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  #1  
Old January 23rd, 2012, 02:52 PM
GizFriend GizFriend is offline
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Default Anyone have recent experience with My Friend Mario?

We're going on a Panama Canal cruise on Celebrity Infinity in Ocotber 2012. I've read the boards, but have not seen recent postings about My Friend Mario tours. His tour from Colon that goes to the Miraflores locks and Panama City sounds more interesting than the ship tours. But I'd like recent feedback. We are doing a full transit, so not considering the ferry tour through the canal. We would really like to see and learn more about the canal and the locks. I can't find any tour that goes to both Gatun and Miraflores locks. Does anyone know of any?
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  #2  
Old January 24th, 2012, 09:23 PM
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We just returned from a cruise that stopped in Colon, Panama. We used Mario. Very, very pleased with them. We had no issues, and felt like they went above and beyond with their service. Mario has several options, the one that we did went to the Canal, Rainforest, and Fort.
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  #3  
Old January 25th, 2012, 07:46 AM
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Thanks. It's helpful to hear a current opinion. Glad you had fun. We still haven't decided what to do yet, but still have over 7 months!
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  #4  
Old January 25th, 2012, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by GizFriend View Post
Thanks. It's helpful to hear a current opinion. Glad you had fun. We still haven't decided what to do yet, but still have over 7 months!
Gives you more time to look forward to it!

We did the train and bus from Colon to PC and back. Since it was a slow day, we got to ride the train both directions. Very interesting. Whether you ride the train or take My Friend Mario, be sure to have the guide point out the prison where Noriega now lives. It's an absolute dump.

Have fun!
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  #5  
Old January 25th, 2012, 09:13 PM
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Did my friend Mario and was very happy with service, we had Elvis as a guide and he was full of great information, answered all of our questions. We did canal, fort and beach. Had a wonderful lunch at beach and drinks..You can not go wrong with My friend Mario...
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  #6  
Old January 26th, 2012, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by GizFriend View Post
I've read the boards, but have not seen recent postings about My Friend Mario tours. His tour from Colon that goes to the Miraflores locks and Panama City sounds more interesting than the ship tours. But I'd like recent feedback. We are doing a full transit, so not considering the ferry tour through the canal.
I have a full transit booked with Mario on March 10th. I will try to remember to post a review here when I get back.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 03:18 PM
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We have just returned from our cruise and we used Mario in Panama. We did the tour that goes out to the Embera Indian Village and then the Canal. This was an amazing tour and I would HIGHLY recommend it! We took dug out canoes to the Indian village and they were primitive canoes. It was an adventure getting there and back but so much fun. The Embera Indians and their village was so nice to see, I know none of us will forget it. This tour also included a trip to the falls but we didn't do this part of the tour. You can feel good about going with My Friend Mario. It was a very well run operation!
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  #8  
Old February 17th, 2012, 04:00 PM
Kazron Kazron is offline
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Can you please advise how to contact Mario as we are in Colon 30 Mar 12 on the Infinity doing full transit and was wondering if he can help
Regards
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Old February 17th, 2012, 07:33 PM
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Can you please advise how to contact Mario as we are in Colon 30 Mar 12 on the Infinity doing full transit and was wondering if he can help
Regards
http://www.myfriendmario.com/
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  #10  
Old February 20th, 2012, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Quasar1011 View Post
I have a full transit booked with Mario on March 10th. I will try to remember to post a review here when I get back.
I'll be interested in your review. We'll have several weeks left before we leave by the time you get back, and I just can't make up my mind about how to manage my Panama time. We get in about 2:00 on Saturday and head for the ship on Sunday. The following Sunday, we'll be going through a reboarding process for the 3-day cruise to Miami, but we have till 3 before she sails, so I'm thinking taht's the best time to visit the locks.

There's certainly no time in there to do a full transit, and not sure a partial transit is important to me either (altho DD is interested). But I absolutely want to visit the locks.
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  #11  
Old February 21st, 2012, 03:22 PM
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Well there is more than 1 set of locks. You'll have to figure out if you have the time to visit the Gatun Locks, near Colon; or the Miraflores locks near Panama City. There's also the smaller Pedro Miguel locks.

Which city are you staying in on that Saturday night?
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  #12  
Old February 29th, 2012, 01:30 PM
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Well there is more than 1 set of locks. You'll have to figure out if you have the time to visit the Gatun Locks, near Colon; or the Miraflores locks near Panama City. There's also the smaller Pedro Miguel locks.

Which city are you staying in on that Saturday night?
We'll be in Panama City Saturday night.
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  #13  
Old March 3rd, 2012, 12:43 PM
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Default Problem for us

For the first time we decided to take a private tour rather than a ship's tour on our most recent cruise. We finished our Panama Canal cruise last Tuesday aboard the Coral Princess. After much research we booked the City Tour with My Friend Mario. We wanted to see the museum at the Miraflores Locks as well as some of the historic sites of the Canal. The tour also gave us a little time before sail-a-way to look in some shops,etc.

He answered promptly and sent a confirmation which I printed and brought with me. HOWEVER, he booked us for the wrong tour - the Rainforest, Gatun Locks, and Fort. The tour we wanted was not running and it was too late to do anything else. Also, the tour we took was a full day and we had to board the ship as soon as we returned.

Our tour guide was very good - Rey - and the tour was fine BUT it was not the tour we wanted. Another couple had booked the Embera tour but had never received a confirmation so they had to take the same tour as us or also have nothing to do.

I would say, be sure to confirm and reconfirm and bring your confirmation with you. The tour we ended up taking cost more than the one we had booked. Because we had the confirmation, they charged us less. The other couple wasn't so lucky.
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  #14  
Old March 6th, 2012, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by zogrand View Post
For the first time we decided to take a private tour rather than a ship's tour on our most recent cruise. We finished our Panama Canal cruise last Tuesday aboard the Coral Princess. After much research we booked the City Tour with My Friend Mario. We wanted to see the museum at the Miraflores Locks as well as some of the historic sites of the Canal. The tour also gave us a little time before sail-a-way to look in some shops,etc.

He answered promptly and sent a confirmation which I printed and brought with me. HOWEVER, he booked us for the wrong tour - the Rainforest, Gatun Locks, and Fort. The tour we wanted was not running and it was too late to do anything else. Also, the tour we took was a full day and we had to board the ship as soon as we returned.

Our tour guide was very good - Rey - and the tour was fine BUT it was not the tour we wanted. Another couple had booked the Embera tour but had never received a confirmation so they had to take the same tour as us or also have nothing to do.

I would say, be sure to confirm and reconfirm and bring your confirmation with you. The tour we ended up taking cost more than the one we had booked. Because we had the confirmation, they charged us less. The other couple wasn't so lucky.
I did a tour with My Friend Mario from Fuerta Amador. The Coral Princess tendered ashore (2/22). Our tour went to the Gatun Locks, a rain forest, and a fort for $60. It was an all day tour but made it back to the tenders on time. Getting off the ship was the most difficult task of the day. We were told to meet our guide outside the port, but Rey met us inside with our names printed out. There were 12 of us on a mini van. 2 were added the same day.

Our driver was fantastic and spotted 2 different sloths in road side trees. Unfortunately, we did not see any monkeys. We even stopped when Mario drove by...he is a young, but real guy.

We had a good amount of time at the Gatun Locks observation deck, but did not get into the working section.

I would not hesitate to use Mario again. Be sure to specify what tour you want.

Have a fantastic tour.

Renee
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  #15  
Old March 18th, 2012, 10:38 AM
seaofwonder seaofwonder is offline
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We booked several things with Mario. Our airport - hotel transfer went smoothly. However, we booked a partial transit tour for an 8:30 AM pick-up from our hotel. He called at 8:35 to say that their boat was broken (not his fault) and he was trying to rebook us with a different company. He said he would call back in 20 minutes. We waited over an hour and he never called. We tried to call the number he gave and it wasn't working. We finally gave up and had our hotel book with someone else.

Had a fabulous tour with our new guide and fired Mario for our hotel-ship transfer.

Not pleased at all with the customer service. He should have offered to rebook us on an alternate tour. The only alternative he offered was to do the tour on Sunday before we got onboard and I was not willing to risk that and there was no guarantee the boat would be fixed.

I'll also be leaving a review on Tripadvisor.
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  #16  
Old March 22nd, 2012, 09:35 AM
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We booked several things with Mario. Our airport - hotel transfer went smoothly. However, we booked a partial transit tour for an 8:30 AM pick-up from our hotel. He called at 8:35 to say that their boat was broken (not his fault) and he was trying to rebook us with a different company. He said he would call back in 20 minutes. We waited over an hour and he never called. We tried to call the number he gave and it wasn't working.
I had a similar experience. After a smooth transit of the canal, we were bused back to Fuerte Amador. Mario's driver was supposed to meet us there. He did not show up. We tried 4 different phone numbers to reach them, but none of them were working.

Quote:
Originally Posted by twiggers View Post
Had a fabulous tour with our new guide and fired Mario for our hotel-ship transfer.
We kept our hotel-ship transfer. Our new driver apologized for the mixup the previous night. She then gave us $10 off our transfer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by twiggers View Post
Not pleased at all with the customer service.
I wasn't pleased with being left at the dock either. We had to pay for a taxi to get back to the hotel. I was mad at the time. However, an hour later, my wife went into a casino 2 blocks from our hotel, and won $1400! If Mario hadn't abandoned us at Fuerte Amador, that may not have happened.

If you go with My Friend Mario, I'd strongly recommend that you get a working telephone number for them, in case something happens with your pickup.
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  #17  
Old March 26th, 2012, 10:59 PM
seaofwonder seaofwonder is offline
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Back from our cruise. Found out that he told a BIG lie to us and our friends who were also cruising.

He told us the boat was broken. He told them that it sailed earlier and they missed it. They later went to Miraflores and saw the boat going through the locks.

We now think they overbooked.

Would NEVER recommend that anyone book with them.
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  #18  
Old March 27th, 2012, 07:09 AM
Richard in Panama Richard in Panama is offline
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We are doing a full transit, so not considering the ferry tour through the canal. We would really like to see and learn more about the canal and the locks. I can't find any tour that goes to both Gatun and Miraflores locks
.

There are lots of good tours available through the ship and with private operators. You are doing a full transit so you will get the best experience and view of the locks possible! YOU are going through both locks on INFINITY which is quite an experience! Hopefully the guests won't eat too much so you will squeeze through! The observation areas at both Gatun and Miraflores don't begin to compare with what you will see and experience from the ship as you transit the Canal, so take advantage of the opportunity to see something else of Panama. The museum at Miraflores Visitor Center is so so. The better museum IMHO is the Interoceanic Canal Museum in the historic Casco Viejo part of Panama City, but I don't personally know of tours that go there.

For more about the Canal do your homework! Read! My book, McCullough's classic, others. . . CRUISING THE PANAMA CANAL, THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, THE CANAL BUILDERS, PANAMA FEVER. Check out the Panama Canal Web site www.pancanal.com The more you know before you go the more you will enjoy the entire experience!

Regards, Richard
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Old March 27th, 2012, 04:27 PM
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Our experince on March 17th was horrible. Mario called our suite 15 minutes prior to the time to pick us up and as the phone was not working left us a message at the front desk. I called back within 5 minutes. He claims that the ship informed him it was leaving earlier that day only that morning. So I said cut to the chase, what is the deal and he said the boat had sailed but we could go the next day. Since that was the day of our cruise, that was not acceptable.

But we were at the Country Inn and Suites on the entrance to the canal. I went out to watch ships and what do I see but 2 boats that are carrying people for the partial transit, and due to the people on the ships and how they looked, it was very obvious this was the tour. They were over packed with no seating at all. Then we decided to go to the visitors center at the Meleflores Locks since this fell through and there were the boats in the locks. Again it was easy to see they were packed. My belief is that he over booked and then since we were the only ones at our hotel he did not want to come and get us and thought he could get away with this. Turns out I had been chatting with Twiggers, who has also posted here, and when we meet on the ship they were told the ship was "broken" and could not make the transit. That was when it became very obvious that he lied about it to both of us thinking we would not meet up.

The man at the desk at our hotel told us that these ships do not change time and at the locks they told us the ships have to pay 48 hours in advance to do the locks. I would definitely warn anyone off from using Mario. He is only good if he wants to be. Not professional at all.
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  #20  
Old March 29th, 2012, 06:35 PM
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They were over packed with no seating at all. Then we decided to go to the visitors center at the Meleflores Locks since this fell through and there were the boats in the locks. Again it was easy to see they were packed. My belief is that he over booked and then since we were the only ones at our hotel he did not want to come and get us and thought he could get away with this.
I managed to get on the ferry, Pacific Queen, through My Friend Mario on March 10th. Our driver paid for our tickets at the dock. The ferry company has its own website here: http://www.pmatours.net/pacific-quee...ansit-tour.htm It lists a full transit at $165, and a partial at $115 per person. How these 2 companies are connected is unclear. I too didn't have a fully satisfactory experience, as Mario's driver did not show up at Fuerte Amador to drive us back to our hotel, like he told he would do.

While we were in the first lock, there was another ferry that entered with us, so there are at least 2 ferries that do these transits.
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