In alliance with Smithsonian Journeys.
This cruise is part of a collection of PONANT voyages that are specially-tailored for English-speaking travellers who want to engage with the world. In addition to the usual elements of the PONANT experience, the listed price for these voyages includes transfers to and from the ship, talks and discussions aboard ship by world class experts, and a shore excursion or activity in each port of call that encourages guests to embrace the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the local environment and culture.
Discover Panama and Costa Rica with PONANT on this splendid 8-day cruise aboard Le Bellot, which explores the region’s abundant natural splendours, local indigenous communities, and the modern marvel of the Panama Canal.
Your journey in Central America will start along the white sands and translucent waters of Holandes Cayes, one of the coral islets of Panama’s San Blas Islands. Spend a day in this tropical paradise and enjoy the opportunity to swim and snorkel. Members of the Kuna community call these islands home, and you may encounter them along the beach.
After a daytime sailing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through the world-famous Panama Canal, Le Bellot calls at Fuerte Amador for an exploration of Panama City’s Old Quarter and of the region’s fantastic biodiversity at the superb Frank Gehry-designed Biomeseo.
Here, you will also visit the Punta Culebra Nature Center at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a fascinating, open-air museum dedicated to marine science and conservation. On a specially arranged tour guided by Smithsonian staff, hear about the latest studies, observe marine species up close, and explore the unique flora and fauna of the tropical dry forest.
You sail next to the remote and magnificent Darién National Park. This little corner of paradise is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to a remarkably diverse range of plants and wildlife. Rocky coastlines, mangroves, swamps, and tropical rainforests abound and offer a feast for photographers. Here, meet members of the local Emberá community.
Your final call will be in Quepos, Costa Rica, gateway to the spectacular Manuel Antonio National Park, where you will encounter myriad tropical flora and fantastic fauna, including sloths, the noisy howler monkey, the white-faced capuchin, and the tiny squirrel monkey. The combination of forest and ocean also provides a special opportunity to observe both terrestrial and sea birds—toucans, pelicans, hummingbirds, terns, and more.
The encounters with the wildlife described above illustrate possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed.
A voyage specially-tailored for English-speaking travellers including discussions with experts, transfers before and after your cruise, and an included excursion or activity in each port of call. Engaging...
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For more peace of mind, PONANT organizes your trip before or after the cruise. This package is included in the price of your cruise.
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*Price is per person, based on double occupancy, based on availability, and subject to change at any time. The category of stateroom to which this price applies may no longer be available.
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Steven Paton is an expert in monitoringthe climate and oceans of the tropicsand is also a wildlife photographer and science communicator. He has spent over 30 years in the Republic of Panama working with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).Steven arrived in Panama after graduating with a master’s degree in Zoology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. With only a brief two-yearinterruption spent at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos Islands, he has workedat STRIthroughout his career. His work includesmanagingSTRI’s long-term climate and physical oceanographic monitoring programs, documenting Panama’s amazing biodiversity, and studying the impacts of severe drought on mangroves. The results of his effortshave been used by thousands of researchers from all over the worldand appeared in hundreds of publications.Steven is also a widely respectednature photographer. His photographs, which he makes freely available to everyone,arehelping todocument and promotePanama’s amazing biodiversity.Over the last decade, he has become one of STRI’s most popular science communicators. His talks on global climate change, tropical weather, and the El Niño/La Niña cycle have reached thousands of people.His roleas one of STRI’s most popular scientific communicators has seen him give dozens of talks to both local Panamanian and international audiences,in both English and Spanish. His ability tobridgethe gap between highly technical scientific topicsand the general publicis greatly appreciated by his audiences.
Language spoken : English
Photo credit : ARR
Subject to withdrawal in case of force majeure
Important trip details
Boarding conditions and passenger travel abilities
We invite you to read our boarding conditions and passenger travel abilities by clicking here.
Any new reservation implies the acceptance of these conditions.
The information below is current but subject to change at any time without advance notice from government authorities. Please consult your respective government agencies for visa and health information.
Passport valid for at least six (6) months beyond the completion of your trip. Passport must contain at least two completely clear, blank, unused visa pages for each visa required, not including any amendment pages. Visa pages with stains or ink from other pages in the passport are not usable. Guests who deviate from the scheduled embarkation or disembarkation port should research the foreign entry requirements for the port country. Due to government regulations, regrettably, Ponant will have to deny boarding to any guest who fails to obtain the appropriate travel documentation for this trip.
Costa Rica: When leaving Costa Rica from the International airport, an exit tax of 27 US$ p/p must be paid (either by credit card, US$ or Colones).
Warning about the use of drones: the use of drones aboard PONANT ships, whether they are sailing at sea, at a port of call or anchored, is strictly forbidden. The use of drones on land in the Arctic and Antarctic regions is also strictly forbidden by international polar regulations. In other regions, it may be possible to use drones on land if permission has been obtained from the relevant authorities of each country and each region travelled through, as well as a pilot’s licence that should be obtained from your home country. Passengers are responsible for obtaining these permits; they should be able to present them at all times. Passengers who do not obtain these authorisations expose themselves to the risk of legal proceedings.
Panama: the yellow fever vaccination is recommended for the eastern areas of the Panama Canal (Darien and Kuna communities).
Ideal clothes for life on board:
During the days spent on board, you are advised to wear comfortable clothes or casual outfits. The entire ship is air-conditioned, so a light sweater, a light jacket or a shawl may be necessary. When moving about in the public areas of the ship and the decks, light but comfortable shoes are recommended.
In the evening, you are advised to wear smart-casual attire, especially when dining in our restaurants where wearing shorts and tee-shirts is not allowed.
Depending on the itinerary and the program of your cruise, an Officer’s Evening with a white dress code may be organized. Therefore, we encourage you to bring a stylish white outfit for the occasion (otherwise black and white).
During the cruise, two gala evenings will be organised on board. Thus, we recommend that you bring one or two formal outfits.
A small shop is available on board offering a wide range of outfits, jewellery, leather goods and many accessories.
A laundry service (washing/ironing) is available on board, but unfortunately there are no dry cleaning services. For safety reasons, your cabin is not equipped with an iron.
OUTFITS ON BOARD:
In your hand luggage, remember to bring any medicines that you need, and possibly a small spare bag of toiletries (in case of delay in the delivery of your baggage by the airline). Remember to always have your travel documents with you in case you need them: hotel vouchers, cruise vouchers, return flight tickets... Never leave them in your hold luggage.
All our cabins have a safe. We recommend not to go ashore with valuable jewellery.
Smithsonian Journeys is the travel program of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, consisting of 21 museums, the National Zoological Park, education centers, research facilities, cultural centers, and libraries. Drawing on Smithsonian's resources dating back 175 years, these sailings will feature notable experts and experiences that embrace local cultures and dive deeper into a destination’s history, cuisine, language, environment, and wildlife. For more than 50 years, Smithsonian Journeys has been rooted in and focused on cultural immersion and discovery – with a goal of inspiring guests to become global citizens through travel.
Subject to withdrawal in case of force majeure
Embarkation 11/02/2023 from 16:00 to 17:00
Departure 11/02/2023 at 20:00
Colón is the second largest city in Panama, at the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal. Colón is today an important port, and the free trade zone created in 1953 contributed greatly to the development of the city. Colón was founded in 1850 by Americans working on the Panama railroad connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts through the isthmus of Panama; the city rapidly overshadowed the older Caribbean ports of Panama when the canal opened.
Arrival 12/02/2023 early morning
Departure 12/02/2023 late afternoon
Located on the north-east coast of Panama, the San Blas archipelago is a string of coral islands in the heart of the Caribbean Sea. More than 300 islands and cays cover an area of 300 square kilometres offering travellers a multitude of treasures. Sheltered behind a long coral reef, the San Blas Islands are full of enchanting anchorages. The long sandy white beaches bound by crystal-clear waters will allow you to relax and enjoy incredible marine fauna before engaging with the Kunas Indian community. Still subsisting on hunting and fishing, they will welcome you in their villages of bamboo houses gathered near the beaches.
Arrival 13/02/2023 early morning
Departure 13/02/2023 early morning
Aboard your ship, experience something unique, that has inspired the imagination of numerous adventurers in the 20th century: sailing the Panama Canal. Its construction started in 1880 under the direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps. Abandoned then resumed, this marvel of engineering was completed by the United States and opened in 1914. The canal crosses the Isthmus of Panama and links the Atlantic to the Pacific. Including three levels of locks and by raising ships to the level of Lake Gatun, almost as if the water was a lift, it allows them to avoid having to round Cape Horn.
Arrival 13/02/2023 late afternoon
Departure 14/02/2023 early evening
An artificial peninsula situated at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, Fuerte Amador is the gateway to several noteworthy sites. Right near there, the impressive Miraflores Locks are a shining example of the engineering feats deployed during the construction of the Panama Canal. Further north, in villages nestling amid dense vegetation, lives the Embera tribe, guardian of the forest and of the Chagres River. This proud people have successfully preserved their traditions and their ancestral way of life, which predate the colonisation of the region by the Spanish.
Arrival 15/02/2023 early morning
Departure 15/02/2023 midday
The most remote and least developed region of Panama, the province of Darien is an unspoilt land with an extremely rich variety of flora and fauna. Listed by UNESCO as World Heritage, Darien National Park offers its extraordinary scenery of rocky coastlines, mountain ranges, mangroves, rivers and creeks. Discover Playa Muerto, a tiny coastal village home to the Emberas Amerindian community. You will visit the village, attend traditional songs and dances of the locals, and admire beautiful local craft.
During your day at sea, make the most of the many services and activities on board. Treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or stay in shape in the fitness centre. Depending on the season, let yourself be tempted by the swimming pool or a spot of sunbathing. This day without a port of call will also be an opportunity to enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, to do some shopping in the boutique or to meet the PONANT photographers in their dedicated space. As for lovers of the open sea, they will be able to visit the ship’s upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observe marine species. A truly enchanted interlude, combining comfort, rest and entertainment.
Arrival 17/02/2023 early morning
Departure 17/02/2023 late afternoon
Quepos makes for a charming stop-off on the Pacific coast, just next-door to the famous Manuel Antonio National Park, an untouched tropical natural reserve lined with white sandy beaches. The town's seafront is an opportunity to stroll through market stalls touting pineapples and bananas in the shade of the manchineel trees. In this coastal town criss-crossed with tree-lined streets in bloom, admire the houses and their incredible sculpted balconies. Enjoy a spot of shopping in the many traditional boutiques: pick up some handmade cotton clothing, ceramics embellished with Costa Rican designs and home décor pieces in hand-painted wood.
Arrival 18/02/2023 early morning
Disembarkation 18/02/2023 at 08:00
The port of Puerto Caldera lies on the Pacific coast, in the Puntarenas region, at the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya. Areas of wilderness stretch along the coast. Further inland, among the countless natural wonders to be found in the generous rainforest of the Costa Rica’s national parks, Poas and Arena volcanoes towers up in all their majestic glory. In this luxuriant natural setting, Costa Rica protects one of the planet’s richest biodiversity: monkeys, sloths, tropical birds, iguanas, crocodiles, waterfalls, canyons, and more than ten thousand species of tropical plants.
Located off the northern coast of Panama, Holandes Cayes is one of the more than 300 islands and cays that make up the San Blas Archipelago. Sheltered behind a long coral reef, they abound with idyllic anchorages. Long sandy white beaches and crystal-clear waters invite you to swim and snorkel, exploring an incredible array of marine fauna.
In addition to enjoying the sand and surf, you may have the opportunity to meet with the local indigenous people of the San Blas, the Kuna, who sustain themselves by hunting and fishing and govern the islands as an autonomous province with minimal interference from the national government.
Arguably Central America's most attractive capital city, Panama City was founded in 1519 by Spanish explorers and rebuilt in the late 17th-century by the French.
Your excursion begins with a visit to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Punta Culebra Nature Center, an open-air museum dedicated to marine science and conservation. On a specially arranged tour, hear about the latest studies, observe marine species up close, and explore the unique flora and fauna of the tropical dry forest.
After your visit, drive to Casco Antiguo, the old colonial part of the city, where you will enjoy a guided walking tour through this centuries-old neighborhood whose architecture blends French, Spanish, and Italian styles — reflecting the multicultural history of Panama. Churches and convents, colonial palaces, bridges and military buildings attest to the rich past of this city. Then pause for a refreshing lunch at one of the many restaurants in the quarter.
Lunch is followed by a drive through the modern city to the new Biodiversity Museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry to tell the story of how the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama changed the history of our planet. The Museum's exhibition, conceived by Bruce Mau and executed by scientists from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Panama, aims to interactively engage the public and demonstrate to them the ecological significance of Panama’s exotic flora and fauna.
Arguably Central America's most attractive capital city, Panama City was founded in 1519 by Spanish explorers and rebuilt in the late 17th-century by the French.
Your excursion begins with a visit to the new Biodiversity Museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry to tell the story of how the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama changed the history of our planet. The Museum's exhibition, conceived by Bruce Mau and executed by scientists from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Panama, aims to interactively engage the public and demonstrate to them the ecological significance of Panama’s exotic flora and fauna.
After your visit, drive to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Punta Culebra Nature Center, an open-air museum dedicated to marine science and conservation. On a specially arranged tour guided by Smithsonian staff, hear about the latest studies, observe marine species up close, and explore the unique flora and fauna of the tropical dry forest.
Lunch is followed by a drive through the city to the Miraflores Visitor Center. Enjoy the opportunity to view gargantuan ships making their way through the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal from one of the Center’s three levels of observations decks. Also visit its four exhibition halls arranged around the Canal’s history, biodiversity, and its operation and international importance.
Declared a reserve in 1980, the Darien National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981 and a Biosphere Reserve in 1983. In addition to preserving the globally important ecosystem of the rainforest, Darien also serves as home to about 30,000 indigenous peoples, mostly from the Emberá Tribe. On this excursion you will visit one of their villages on the coast of the Pacific and have the opportunity to meet and talk with men and women who have maintained their traditions and lifestyle much as it was before Spain colonized the region.
A short ride aboard the ship's Zodiacs brings you to the beach and to the thatched-roof palapas of the village. The Chief will welcome you with traditional Emberá hospitality, introduce you to their customs, and invite you to enjoy a series of dances that have been arranged for you.
Feel free to wander the village, ask questions, and engage with your hosts. The Emberá are marvelous craftsmen and craftswomen and have produced beautiful items that will be available for purchase as souvenirs or keepsakes of this very special experience.
Before returning to the ship, you may wish to take a 10-minute hike to a nearby waterfall.
Thriving in the brackish mix of salt and fresh water in coastal estuaries, mangroves are home to some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in Costa Rica, teeming with nutrient rich flora and offering a dense thicket of protection from predators for all sorts of birds, mammals, and reptiles.
Your excursion to the Damas Islands Estuary begins with a 25-minute drive to a landing, where you board a riverboat for a leisurely journey through this remarkable world. At water level, you may observe a wide variety of waterfowl: kingfishers, egrets, white and pink ibis, green heron, tiger heron, a variety of ducks, and many more. Overhead, you are likely to spot scarlet macaws, parrots, and parakeets.
In addition to birds, all sorts of other creatures thrive here. Crabs play an important part in the mangrove ecosystem as they scavenge among the exposed roots of the trees and shrubs, recycling the nitrogen that is crucial to the survival of the estuary. You may discover caimans or crocodiles swimming alongside your boat. White-faced capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and howler monkeys all take refuge in the safety of the forest canopy, and you might glimpse iguanas sunning in the branches.
After about two hours of this experience, you will arrive at a village where you can enjoy a snack of seasonal fruits and cookies before being transported back to the ship.
Originating in the clear springs of the Cerro de la Muerte mountains, flowing through an area without industry of any kind, and with no more than 1,000 people living along it banks, the Savegre River is one of the most pristine in Central America. And because of its twisting path and whitewater, it is also legendary among rafters.
Your excursion begins with an hour's drive through palm and teak plantations to a take-in point on a portion of the river that is fairly tame. Combining relatively gentle Class I and Class II rapids with long stretches of leisurely floating, this section of the Savegre provides an engaging mix of adventure and relaxation.
Your professional guides will orient you to the river and to the safe handling of your raft before you set out on a two-hour journey that alternates between helping your guides navigate the rapids and lying back in blissful contemplation of the beauty that surrounds you—an undisturbed habitat for white ibis, cormorants, egrets, crocodiles, and herons.
At the end of your journey, you will be treated to a snack of fresh fruit and water before you are transported back to the pier.
Costa Rica has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most eco-conscious nations in the Western Hemisphere, and Manuel Antonio National Park is the crown jewel of the country's unparalleled array of parks, preserves, and protected forests.
This small park, only about 6 square miles, is an unusual combination of rain forest bordered by idyllic beaches on the Pacific Ocean. A short drive from the pier brings you to the entrance to this world-famous ecosystem, where you will be joined by a naturalist guide who will help identify the abundant flora and fauna you encounter as you follow a well-maintained and easy walking trail through a rich tropical forest full of wildlife, particularly sloths, coatimundi, agoutis, the noisy howler monkey, the white-faced capuchin, and the tiny squirrel monkey. The combination of forest and ocean also provides a special opportunity to observe both terrestrial and sea birds-toucans, pelicans, hummingbirds, tanagers, gulls, terns, and more, all of which call Manuel Antonio Park their home.
After about 90-minutes, you will emerge from the forest onto the park's Espadilla beach, where you will have some time to sunbathe, swim, or simply relax, before returning to the park entrance along a different trail. Enjoy a light snack of seasonal fruits, cookies, water, and natural juices before boarding your coach for the return to Quepos and your ship.
PONANT and Smithsonian Journeys have organised the following included programme for you, which starts the day of embarkation.
Aboard your ship, an English-speaking lecturer will enlighten you about the culture and history of your destination to deepen your knowledge of the origins of local traditions, the history of emblematic sites, and stories involving famous personalities and those of major historical significance. During on-board lectures or on your shore visits, this expert will be there to share their precious knowledge with you throughout your PONANT cruise.