2019 HAL World Cruise
Monday, January 28, 2019
After transiting the Panama Canal, the MS Amsterdam anchored in the Pacific Ocean at the port city of Fuerte Amador. Located on Flamenco Island, Fuerte Amador is one of 4 small islands connected to the mainland by a causeway. It is 20 miles from the Panama City center.
Fort Amador, along with Fort Grant, were former US Army bases built for the protection of the Panama Canal on the Pacific side. Ft. Amador, located just below the Bridge of the Americas, was the primary on-land site. Ft. Grant was comprised of a series of off shore islands connected to Amador by a causeway. Fort Sherman was the corresponding base on the Atlantic side. All the forts were turned over to the Republic of Panama in 1999. The area is now a major tourist attraction.
We arrived in Fuerte Amador around 6:00pm Sunday night. The ship’s tenders were launched. There were no shuttles running that evening, but the port complex is quite extensive with shopping and restaurants and cafes aplenty. It is very pleasant to sit outdoors and just admire the beautiful yachts lined up in the marina.
Monday morning, we started our planned excursion to view the 3 phases of Panama City: Panama Viejo, the ancient city; Casco Viejo, Old Town; and the former American Canal Zone. Upon arrival at the tender dock, we found a taxi to take us on the outing. Our driver, Eduard, quoted US$60.00 for the tour. However, because Pope Francis had been in town, the traffic and crowds were horrific! The Pope left Panama Sunday evening; but the crowds remained and clogged the highways and sidewalks! The excursion took nearly twice as long as anticipated. After spending nearly three hours, mostly on foot because that was faster, we returned to the dock. Eduard had earned a very good tip!!!
Panama Viejo is the site of the original Panama City established in 1519. It was a transport hub for shipping gold and silver to Spain. Pirate activity was fierce in the area and on January 26, 1671 the pirate Henry Morgan attacked and destroyed the city. He stole everything of value.
In 1673, the “new” Panama City was built. Today, that area is known as Casco Antiguo by the locals, Casco Viejo by the tourists, and San Felipe. Parts of the buildings in Panama Viejo were salvaged and re-used in the construction of Casco Viejo.
As we returned to the port, we drove through the old American Canal Zone. Our Diver, Eduard, had grown up in the area has many good memories of that time. The Canal Zone was turned over to the Republic of Panama in 1999.
Today, Panama City has grown to be the largest city in Panama and is the capital. It is one of the most important cities in Central America and an international banking and commerce center.
Next, we are going to Salaverry (Trujillo), Peru.