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Home  >  Societies & Communities  >  Geographic Activities  >  Life Members

The IEEE History Center’s Milestones celebrate technological breakthroughs or turning points around a number of which the IEEE Life Member Committee organize technology-themed tours. The first of the IEEE Tech Tours was of the Panama Canal with further opportunities to experience the environment and culture of Panama itself. The information on this page is presented as it was before the tour occurred.

The day-by-day description of the tour below included a partial transit of the canal on Day 2. Day 3 includes a visit to the Miraflores Visitors Center, a special presentation by canal personnel, and a special visit to the ordinarily restricted Control House at the Miraflores Locks. Every day, attendees received a growing awareness of just how deeply the Panama Canal’s existence defines the country and its culture.

 

IEEE History Center Milestone - Panama Canal

The Milestone is of the Panama Canal Electrical and Control Installations of 1914.  The dedicatory event was held on April 3, 2003, under the auspices of the Panama Section. The lead paragraph from the commentary on the award, copied from the IEEE History Center Web site, is as follows:

The Panama Canal project included one of the largest and most important electrical installations in the world early in the 20th century. The use of 1022 electric motors with an installed capacity of 28,290 horsepower largely replaced the steam and water powered equipment then in common use.  Reliability and safety were also engineered into the innovative electrical control system, enabling remote lock operation from a central location.

 
 

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Day 1 [Arrival Day]: Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Arrive at the international airport in Panama City. After going through Panamanian immigration and customs check points, you will be met by an agent of the tour provider, Pesantez Tours, for transfer to El Panama Hotel.* Rest assured, your guide and driver will be at the airport and identifiable by a sign with the name of our group: IEEE Tech Tour.

Dinner is not provided, but there is very enjoyable dining at the hotel and at nearby restaurants. 

 
 

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Day 2: Thursday, 4 March

09:30 am

Transfer to pier for a partial transit of the Panama Canal, including a mid-day meal and a visit to the Smithsonian Marine Exhibition Center.

11:00 am

Boat departure.

The partial transit includes passage through through the Pedro Miguel Locks and the Miraflores Locks. This is a unique experience, allowing you to observe, and hear the explanations about, the functioning of the Panama Canal.  In addition to the transit itself, there will be a snack and a brunch on board the ship. After debarking the ship you will visit the Stri Marine Exhibition Center, where you can learn about the marine life of the surrounding seas—the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

05:00 pm

Return to hotel to rest prior to dinner.

07:30 pm

Dinner at Tinajas Restaurant (typical Panamanian food and show).

Las Tinajas Restaurant is a place where visitors have an opportunity to sample and appreciate Panamanian culture.  The ambience cannot be surpassed in Panama City.  The evening will begin with a welcome cocktail followed by typical “picadas” (appetizers), the dinner, and a show.    

10:00 pm

Return to hotel for the night.

 
 

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Day 3: Friday, 5 March

09:00 am

Depart for the Canal Authority’s new Miraflores Visitors Center with exhibits and a presentation followed by a buffet lunch, including a non-alcoholic beverage, in the Miraflores Restaurant at the Center. The afternoon will include a number of stops, one of which will be a visit to CATHALAC, an organization dedicated to sustainable development.

From the Miraflores Locks Overlook at the Visitors Center, we will observe how the Canal works with the passage of vessels through the locks and a special visit to the ordinarily restricted Control House for the Miraflores Locks. In our time in the Visitors Center we will enjoy incredible displays of the construction effort and technology that went into creation of the Canal and the high technology audiovisual exposition that shows essentially everything related to the operation of the Canal. In addition, the Canal Authority has authorized a special presentation for this IEEE Tech Tour group.  The included buffet lunch at the VIP Miraflores Restaurant rewards diners with an exceptional view of the Canal. 

After lunch our group will go through Albrook, a former military base turned into a beautiful residential and commercial zone. We will visit the Craft Market, tour the Balboa area where the Administration Building of the Panama Canal is located, and some port areas. We will also visit Amador, the zone with the highest level of touristic development in Panama City.

Sometime during the afternoon, the group will visit CATHALAC (the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean), an international organization established in 1992 to serve the humid tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean. Its mission is to promote sustainable development through applied research and development, education, and technology transfer on water resources and the environment. In order to address this, CATHALAC’s working agenda focuses on four thematic areas: Integrated Watershed Management, Climate Change, Environmental Modeling and Analysis, and Risk Management, acting as a bridge between science and policy.

04:00 pm

Return to hotel to rest prior to dinner.

07:00 pm

Dinner at Los Años Locos, a first class restaurant well known for its meat dishes (it also serves chicken, pork, and fish dishes).

10:00 pm

Return to hotel for the night.

 
 

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Day 4: Saturday, 6 March

09:00 am

Depart for a Panama City Tour including visits to the Old City, the Canal Museum, the National Theater, and the Modern City. Midway through our day’s excursion, we will enjoy a served lunch at the Casablanca Restaurant, with one non-alcoholic beverage included.

The first destination is Old Panama, first city founded on the Pacific Ocean shore, whose magnificent ruins can be appreciated followed by a visit to the viewpoint of the Tower of the Cathedral and time to purchase local arts and crafts.

We will then proceed to the most commercial area of the city, encompassing the baking area, Bella Vista, Punta Paitilla Avenue, and Balboa; the colonial sector with its San Felipe neighborhood where the Independence Plaza is located; and we will stroll to observe and, in some instances, visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Hotel Central, the Canal Museum, the National Theater; and the Municipality.

As we continue our excursion, we will visit Las Bovedas and the France Plaza, enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the Pacific entry to the Panama Canal, and walk through Bolivar Square where the National Theater is situated.

04:00 pm

Return to hotel to rest prior to dinner.

07:00 pm

Dinner at the Pencas Restaurant in Amador. The Pencas Restaurant is a favorite in Panama, specializing in Caribbean-style food with a menu that offers many other options. It is located at Amador Causeway facing the Pacific Ocean.

10:00 pm

Return to hotel for the night.

 
 

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Day 5: Sunday, 7 March

07:00 am

Departure for Barro Colorado Island. 

08:00 am

Boat departs.

We will explore the interior of the lands traversed by the rivers, the channels, lakes, and tropical rainforests that are part of or adjacent to the Panama Canal zone. We will navigate Gatun Lake, one of the largest artificial lakes, and hike through the tropical rainforest of the Barro.

Colorado Natural Monument, which is in the Panama Canal zone, is one of the most complex and biologically diverse ecosystem in the world.  It has some 560 bird species, 125 reptile and amphibian species, 160 mammal species, and more than 1,400 species of plants and trees. Collectively, they contribute to the maintenance of a delicate ecosystem whose abundant rains enable the Panama Canal Locks to function. We will visit the laboratories of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which are located at the Colorado Natural Monument. The Institute has generated over 1,500 publications in its 66 years of existence.

03:30 pm

Boat departs from Colorado Island.

04:15 pm

Boat returns to port for departure to hotel.

05:00 pm

Arrive at hotel to rest prior to dinner on our own.

 
 

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Day 6: Monday, 8 March

08:00 am

Departure for Embera excursion, including lunch and snacks.

Visit a community of Choco or Embera Indians who established themselves during the ’60’s in the Chagres National Park. This excursion includes a boat trip through Alahuela Lake to the Chagres River. The various elements of this excursion will depend upon weather conditions, the flow volume and turbulence level of the waters in the rivers and the consequent physical effort required of the tour members. Visitors will enjoy the natural beauty of the tropical rainforest and come to appreciate the costumes and crafts of the natives.

04:00 pm

Return to hotel to rest prior to dinner on our own.

 
 

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Day 7: Tuesday, 9 March

08:00 am

Transfer to Gamboa for Gatun Lake Tour, including lunch.

Today’s excursion will provide a reasonably close-up view of the work being done to expand the Panama Canal, along with a history of the construction of the Canal. We will navigate the rendezvous site for container ships, cruise ships and boats, and a variety of other vessels that cross the Panama Canal; experience close encounters with some of the rain forest animal species such as monkeys, sloths, toucans and crocodiles; and discover the exotic flora available in the area. We will enjoy a canoe excursion through Lake Gatun, ending at a pristine water hole and cascade where we can bathe, fish, swim and kayak as part of the afternoon activities. We will also enjoy a typical Panamanian lunch.

04:00 pm

Return to hotel to rest prior to dinner on our own. 

 
 

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Day 8 [Departure Day]: Wednesday, 10 March

10:00 am

Depart for a shopping excursion to the Albrook Mall. Lunch will be on our own.

Visit the crafts stores and a mall (Albrook Mall, Multi Plaza, Los Pueblos) where articles from all over the world are available at very modest prices, including  stores that offer electronics at Free Zone prices (tax free) with delivery to the International Airport.

04:00 pm*

Return to hotel (with the time to be adjusted in accordance with the various individual departure times) to recover luggage, for dinner (according to individual departure times) on our own, and transfer to the international airport in Panama City (according to individual departure times).

*Those adding days before or after this IEEE Tech Tour are responsible for negotiating their airport pick-up and drop-off times and any other details of their extended time in conjunction with this Tour.

¨Our hotel, El Panama, is situated in a vibrant neighborhood including numerous interesting shops within Panama City's financial and commercial district.  Its courtyard includes an outdoor pool and poolside bar with access to a health club, including a sauna. The hotel has several restaurants, a nightclub, and a casino. Wireless Internet access is offered both in the public areas and in the guestrooms.

 

 
 

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General Information

A tour opportunity commissioned by the IEEE Life Member Committee and provided by

Pesantez Tours
PO Box 0831-00716
Paitilla, Panama
507 223 5374 (phone)
507 263 7860 (fax)

The cost of the tour, exclusive of travel in and out of Panama City, is as follows:

            Single Room:              US$2053.00 per person

            Double Room:             US$1520.00 per person

            Triple Room:               US$1374.00 per person

The hotel provides a buffet-style continental breakfast each morning at no additional cost. The Tour provides lunches and dinners on days specified above.  No other meals are covered by these Tour costs. Please also note that gratuities are not included for guides, drivers, or hotel housekeeping staff members.

After reserving and paying the appropriate above cost, you must make your flight reservations to and from Panama City. You must then notify Pesantez Tours of your itinerary so that they can make the appropriate pick-up and drop-off arrangements. Pesantez Tours is willing to help you choose and book pre- and post-tour activities should you want to have an extended stay in Panama and countries nearby in Central and South America.  You can learn more about this company from the Pesantez Tours Web site.

Each person joining the Tour is responsible for having (1) a passport with an expiration date not earlier than six months following the date of planned departure from Panama and (2) an entry visa for Panama. Currently, for visitors from the US, a tourist card valid for 90 days can be purchased at the airport of departure for Panama or the airport of arrival in Panama in lieu of a visa. For those wishing to confirm this matter or learn more about entry to Panama, visit the the US State Department Web site.       

Numerous Web sites detail the visa requirements for entry to Panama from countries other than the US.  Each person is also responsible for having immunizations/vaccinations required for entry to Panama. Information about what is required and recommended can be found by clicking on the Travel's Health button on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

For those who want travel insurance, Pesantez Tours will be happy to secure coverage. You may, of course, secure coverage through another travel agency, such as the one you regularly use. In either case, you will need to know the costs of the tour and the flight for each person in your party.  Note that such insurance often needs to be secured within a couple of weeks of first payments for aspects of a tour, such as deposits for the tour itself or airfare for the flights to and from the tour location. A good rule-of-thumb is to get the initial insurance contract at, or shortly thereafter, the time of the first payment and acquire supplements to the initial contract.

You can reserve a place, or two or more, on the IEEE Tech Tour to the Panama Canal with deposit of just US$200.00 per person that is non-refundable after 3 November 2009. Final payment will be due on or before 3 January 2010. Since the size of the tour group is limited to sections of 20 to 25, with the number of sections beyond the first still in negotiation, later reservation requests will be wait-listed with the deposit to be refunded in early January if a vacancy does not become available.  However, a request may be made to not be wait-listed and for the check or credit card authorization for the deposit to be returned. 

If this is a tour such as you have often imagined or that now captures your imagination, then make a request to join it by completing and submitting the Request to Join the IEEE Tech Tour to the Panama Canal (DOC, 44 KB).

 
 

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