From Panama to Barbados - Expedition cruise to the Southern Caribbean

From Panama to Barbados - Expedition cruise to the Southern Caribbean

From Panama to Barbados - Expedition cruise to the Southern Caribbean

From Panama to Barbados - Expedition cruise to the Southern Caribbean

Travel information 10 days MS Fram
Departure
16 April 2023
Price from
£ 2632
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Visit tropical rainforests, sublime beaches, and indigenous communities on an expedition cruise from the coasts of Panama and Colombia to the islands of the southern Caribbean.

Set sail to Barbados via Panama and Columbia

Setting off from Colón, you’ll sail eastwards along the Caribbean coast via some of Panama and Columbia’s scenic gems. Discover the San Blas archipelago, a labyrinth of tiny islands with sandy beaches, palm trees and spectacular coral reefs. In Santa Marta, you’ll explore one of South America’s oldest towns, located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. Colombia’s Guajira Peninsula offers something completely different, with a slice of desert landscape amidst the tropical paradise coast.

Island hopping in the Caribbean

We’ll land at five different islands, from Bonaire to Barbados, including Dominica, St. Lucia and Grenada. You’ll experience all that the Caribbean is famous for, such as spectacular beaches, jungle-covered volcanoes, distinctive cultural mixes and European-legacy colonial towns.

We don’t do traditional cruises where onboard entertainment is the order of the day. Your expedition comes with a host of activities that will help you learn more about the unique cultures and dazzling biodiversity of the Caribbean. You’ll enjoy in-depth lectures from our Expedition Team, take part in citizen science programmes, go on nature walks, and choose optional excursions to enrich your adventure.

From Panama to Barbados - Expedition cruise to the Southern Caribbean From Panama to Barbados - Expedition cruise to the Southern Caribbean
  • Day 1
    Colón, Panama

    Gateway to the Panama Canal

    16 April 2023

    Your tropical expedition cruise starts here in the bustling port city of Colon. Situated at the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal, Colón is a popular stop for cruises going to the Caribbean. Attractions here include hot springs, a thriving handicraft scene and some great restaurants with local delicacies.

    If you only have a few hours, pick out some souvenirs for friends and family from one of the colourful shops before you embark on your journey. With one of the largest duty-free zones in the world and a thriving arts and crafts scene, there’s plenty of buying opportunities here.

    With numerous walking trails and picnic spots, Fort San Lorenzo makes for a good day trip. Located at the mouth of the Chagres River, the old Spanish fortress offers commanding views of the sea, and birdwatching opportunities in a beautiful setting.

    If you want to explore more of Panama, opt for one of our Pre-Programmes. Spend three nights at a peaceful jungle lodge next to the Chagres River. During your stay, you’ll visit a rainforest centre and a farm involved in reforestation. You’ll also explore the jungle on a night boat safari, and lap up views of the area by cable car. 

    Alternatively, enjoy an overnight stay in Panama City and visit the UNESCO site of Casco Viejo. Stroll its rustic cobblestone streets and plazas, admiring the architecture of colonial churches, mansions and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Linger at a cafe and try some of the local speciality coffee and cocoa, before transferring to Colón.

    Once on board MS Fram, you’ll pick up your complimentary expedition jacket, locate your cabin, explore the ship and attend a mandatory safety drill. After dinner and a welcome toast by the Captain, your exciting adventure will get underway.

    Day 1
    Colón, Panama

    Gateway to the Panama Canal

  • Day 2
    San Blas Islands, Panamá

    Exploration day at Guna Yala islands

    17 April 2023

    Hidden on the Caribbean coast of Panama, the San Blas islands are one of the world’s best-preserved mangrove and coral ecosystems. They’re made up of hundreds of islands, islets and cays, of which the indigenous Guna people inhabit roughly 50. Granted political and economic autonomy, they live much as their ancestors did in small wooden dwellings, and their integration with nature has helped this region preserve its beauty and biodiversity.

    Although their villages are barely sixty miles from the bustling financial district of Panama City and the neon lights of Colon, the Guna live at their own pace. Only accepting ecologically friendly tourism and shunning mass-market cruise ships, they have preserved their culture and ancestral traditions up to this day.

    Our plan for the day is to land on one of the islands in the archipelago. Prepare for the peace and tranquillity of a genuine paradise: no hotels, no crowds, no roads and no noise pollution. Meet the Guna people and discover their matriarchal society. For generations, the Guna women have been the primary food distributors, property owners and decision-makers. Seeing them make their signature colourful scarves and fabrics is always a highlight.

    For nature lovers and sun worshippers alike, the San Blas islands offer the best of best worlds. Savor the sight and sound of verdant palm groves reverberating with birdsong. Enjoy swimming or snorkelling in the crystal-clear water gently lapping the sandy beaches. or grab a local brew, find a hammock in the shade, and enjoy the scenery of this place that’s often called the ‘Pearl of the Caribbean.’

    • Included The Realm of the Gunas
    Day 2
    San Blas Islands, Panamá

    Exploration day at Guna Yala islands

  • Day 3
    Santa Marta, Colombia

    Colonial heritage and tropical jungles

    18 April 2023

    Get ready to explore one of South America’s oldest towns. Founded in 1525, Santa Marta was an ideal launchpad for Spain’s conquest of Colombia. Surrounded by beautiful beaches and picture-book hills and mountains, Santa Marta is undoubtedly one of the most attractive towns in the country. As you explore this former Spanish outpost, you’ll discover a place packed full of history, beauty and charm.

    Stroll around the central Parque Bolivar with its impressive statue of libertador Simón Bolívar, the hero of Latin American independence. You’ll also find the 18th Century Cathedral Santa Marta and many well-preserved colonial and republican houses. Look for the 17th Century Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, where Bolívar spent his last days. Adjacent is Jardín Botánico, a beautiful botanical garden containing many colourful plants native to the region.

    For a comprehensive overview of the history of Santa Marta and its surroundings, head for the fantastic Tayrona Gold Museum. Located in the old colonial-style Customs House, the museum contains magnificent golden artefacts and an impressive collection of Tayrona objects.

    Southeast from Santa Marta is the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the highest coastal mountain range in the world. Rising sharply 18,942 feet above the Caribbean Sea, it contains several climatic zones, from tropical to glacial.

    Your gateway to accessing the natural beauty surrounding Santa Marta is the Tayrona National Natural Park, the original homeland of the indigenous Tayrona people. The park features miles of golden sands on one side, lush rainforest on the other and the picturesque figure of Sierra Nevada towering in the background. Whether you’re seeking contemplation and rest or adventures of the thrill-seeking variety, you’ll be spoilt for choice in this magnificent piece of the Columbian coastline.

    Day 3
    Santa Marta, Colombia

    Colonial heritage and tropical jungles

  • Day 4
    Guajira Peninsula, Colombia

    Exploration day at the Guajira Peninsula

    19 April 2023

    On the Guajira Peninsula, Punta Gallinas, literally ‘Chickens Point’, wins the trophy for being the northernmost tip of South America. In geographical terms, this is Colombia’s Cape Horn. Any other similarity with its southern partner ends here, however. The Guajira Peninsula is a slice of desert landscape amidst the tropical Caribbean coast.

    The eerily spartan landscapes of the Guajira Peninsula are the homeland of the Wayúu people. Numbering close to 150,000, they represent half of the region’s population and have closely maintained their ancestral customs and values. Proud of their culture and independence, they never surrendered to the Spanish conquistadores.

    More challenging to explore than the rest of the Caribbean shoreline, the coasts of the Guajira Peninsula are open to the Caribbean Sea and are exposed to wind swell. There are also only a few sheltered bays deep enough for even small ships to anchor safely. This means local conditions will rule the day and influence what activities we’ll do.

    We’ll try to round the northern tip of South America, sailing past the lighthouse of Punta Gallinas. Weather permitting, we’ll attempt to anchor at Cabo de la Vela, Columbia’s windsurfing capital. Renowned for its spectacular landscape, it’s home to a captivating mix of rocky cliffs, arid plains dotted with cacti, and a calm, paradisaic beach. Nearby, the famous landmark of Pilón de Azucar offers sweeping views of the ocean and desert.

    Day 4
    Guajira Peninsula, Colombia

    Exploration day at the Guajira Peninsula

  • Day 5
    Kralendijk, Bonaire

    A glimpse of the Dutch Caribbean

    20 April 2023

    Today we’ll call at Kralendijk, the bright and colourful capital of Bonaire, a Dutch island located just north of Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. Bonaire and neighbouring Aruba and Curaçao have a long association with Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese settlers. The result is an exhilarating cultural mix with elements from the Old and New World.

    Kralendijk is a sizeable yet charming village located midway along the island’s boomerang-shaped coast. Ideally sized to be explored on foot, the historical centre has one main street parallel with the sea. Getting lost is something you won’t have to worry about. Browse the craft markets on every street or head for the produce market near the pier.

    It’s an easy walk to vibrant Fort Oranje, Bonaire’s oldest structure. Built by the Dutch in 1639, it has served several functions over the years, except for its intended purpose as a military fortification. Nearby, Bestuurskantoor will give many government offices a run for their many in their money in the looks department. Painted in an eye-popping yellow, this historic building is a fine example of Dutch Caribbean architecture.

    Less than five minutes’ walk from Fort Oranje, Terramar Museum displays the best archaeological collection of the island, covering more than 7,000 years of Bonaire and Caribbean history. Well organised and informative, it’s a must-visit if you’re interested in Caribbean culture and history.

    If you want to explore Bonaire further, join one of our optional excursions. Soak up the island’s natural beauty on a nature walk and see some historic landmarks. You can also scan for birds, including flamingos, at the many Ramsar sites across the island.

    Day 5
    Kralendijk, Bonaire

    A glimpse of the Dutch Caribbean

  • Day 6
    At sea

    Bound for the Lesser Antilles

    21 April 2023

    After five days of adventure, you’ll be grateful for the opportunity to recharge your batteries on your comfortable expedition ship. Start the day with some yoga or join the Expedition Team for lectures on topics varying from wildlife and geology to indigenous peoples and the general history of the Caribbean.

    Sea days are also the perfect time to get up to speed with what’s happening in the Science Center. Our access to some of the world’s most remote areas enables us to provide the scientific community with precious data. We invite you to take part in these Citizen Science projects.

    For example, as we sail, the Expedition Team might be taking Secchi disk samples of the water. These samples contain plankton, which is the basis of the oceanic food chain. Their distribution, abundance, and seasonality are sensitive to climate change. Our efforts help the scientific community keep abreast of these changes and their overall impact on the ocean. It’s this level of engagement that sets our expeditions apart from a traditional cruise.

    Feel free to spend time out on the deck enjoying the fresh sea air as you scout for wildlife. After a sumptuous dinner, relax in the elegant Explorer Lounge or take advantage of the light pollution free skies to do some stargazing.

    Day 6
    At sea

    Bound for the Lesser Antilles

  • Day 7
    Portsmouth, Dominica

    Explore ‘Nature Island’

    22 April 2023

    The Lesser Antilles island chain starts at the Virgin Islands and continues through the eastern Caribbean all the way down to Trinidad and Tobago. Our port of call for today is Dominica, sandwiched between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. If you’re looking for a mountain paradise by the sea, Dominica is the place - there are more mountains, volcanoes, and jungles here than anywhere else in the Lesser Antilles.

    With two thirds of the island wild and densely forested, Dominica is green and luxuriant, covered by lush mountain rainforests. Volcanic activity has given birth to a dramatic, rugged landscape boasting a variety of volcanic wonders. Boiling Lake, the world’s second largest thermally active lake is here. So are Morne Diablotins, the second highest mountain in the Lesser Antilles, and Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Portsmouth, our stop for the day, is ideally located to explore the natural wonders of Dominica. Closest to our landing site is the headland of La Pointe and the historical remains of 18th Century Fort Shirley, both part of Cabrits National Park. The tropical forest, swamps and sandy beaches of Cabrits National Park are an excellent place for nature walks and birdwatching.

    See more of Dominica’s natural wonders on an optional excursion. You’ll learn about the traditions and customs of the locals. The island still has a community of indigenous Caribs, most of whom live on the eastern side. Dominica is nicknamed ‘Nature Island’, and by the time you head back to the ship, you’ll know why.

    • Included Cabrits Historical & Fort Shirley
    Day 7
    Portsmouth, Dominica

    Explore ‘Nature Island’

  • Day 8
    Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia

    Land of iguanas

    23 April 2023

    Before Christopher Columbus named it after Lucia of Syracuse, St. Lucia’s original inhabitants had given it a more descriptive name - Land of Iguanas. St. Lucia’s stunning volcanic landscape is a dream destination for many explorers. It’s blessed with lush rainforest, towering volcanoes, and many endemic plants and animals, including - as you’d expect - iguanas.

    We aim to anchor in St. Lucia’s northern tip at Rodney Bay. The bay is named after Admiral George Brydges Rodney, who won the Battle of Saintes for England in 1782. Remains of Rodney’s fortifications can be seen at Pigeon Island National Landmark, situated within walking distance of our landing site.

    Despite its name, Pigeon Island is a peninsula. It’s the perfect setting for a nature walk and will reward you with panoramic views of the ocean and the chance to learn about the island’s colonial past. When you’ve finished exploring, you can swim or sunbathe on either one of its two beaches.

    If you choose to explore the village of Rodney Bay, you’ll discover one of the biggest marinas in the Caribbean and one of the region’s most popular yachting destinations. Built around a man-made lagoon, the marina has been beautifully landscaped. With many restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries, you’ll have plenty to do. Of course, no one will blame you if you simply opt to relax on the gorgeous beach! 

    To delve deeper into St. Lucia, join one of our optional excursions around the island. Only 27 miles in length, you can cover most of the highlights in a day.  Much of the rainforest-covered mountains of the southern half of the island are within range for nature walks and birdwatching.

    Day 8
    Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia

    Land of iguanas

  • Day 9
    St George’s, Grenada

    Spice Island adventure

    24 April 2023

    You’ll find there are numerous places in the world named after Granada, the Spanish city famed for the Moorish Alhambra palace. The lush volcanic island we’re visiting today bears no resemblance to its Iberian namesake, however. Dubbed ‘Spice Island’, Grenada is green and mountainous, densely forested and half-covered in nutmeg plantations. Circled by soft white sandy beaches, it’s the idyllic Caribbean paradise you’ve always dreamed of visiting.

    We’ll call at St. George’s, Grenada’s vibrant and welcoming capital. The town is renowned for its attractive horseshoe-shaped harbour and its colourful pastel-painted Georgian buildings covered by red tiles. The Carenage is St. George’s lively waterfront walkway, winding around Grenada’s inner harbour. Wharf Road rims the Carenage with shops, restaurants, and offers great views of boats coming and going.

    Most of St George’s architectural highlights are within walking distance of Wharf Road. Look for York House, the Georgian-style parliament building which Hurricane Ivan destroyed in 2004. The 19th Century Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Presbyterian church of St Andrew, and the Anglican Church of St George’s complete the trio of historic church buildings worth seeing.

    Wander around the lively food market held daily in Market Square, selling everything from fruits to exotic spices. Continue to the National Museum, housed in a former army barrack. It features exhibits covering Grenada’s long history from the Caribs to the 2004 hurricane. Head to Fort George, built by the French in 1706 to protect the entrance to the Carenage. It’s the perfect vantage point for postcard views of the inner harbour.

    To see more of Grenada, join one of our optional excursions. You’ll uncover the history of its plantations and learn about traditional agricultural life. Wildlife abounds in the central highlands. Densely covered by rainforest, it’s the perfect place for nature walks and birdwatching.

    Day 9
    St George’s, Grenada

    Spice Island adventure

  • Day 10
    Bridgetown, Barbados

    Disembarkation in Barbados

    25 April 2023

    Your expedition comes to an end in Barbados, the easternmost island in the Caribbean. Fully independent since 1966, Barbados is a young, English-speaking country which a colourful history. Settled first by the Arawaks, then the Caribs, it was invaded by the Spanish, named by the Portuguese, and eventually colonised by British emigrants and West African slaves.

    Our ship will dock at Bridgetown, the island’s capital, known affectionately by the locals as ‘Town’. With an attractive mix of old and new, Bridgetown’s historical centre is compact enough to be enjoyed on foot. It features outstanding examples of British colonial architecture from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and UNESCO-listed buildings worthy of exploration.

    If you have time before flying home, explore Old Bridgetown. Stroll around the inner harbour of the Careenage and take in the UNESCO-listed Parliament Buildings, amongst the oldest in the English-speaking world. Head to the Garrison Historic Area, where more than 70 original buildings and forts from the 18th Century stand. If you want to sink your teeth into the island’s history, Barbados Museum is the place to go.

    There’s more to Barbados than Bridgetown, however. The island is blessed with charming fishing ports, old plantation houses, historic distilleries, marvellous beaches, and deep caves filled with dramatic formations. Much more than can be seen in a day, so why not extend your stay with our Post-Programme.

    Whether you choose to head straight home or linger a while, we look forward to welcoming you again soon.

    Day 10
    Bridgetown, Barbados

    Disembarkation in Barbados

Departures

2023

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April:
16.

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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, indoor gym 
  • Yoga and meditation sessions with an instructor
  • 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 trekking poles and all equipment for activities 
  • Complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket 
  • Expedition Photographers help with your camera settings before landings 

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
Ship yard 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.

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Icebergs – one of many favorite photo motives when on an expedition with MS Fram
Photo: Tomas Mauch

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