities, both on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard activities

  • Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center, which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • The Citizen Science program allows guests to contribute to current scientific research projects
  • The onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • The ship has hot tubs, a sauna with a view, and an indoor gym
  • Participate in informal gatherings with the crew, such as daily recaps and the next day’s preparations

Landing activities

  • Escorted landings with small boats (RIBs)
  • Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment needed for the activities
  • Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition photographers help you configure your camera settings

Not Included In Your Expedition

  • International flights
  • Travel protection
  • Baggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team

Notes

  • All planned activities are subject to weather conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please ensure you meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities are expected
MS Fram in Greenland
Photo: Stian Klo
MS Fram in Antarctica
Photo: Sandra Walser
Your Ship

MS Fram

Year built 2007
Year of refurbishment 2022
Shipyard Fincantieri, Italy
Passenger capacity 250 (200 in Antarctica)
Beds 276
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 11,647 T
Length 374 ft
Beam 66.3 ft
Speed 13 knots
MS Fram in Greenland
Photo: Stian Klo

The original Fram was the most famous explorer ship of its time and the achievements of her expeditions are unparalleled. The advanced technology on the MS Fram, in the spirit of the famous original, makes her exceptionally well suited for expedition cruises in polar regions.

Read more about MS Fram

Icebergs – one of many favorite photo motives when on an expedition with MS Fram
Photo: Tomas Mauch
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