Fuerte Amador, Panama
Set at the southern gateway to the Panama Canal on the Pacific Ocean-facing side, this port is a fixture for cruisers prepping for — or finishing up — a transit through the legendary passageway. Fuerte Amador (or Fort Amador) is positioned at the end of a thin causeway. It's populated by a small entertainment district of bars, restaurants, and shops, but more importantly, the stop offers easy access to the modern, vibrant metropolis of Panama City. The country's commercial capital, the cosmopolitan city is known for its sleek high-rises and romantic historic districts. Further afield, you'll find rainforests teeming with birds and wildlife; secluded villages entrenched in long-standing traditions; and pristine beach-laced islands.
What We Love
Biomuseo: This brightly colored, whimsical Frank Gehry-designed museum, positioned right on the causeway, houses eight galleries depicting the origin story and the biodiversity of the Panamanian isthmus.
Emberá Villages: Several cruise lines offer excursions to local Emberá villages set deep in the jungle. It's an opportunity to see how local Panamanian tribespeople live, watch ceremonial dances, and shop for traditional crafts.
Best Known For
Miraflores Locks: A visit to the Miraflores Locks proposes prime viewing of the legendary Panama Canal in action. Watch ships transiting through the massive lock chambers. Then pop into the on-site museum and visitor center to learn more about the history and technology behind the engineering marvel.
Casco Viejo: Dating to the 17th century, this picturesque UNESCO-protected city quarter is an inviting tapestry of atmospheric colonial buildings, churches, plazas, eateries, and bars.
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Who It's Best For
History Buffs: Founded in 1519 by the Spanish, Panama City brings centuries of textbook stories to life via its old colonial quarters, indigenous cultures, and Panama Canal perch.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Gridlock Alert: Dizzying traffic in Panama City can be bumper-to-bumper — be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time to get into town and back to port.
Elissa Garay is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.