There is a great little flea market and shops in the cruise terminal, but I wouldn't suggest that you try to visit the town of Colon on your own. The cruise line should offer some tours while docked there and that would be the smartest chyoice if you want to leave the immediate area of the cruise terminal.
The stop is bsically designed just for picking up passengers that did shore excursions at Gatun Lake. Often tours begin at the Gatun Lake Yacht Club and end in Colon. As Tom suggests, just get off the ship for a short time to wander the terminal shopping area, but don't venture out on your own.
The cruise line should actually warn you against leaving the little market area that is right down the gangway. If you want to grab some gifts or souveniers from Panama this is a great place and I found everyone to be very friendly there but I agree that this is really just a stop designed to pick up people who took the tours ealier in the day. There isn't anything else to do at all. (And the market does not take long to go through.)
Thank you for the info.In our trip we will have come through the canal from the pacific our last stop would have been in Costa Rica.Will find out from Princess what the purpose is of this stop if it is not a safe place ?
There are a number of great tours along the Panama Canal. You can see the entire canal via helicopter, train, motor coach and small boats, visit Panama City, go peacock bass fishing in Lake Gatun, visit rain forests and so on. Most of these tours start in the morning and finish in the late afternoon at the cruise terminal in Colon. The ships usually make their way down the Gatun locks and then cruise to the Colon cruise terminal to pick up the passengers returning from their tours. Basically, it is alsways a short stop just for the purpose of picking passengers up.
However there are always some folks that stay on the ship in lieu of taking a tour so they spend the most time in Colon. Hence the marketplace, restaurants, bars and entertainment in the cruise terminal.
It isn't that Colon isn't safe, it is just that there is really nothing to see there that is of interest to tourists. The city is not a tourist destination and there is no infrastructure to support tourism. Most folks that venture into Colon make it back to the cruise terminal within minutes, many without even getting out of the taxi.