In Colon, on the Caribbean coast, the focus is on a massive shopping and leisure complex, Colon 2000 Duty Free. Located between Colon’s two port terminals, the 70,000-square-meter commercial space will house stores selling international and local brands, restaurants, bars, and a cinema, as well as provide services like ATMs and Wi-Fi.
The complex is located in Colon’s tax-free shopping zone, meaning visitors can find attractive low prices on goods from the likes of Nike, Victoria’s Secret, Pandora, Nevada, Tommy Hilfiger, and Nautica. Dining options will range from outposts of established Panamanian restaurants to a food court offering burgers and sandwiches.
An open-air design with outdoor seating and walkways invites cruise passengers to linger before or after their day tours into Panama. Kids can enjoy play spaces, while adults sip a coffee or check their email in a lovely waterfront setting.
The new venue, scheduled to open in October at the start of Panama’s cruise season, has benefits for all involved. Cruise lines have yet another attraction in Colon to offer their guests; visitors have a place to spend an extra hour or two off the ship, without having to worry about transportation or safety; and Panama can maximize its economic profit from cruise ship tourism.
At the opposite end of the Panama Canal, in Panama City, an even greater construction project is underway. Here, along the Amador Causeway that leads from the city to some outer islands, the government is building a new cruise port, with two piers and a state-of-the-art terminal, comparable to one you’d find in Miami.
The first 380-meter-long pier is scheduled for an October 2021 opening. The second pier and the terminal will take at least another year to finish. When complete, the new port facility will be able to accommodate two neo-Panamax ships at the same time and handle all the operations of homeporting ships, as well as ones visiting for the day before or after a Canal transit.
The implications of this new development for Panama’s cruise tourism industry are huge. For the first time, large ships can dock in Panama City; the current tender pier is not set up to handle any but the smallest ships. Plus, with new homeport capabilities, Panama can position itself as a gateway to several new itinerary options.
These could include roundtrip Panama cruises calling in both Pacific and Caribbean ports, with a Panama Canal transit in between, or cruises along the Central and South American Pacific coasts and out to the Galapagos. The set-up also makes it easier for cruise lines to run Caribbean cruises with a full, rather than partial, Panama Canal crossing at one end.