Panama Canal, Native Communities and Cultures (Northbound)

Panama Canal, Native Communities and Cultures (Northbound)

Panama Canal, Native Communities and Cultures (Northbound)

Panama Canal, Native Communities and Cultures (Northbound)

Travel information 15 MS Fram
Departure
2 April 2023
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

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

Our small ships mean we can take you to where larger ships can’t, giving you a mix of places to explore, from cities to remote islands. At times, due to weather, we may need to change or cancel our plan for that day. Rest assured that this is all part of what it is to be on an authentic adventure in this exotic region.  

Chilean cities and Peruvian pyramids  

From UNESCO-listed Valparaíso, we’ll journey to neo-colonial La Serena, then to the sun-soaked resort towns of Iquique and Arica. Next it’s Paracas, where you can visit bio-diverse Ballestas Islands before trying the sumptuous cuisine in Lima, the capital of Peru. Then, we plan to land at Salaverry to tour the ancient temple and city ruins around Trujillo.  

Ecuadorian paradises and the legendary Panama Canal 

We’ll stop at the important Ecuadorian port of Puerto Bolivar to learn about the oro verde – green gold. Then continue northbound to the busy and prosperous town port of Manta, cross the line of the Equator, and sail to the isthmus of Panama. Crossing from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, in the Atlantic side of the Canal, will be the great finishing touch pf your voyage.   

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

    Vibrant hilltop city

    2 April 2023

    Your expedition ship MS Fram awaits you in Valparaíso in central Chile. Built on steep hillsides overlooking the ocean, the UNESCO-listed city is a maze of monuments, churches, historical funicular lifts, trendy barrios, cobblestone alleys, colourful houses and charming plazas. Cerros Alegre and Concepción have probably the best views while the historic port district boasts colonial architecture, bustling mercados, and the maritime and modern art museums.  

    You also have the option to arrive a few days early to explore more of ‘Valpo’ when adding a night in Santiago de Chile followed by a Valparaiso City Tour and transfer to the ship or to join our Pre-Programme to Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. 

    Once on board the ship, you’ll be busy picking up your complimentary expedition jacket, settling into your cabin, exploring the ship and attending a mandatory safety drill. After dinner and a welcome toast by the Captain, you’ll meet your Expedition Team who 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

    3 April 2023

    Perched on ocean terraces, 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 purposeful neo-colonial look and feel to it. Modern buildings sit interspersed with classic architecture, such as the 30 or so carefully restored stone churches, some of which are 350 years old. If the churches, while charming, start to look the same to you, a helpful hint is to distinguish them 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 arts and crafts at Recova Market. The archaeological museum houses pre-colonial artefacts while the hidden lane of Patio Colonial near Balmaceda is the place to go for chilled-out cafés and eateries.

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

    Neo-colonial and classy

  • Day 3
    At Sea

    Relax on board

    4 April 2023

    Enjoy the serenity of this day at sea, relaxing and admiring the scenery from the observation deck or over in the lounge.  

    Throughout your journey, the Expedition Team will be running lectures in the Science Center to share their extensive knowledge of the region with you. Topics could include periods of pre-Columbian history, the geology of the surrounding mountains and islands, folklore of local communities, and so on. But not all lectures are confined to indoors. If the ship attracts seabirds who come to fly alongside us, the Expedition Team might also help you spot and identify these feathered followers out on deck.

    Day 3
    At Sea

    Relax on board

  • Day 4
    Iquique, Chile

    Premier beach resort

    5 April 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 a hive of activity all year around. Shoppers stream to the duty-free Zofri Mall while maritime enthusiasts will be enthralled by a tour of La Esmeralda corvette that hails from the War of the Pacific. Our main plan here is a visit to the nearby abandoned saltpeter mining town of Humberstone in the Atacama Desert, a UNESCO site and history you can literally walk through.

    Back in Iquique, head along the boardwalk of La Costenera next to the sands of Playa Cavancha and admire the scenery of the city skyline on one side and parasailors and surfers on the other. Baquedano Street showcases 19th century Georgian architecture and leads to Astoreca Palace and a photogenic clock tower at the centre of town. You’ll also find many a chic café where you can indulge in local coffee culture or sip on a traditional creamy mango sour. A Chinatown has sprung up around the mercado, marrying Peruvian and Chinese flavours to invent unique chifa cuisine. Aside from a variety of seafood dishes, you’ll definitely want to try chumbeque, a dessert that blends fried thin dough with fruity caramels.

    • Included Humberstone & Santa Laura
    Day 4
    Iquique, Chile

    Premier beach resort

  • Day 5
    Arica, Chile

    ‘City of Everlasting Spring’

    6 April 2023

    Unusually for a city by the sea, Arica enjoys a constant desert climate and is classed as 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 like to refer to Arica as enjoying a never-ending spring season. The beaches are popular with sunbathers and surfers alike and the views from the tall, sandy El Morro cliff are well worth the 15-minute hike to the fluttering Chilean flag at the top.

    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, pedestrianised areas with plenty of eateries and artesanía stalls while El Agro market and food court is full of sights and scents. Over at the local San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum, you can peruse artefacts from the Chinchorro culture and marvel at mummies which are older than even ones found in Egypt. Head to the south of the city to trek the more rugged Playa Corazones and explore the Caves of Anzota. You’ll also have the opportunity to see geolyphs in Lluta Valley and Lauca National Park on an optional excursion.

    • Included Atacama Coastal Walk
    Day 5
    Arica, Chile

    ‘City of Everlasting Spring’

  • Day 6
    At Sea

    Fresh sea air

    7 April 2023

    As we sail further north toward Peru, continue to enjoy the Expedition Team’s lecture programme, the healthy salt-tinged breeze and views out on deck, and all the facilities the expedition ship has to offer. These waters are also part of the Humboldt Current, a cold-water current that cools the climate in the region and creates clear skies. It also sustains a highly productive marine eco-system in the region, stimulating the growth of sardines, anchovies, and mackerel in huge quantities.

    If you’re someone who likes to keep 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

    8 April 2023

    Positioned on a bay behind a peninsula, the small and sleepy resort town of Paracas is surrounded by brown-sugar cliffs and beaches. Known to most as El Chaco, the town has an array of restaurants along the main shorefront and boulevard where you can tuck into jalea, a mishmash of fried seafood with salsa criolla and yuca root. Peruvian silverside fish, known as pejerry, is also a local speciality, best washed down with a glass of pisco – grape brandy which is produced at tourable distilleries in the region. Be careful though, pisco can pack quite the punch!

    Opposite Paracas harbour is a mysterious local geoglyph of a candelabra that possibly dates back to 200 BCE. It could be related to the famous Nazca Lines which you can visit in the Pisco valley a short drive away to the south as part of an optional excursion. The Nazca Lines themselves could be older than the candelabra but new ones are still being discovered, prompting all sorts of theories as to their (extra-terrestrial?) origin.

    You may also take a boat tour of the nearby Ballestas Islands, which are considered to be the lesser Galápagos Islands. The Ballestas support a range of wildlife, including Humboldt penguins, turtles, Peruvian boobies, cormorants, pelicans, sea lions, dolphins, Inca terns and humpback whales. There’s also Paracas National Reserve nearby, covering a rare combination of desert and marine ecosystems in its territory. The Martian-like yellow dunes and red-sand beaches hide more than 100 archaeological sites of the Paracas culture and grant otherworldly views to birds such as the Andean condor and Chilean flamingo.

    • Included Ballestas Islands
    Day 7
    Paracas, Peru

    Birds and brandy

  • Day 8
    Callao / Lima, Peru

    Food, glorious food

    9 April 2023

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

    The World Heritage historic centre is full of colonial-era architecture like Plaza Mayor and San Francisco Monastery. On the other hand, the clay ruins of ceremonial pyramids Huaca Pucllana and Huaca Huallamarca are reminders of long-lost Inca civilisation. For more pre-Hispanic archaeology, there are at least four separate museums to pick from. Arty types among you will also enjoy the bright and Bohemian area of Barranco, complete with murals, creative cafés and two of Lima’s contemporary art museums.

    But the ultimate Lima experience has got to be the food. Cuisine emanating from the capital has raised the bar the globe over and there is no shortage of internationally recognised and award-winning restaurants for you to delight in. One of Peru’s all-time gastronomic greats is ceviche, fresh fish marinated in tangy lime juice and other seasonings. The staple dish can be savoured in many locations around the city, from up-market 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 archaeologist’s dream

    10 April 2023

    Buffeted by the wind and waves of the Pacific, Salaverry can be a hard port to access. If all goes to plan though, it will be a good transit point to explore Trujillo, Peru’s third largest city, as well as an array of archaeological sites scattered throughout the surrounding region.

    Trujillo sits in a fertile valley oasis irrigated by the Moche River. It boasts a colourful 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. However, it is more than likely that your focus will be elsewhere and on things not so modern.

    The city of Chan Chan was raised by the Chimu Empire which appeared in the region around 900 AD. The vast ruins of the 20-square kilometre complex include the Tschudi temple-citadel and Huaca Esmeralda. On the other side of Trujillo are the Mochican pyramids of the Sun and the Moon which pre-date Chan Chan by a few hundred years. Huaca del Sol in particular is the largest adobe structure on the continent while Huaca del Luna is more detailed with many of its pastel frescos still visible.

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

    An archaeologist’s dream

  • Day 10
    At Sea

    At your leisure

    11 April 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 out on deck, enjoying the seascapes and keeping an eye out for marine wildlife like whales, dolphins and sea birds. If you want to feel closer to the water, go for a dip in the outdoor hot tubs, and still be able to admire the scenery.

    This is also a great opportunity to head to the Science Center for lectures with the Expedition Team and to learn more about what you will experience in the following days. Pick one of the proposed Citizen Science programmes to get involved in too, knowing that you will be helping research currently happening around the world. When darkness falls and it’s a starry night, you might also join the Expedition Team out on deck to do some stargazing. Or settle into a comfortable seat in the Explorer Lounge & Bar to raise a glass or two with new-found friends.

    Day 10
    At Sea

    At your leisure

  • Day 11
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

    12 April 2023

    Machala’s main claim to fame is Puerto Bolivar, an important Ecuadorian port for the export of coffee, cocoa, shrimp and bountiful bananas which the locals call oro verde – ‘green gold’. As part of a choice of optional excursions, you can visit a local banana plantation and also try and spot hummingbirds, parakeets and howler monkeys in Buenaventura Nature Reserve to the south. Puyango Petrified Forest is nearby with one of the largest collections of fossilised trees in the world, thought to be about 100 million years-old, as old as the Andes Mountains themselves.

    At Puerto Bolivar, you can feast on fresh seafood at one of the many harbour restaurants and enjoy views of the natural mangrove swamps of Isla Jambeli opposite. Machala itself has all the charm you’d expect from a small coastal city, including friendly locals, cute plazas and unusual monuments dedicated to sort-fish and bananeros. The restaurants are evolving and beginning to dabble in the hip modern cuisine which Ecuador and Peru are increasingly known for.

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

    Growing green gold

  • Day 12
    Manta, Ecuador

    Sea, sand, surf… and tuna?

    13 April 2023

    Manta is a busy and prosperous port city with high-rise buildings, resort hotels, and a couple of casinos. It is well known in the world of water sports for its long stretches of beach that are blessed with the kind of wind and waves that draw surfers, body-boarders and kitesurfers from across the globe. Casual beachgoers normally hang around the shops, restaurants and bars of Malencón Escénico at Playa el Murcielago. You can also head to San Lorenzo for surfer-sweet swells or to Playa Bonita at Santa Marianita to watch kitesurfers take off into sea and sky.  

    Aside from tourism, the city thrives on an industry of tuna fishing and canning, and typically for a coastal city, seafood is the speciality of many restaurants in the area. Expect wild-caught succulent shrimp, black clams, octopus, red snappers and so on. You should make a point to try a bowl of the local encebollado broth made with the fresh tuna Manta is so proud of. The Museo Municipal Etnografico Cancebi showcases Ecuadorian art and artefacts from local pre-Colombian civilisation, including ancient fishing tools. You might also like to visit the nearby handicraft town of Montecristi 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

    14 April 2023

    A day at sea means you can attend interesting lectures, learn basic expedition photography, attend an art workshop, and enjoy the fresh sea air out on deck as you scout for wildlife. You can also use microscopes in the Science Center to analyse 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’ll have made friends with your fellow explorers, finding that you have much in common in terms of your interests and passion for nature. You can spend time chatting with them over a snack at the bistro-like Fredheim, perhaps recalling the best bits of your expedition so far. The Explorer Bar is also open for drinks and you might catch the crew and Expedition Team here in the evening for some friendly banter. As night falls, there are also few things as romantic as stargazing out on deck with your loved one.

    Day 13
    At Sea

    Serenity at sea

  • Day 14
    Panama Canal

    Connecting Two Oceans

    15 April 2023

    Today we will sail the Panama Canal, transiting from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean. The complex canal network is over a hundred years in the making, stretching 80 km through natural and man-made waterways. We’ll wait with anticipation 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 26 metres above sea level. If weather allows, the Expedition Team will be out on deck to point out sites of interest around the canal and to talk about the history of this ambitious project.

    Roughly half way through the 12-hour transit of the canal, the ship will enter the Gatun Lake section. Created by damning the nearby Chagres River, it is one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. By contrast, the surrounding rainforest is virtually untouched by any development and various flora and fauna native to Central America flourish here undisturbed. Along the shores, you might be lucky enough to spot crocodiles and alligators. Scan the trees for glimpses of monkeys and maybe sloths too.

    After a few more locks and lakes, the ship will eventually sail into the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Passing from one great ocean to another in a day, you’ve just experienced the culmination of centuries of planning, hard work and resourcefulness. It’s sure to be a moment you won’t soon forget. 

    Day 14
    Panama Canal

    Connecting Two Oceans

  • Day 15
    Colón, Panamá

    Entrance to the Panama Canal

    16 April 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 its small size. 

     If you’re not quite ready to see an end to your adventure, add on three extra nights with our Post-Programme, staying at an exotic jungle lodge nestled in the rainforest next to Chagres River. During your stay, you’ll visit a rainforest centre and a farm working with reforestation, explore the jungle on a night boat safari, and enjoy views of the area by cable car. 

    There's also another Post-Programme option to Casco Viejo, arguably the most charismatic neighbourhood in Panama City. Stroll the rustic cobblestone streets and plazas, admire the architecture of colonial churches, mansions and the Metropolitan Cathedral, and try out some of the local specialities 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. You can then 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, Panamá

    Entrance to the Panama Canal

Departures

2023

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December
April:
2.

Current offers on this cruise:

  • Solo Traveller Offer

    Solo travellers who prefer their own space while still travelling with others, have the opportunity to save on select voyages departing in 2022. For a limited time, pay no single supplement if you book one of the below expedition cruises.
    This offer applies to a selection of departures that you can find on each voyage page.
    See Special Offer

What's included

Included in your voyage

Expedition Cruise  

  • Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurant Aune
  • À la carte restaurant Lindstrøm 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 use at water refill stations on board
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organise and accompany activities on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard Activities 

  • Experts on the Expedition Team deliver in-depth lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • Citizen Science programme allows guests to assist with live scientific research
  • Professional onboard photographer gives top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • Use of the ship’s hot tubs, panoramic sauna and indoor gym
  • Informal gatherings with the crew such as daily recaps and preparation for the day to come

Landing Activities 

  • Escorted landings with small expedition boats
  • Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment for activities
  • Complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition Photographers help with your camera settings

Not included in your voyage

  • International flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Luggage 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 make sure you meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities 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 114 m
Beam 20.2 m
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. MS Fram brings on the heritage of the original Fram, using the most advanced technology to make her exceptionally well suited for expedition voyages 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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