Panama, Ecuador and Peru:
Panama Canal & Colonial Highlights
The 2022 Ocean X-Change® Conference begins in Colón where we transit the famous Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean. We then head south where you get to visit cities in Ecuador and Peru to experience beautiful beaches and UNESCO sites.
Mornings include 1-to-1 Business Meetings between all 60 Buyers & 60 Suppliers before heading out to afternoon activities.
DAY 1 COLÓN, PANAMA
Gateway to the Panama Canal
The city of Colón lies by the entrance to the Panama Canal on the Atlantic coast. There are high-quality hotels, a casino, hot springs, a thriving handicraft scene and great restaurants with local delicacies. If you want to really explore the city or join a Pre-Programme to a beautiful jungle lodge next to the Chagres River, you should clear your calendar and arrange to arrive a couple of days earlier.
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 2 PANAMA CANAL
Connecting Two Oceans
We depart Colón early in the morning to start the process of entering the Panama Canal. 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 pass under the Bridge of the Americas and emerge into the Pacific. 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 3 AT SEA
Welcome to the Pacific
Spend some of your day taking a relaxing walk out on deck, enjoying the seascapes and keeping an eye out for marine wildlife like whales, sea lions and sea birds. If you want to feel closer to the water, go for a dip in the infinity pool or the two 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 your preferred Citizen Science programme 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.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to one of the three restaurants for varied and delicious meals, or find a comfortable seat in the Explorer Lounge & Bar to raise a glass or two with new-found friends.
DAY 4 MANTA, ECUADOR
Made in Montecristi
We cross the Equator early in the morning. You can join a traditional ceremony on board where we seek King Neptune’s blessing. If we are lucky, he may even make an appearance before we reach our first call in Ecuador.
Our main tour of the day will be to the handicraft town of Montecristi located 8km inland from the tuna-fishing port city of Manta. It was established in the 16th century by manteños fleeing the frequent pirate raids on the coast. Montecristi, Ecuador is the actual birthplace of traditional Panama hats, despite the name. The misnomer originates from when President Roosevelt wore one of these hats on a visit to the Panama Canal in 1904, sparking their popularity worldwide. You’ll see many shops throughout the town selling the genuine article in all sizes and shades, expertly handwoven from the leaves of the jipijapa tree by local artisans.
Aside from hat-hunting, you can spend time browsing the stalls at the pretty plaza, admiring the architecture of the church, or looking at the varied street art. One prominent mural at the plaza depicts General Eloy Alfaro, two-time Ecuadorian President and Montecristi native. You might also have time to head to the top of the main hill where there is a museum and grandiose mausoleum in honour of Alfaro who was also known as the Viejo Luchador or "Old Warrior".
DAY 5 PUERTO BOLIVAR (MACHALA), ECUADOR
'Banana Capitol of the World'
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 may visit a local banana plantation or 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.
DAY 6 AT SEA
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. There is also a designated photographer on board who, in addition to taking pictures from our journey together, will be available to help you with the basics of expedition photography.
DAY 7 SALAVERRY, PERU
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.
DAY 8 CALLAO/LIMA/CUSCO/SACRED VALLEY
UNESCO Site and Ancient History
Around noon, we arrive in Callao and it will be time to say goodbye to the Captain and crew. A packed lunch will be provided for your transfer to Lima airport and your flight to Cusco. Once we arrive in the old capital of the Inca Empire 3,400 metres above sea level, we’ll head to the Tambo del Inka Resort in the Sacred Valley for dinner and to spend the night.