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Cruises That Go Through The Panama Canal

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Panama Canal Cruise Options

If Id Known This, Id Have Done A Panama Canal Cruise Sooner

The Panama Canal is a popular cruise destination. It stretches from the city of Balboa through Cristobal in Central America. The man-made canal allows for easy travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the modern marvel in engineering is also classified as one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, as described by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Consequently, there are a number of cruise options to choose from. Several major cruise lines travel through the Panama Canal, each offering a distinct itinerary for its passengers.

To find a full list of cruises available, visit Holland Americas website.

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Featured Ports Of Call

Panama Canal, Panama

As you cruise through the Panama Canal, youll be able to admire this extraordinary feat of human achievement and at the same time, lush natural beauty. Witness the dramatic rise and fall of the water as youre levered tier by tier through the locks that carry around 40 ships per day from the Caribbean to the Pacific and vice versa. Sail past tranquil forest around Gatun Lake, looking out for birdlife. Before you enter the canal, explore the historic port of Colon, where youll find great duty-free shopping in the Colon Free Trade Zone.

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena de Las Indias is one of Colombias most vibrant cities, with a perfectly preserved 16th century center thats a joy to wander around. Explore the leafy squares, cobblestone streets and colorful homes, flowers cascading over their balconies. Tour the old Spanish fort of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas and sample street foods like delicious corn arepas and empanadas as you listen to salsa music filling the air. Or head out of town and treat yourself to a rejuvenating mud bath at the El Totumo volcano, and then cool off in the waters of La Boquilla Beach.

Oranjestad, Aruba

Sail The Path Between The Seas

Immerse yourself in nature and discover the colonial gems of Central America. Relax in serene surroundings in Cozumel and discover Belizes Mayan civilization. In Honduras, take a stroll along idyllic beaches, and explore the lush rainforests of Costa Rica. Embark on a crossing of Panamas famed canal, and witness centuries-old tribal life as you experience the traditions of the Emberá people.

Immerse yourself in nature and discover the colonial gems of Central America. Relax in serene surroundings in Cozumel and discover Belizes Mayan civilization. In Honduras, take a stroll along idyllic beaches, and explore the lush rainforests of Costa Rica. Embark on a crossing of Panamas famed canal, and witness centuries-old tribal life as you experience the traditions of the Emberá people.

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Panama Canal Cruise To Costa Rica

During your Panama canal cruise you’ll get the opportunity to stop off in Costa Rica and see the incredible nature that thrives in this beautiful country. In Puntarenas you can expect shore excursions which take you to the Tabacon Hot Springs on an active volcano, a walk through the cloud forest or a hike through La Paz waterfall gardens. Puerto Limon is another port of call in Costa Rica and offers the opportunity to see the local wildlife, such as tortoises, crocodiles and monkeys, as well as a ride on an aerial tramway or a white-water raft ride if you’re up for a thrill.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Highlights

Panama Canal Cruises
  • An incredible company that has been in operation since 1969.
  • A well-known name in the cruise line industry, with service standards that accompany their length of time in the industry.
  • Winner of a plethora of service awards, including Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean,Best Cruise Line Overall, and Best Cruise Ship Symphony of the Seas.
  • Amazing rooms in various sizes available for all of your accommodation needs and party sizes.
  • Breathtaking views, offering you uninterrupted views of the water, the shores, and all of the beautiful sights of each destination.
  • Unmatched customer service to make your trip a relaxing and unforgettable experience.
  • Knowledgeable tour guides to accompany you to places that you might have never heard of.
  • Lots of space to explore and get to know the ship.

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Panama Canal Partial Transit: Pros And Cons

Partial transits, tend to be shorter than full transits at 10 or 11 nights in length. Because they are round trip cruises, you can book round trip airfare to the Florida gateways and still travel to exotic destinations.

Most partial transits combine the stop in Panama with visits to Caribbean islands, Central American destinations and/or South American ports. Passengers who purchase ship-sold shore excursions can be dropped off at Gatun Lake after passing through the first three locks to continue touring on land, meeting up with the ship back in Colon.

This can be a pro or a con depending on your viewpoint. On the plus side, you get to combine sailing through the locks with a land tour to Panama City, a ride on the Panama Canal Railway or even a boat cruise through the Miraflores Locks. On the negative side, you must book a ships excursion to disembark, and if you do so, you wont be sailing onboard the cruise ship back through the locks .

Another potential drawback is that far fewer cruise lines offer partial transits. The main players here are Princess and Norwegian, who regularly offer these round trip sailings. If youre looking for a more luxury experience, youll need to choose a full transit.

Panama Canal Cruises Travel Tips

  • Consider traveling during the off-season, as it is less packed and generally more affordable.
  • Do not carry around your passport, but you should have an ID with you.
  • Always use bug spray when you are there, the bugs can be tough to get through.
  • Don’t be startled or alarmed to hear random fireworks go off.
  • Do not go into unfamiliar places alone or during the nighttime hours.
  • U.S. money is accepted throughout all of Panama.
  • A lot of the beaches in Panama are remote.
  • Make sure to pack shorts, sandals, and drink plenty of water.

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Panama Canal Cruise Holidays

Everyone should sail through the Panama Canal at least once. It is a remarkable experience and a moving one when you know the mixture of tragedy and triumph, French farce and financial meltdown which went into its building. The French spent 20 fruitless years trying to build a canal Suez-style straight through the land.

Then the Americans tried a lock-based canal and, between 1903 and 1914, completed the waterway that stands today. Look out for memorial plaques to the thousands who died in its creation, mainly of diseases rife in the forests and swamps through which the canal was forged. It is 50 miles long and, from the Caribbean side, your ship will be lifted 85ft by the Gatun Locks into Gatun Lake. She then negotiates the narrow Gaillard Cut to the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks which lower her back down to the level of the Pacific, which you first see stretching out on the other side of the towering Bridge of the Americas.

The Direction Of The Panama Canal

Sail through history at the Panama Canal – Princess Cruises

The Panama Canal lies within the Isthmus of Panama, the portion of land that bridges North and South America and contains Panama. The shape of the Isthmus of Panama and the angle at which the Canal dissects it make for a complicated and unexpected trip for ships hoping to take advantage of this shortcut.

Transportation travels in the opposite direction of what you might assume. Ships traveling from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean go in a northwest direction. Ships traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean go in a southeast direction.

On the Atlantic side, the entrance to the Panama Canal is near the city of Colón at about 9° 18 N, 79° 55 W. On the Pacific side, the entrance is near Panama City at about 8° 56 N, 79° 33 W. These coordinates prove that if the journey were traveled in a straight line, it would be a north-south route. Of course, this is not the case.

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Keep An Eye On The Weather

While some cruise lines continue to operate in the Panama Canal throughout the summer, many close down in anticipation of hurricane season, which runs from June 1st to November 30th in the Atlantic and May 15th to November 30th in the Eastern Pacific, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If you choose to book a cruise during this time frame, its important to pay close attention to any tropical storm warnings and sign up for weather alerts on a mobile device. Its unlikely that your cruise ship will be caught by a severe storm while its at sea, but preparing for the worst can give you significant peace of mind.

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Panama Canal Full Transit: Pros And Cons

For engineering geeks and bucket list travelers, a full transit of the Panama Canal is the only way to go. Most ships take a full day to cross the canal during daylight hours, often getting a very early morning start. Your ship will pass through all six locks , and youll sail through Gatun Lake and the Culebra Cut.

Travelers have lots of choice of cruise lines, from mainstream to luxury, when it comes to full transits. Some lines offer regular crossings, with back-to-back Panama Canal cruises, while others offer full transits only as repositioning cruises, often at the beginning and end of the Alaska cruise season. Some luxury lines might include a Panama Canal crossing as part of a world cruise segment. Windstar and Lindblad Expeditions also offer regular Costa Rica and Panama Canal transits with full crossings.

Panama Canal cruises are offered from late August to May, though be prepared for intense heat if not traveling in the winter . With the exception of Windstars and Lindblads seven-night voyages to Costa Rica and Panama, most full crossings are 14 days or longer, often with lots of sea days. Youll need to be able to take lots of time off and should enjoy a more relaxed pace cruise if you plan on choosing this option.

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Featured Panama Canal Destinations

Panama, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Grand Caymanyou can explore many distinctive destinations on one luxurious vacation.

Panama Canal

This wonder of engineering, first conceived and built over 100 years ago, has changed the shipping and tourism industries. It has brought us all closer and made the world simpler to navigate by allowing an easier flow of goods and people.

Cartagena, Colombia

Founded as an important Spanish port in 1533, the Old Town of Cartagena de Indiasa UNESCO World Heritage Siteremains largely intact behind high stone walls that peer out over the Caribbean. Truly, one of the worlds most beautiful cities.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta maintains a small-town atmosphere, while still boasting one of the most unique and sophisticated ocean fronts in Mexico. The calm, warm waters of the Bay of Banderas make for excellent diving, or you can just watch artists sculpt spectacular creations in the sand. The fine art galleries in El Centro are perfect spots to explore local art.

Hilton Checkers Los Angeles

Island Princess passing through Panama Canal lock. #Cruiseships ...

Less than a mile from The Museum of Contemporary Art, this genteel hotel in a 1920s building is a mile both from the Walt Disney Concert Hall and from the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live.

Relaxed rooms offer flat-screen TVs, marble bathrooms and desks, as well as coffeemakers. Suites add separate living areas.

Less than a mile from The Museum of Contemporary Art, this genteel hotel in a 1920s building is a mile both from the Walt Disney Concert Hall and from the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live.

Relaxed rooms offer flat-screen TVs, marble bathrooms and desks, as well as coffeemakers. Suites add separate living areas. Some include patios and/or fireplaces.

There’s a polished bar and an elegant restaurant. Other amenities include a fitness centre, a business centre and a rooftop terrace, plus meeting and event space.

Distance/Airport: 18 miles

Bellman gratuitiesTransfers between Hotel and Pier

Important Note: Accommodations are based on double occupancy per room. Some accommodation will allow triple and quad guests in a room and are subject to availability and surcharge will apply. Additional hotel rooms to accommodate triple and quads may be required, and surcharge will apply.

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How Many Locks Are In The Panama Canal

12 locksThe Panama Water Lock System consists of a total of three sets of locks-12 locks- to help vessels transit between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans via artificial lakes and channels. Before the canal expansion, which was completed in 2016, the canal had two lines with two sets of the lock at both ends of the canal.Sep 7, 2021

Largest Cruise Ship To Transit The Panama Canal

Norwegian Bliss is now in the record books as the largest cruise ship to transit the Panama Canal. The newest ship for Norwegian Cruise Line, the 4,004 passenger Norwegian Bliss made its North American debut in New York City on May 4-6. From there, Norwegian Bliss cruised the eastern seaboard for another inaugural debut in Miami on May 8-10.

Built with Alaska cruising in mind, Norwegian Bliss charted a course that would take it through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific Ocean.

As scheduled, there will be yet another inaugural event in Los Angeles on May 25-27. Afterwards, the ship will head up the west coast to Seattle. When Norwegian Bliss arrives in Seattle, the official naming ceremony and more festivities are planned for May 30-June 2.

We are very proud to showcase our newest ship and celebrate one more exciting milestone with Norwegian Bliss as the largest passenger ship to transit the new Panama Canal, said Andy Stuart, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line. We are excited for this sixteenth ship in our young and modern fleet to begin welcoming guests in her home port of Seattle and provide them with the outstanding service, dining, entertainment and amenities for which we are recognized.

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Best Month To Cruise To The Panama Canal

A cruise through the Panama Canal, from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean, is a trip of a lifetime for many travelers, who geek out over modern engineering as well as thrill to the extraordinary biodiversity and lush landscapes and rainforests of Central America.

The height of Panama Canal cruise season runs October to April, but the best month to travel will depend on how much you expect to be active and outdoors. The year-round tropical climate of Panama and bordering countries of Costa Rica and Colombia get unbearably hot and humid, with a dry season and a rainy season.

Weve listed the pros and cons of travel by each month so that you can make the best of your Panama Canal cruise. Prices quoted are per person, double occupancy.

Panama Canal Cruise Unlike Any Other


After 105 years, the Panama Canal remains one of the worlds greatest engineering marvels. The best way to fully appreciate its time-tested ingenuity? By crossing the canal on a cruise ship for an absolutely incredible vacation experience.

MIAMI, Oct. 28, 2019 /PRNewswire/ On a cruise through the ingenious 105-year-old Panama Canal, you may find yourself wondering how far the human mind can go in its quest to find solutions.

As your ship slowly traverses the 50-mile manmade shortcut through the jungle between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, howler monkeys screech in the distance and electric mules with ropes guide your ship through a series of locks and gates and across manmade lakes. It is an innovation for the ages, and it is hard not to feel inspired.

On a cruise through the Panama Canal, passengers marvel at the ingenuity of one of the worlds greatest wonders.

A Panama Canal cruise is unlike any other youll experience, says Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of the website Cruise Critic, and a big fan of Panama Canal cruises. The main draw is the actual crossing of the canal, and to be able to do so on a ship is absolutely incredible. You can perch yourself in a viewing area and watch the mechanical marvel front and center. You simply cant replicate that experience with a land visit.

McDaniel says its important to pick the sailing thats right for you, whether you do a full or partial crossing.

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Stick To Guided Shore Excursions

Cruise itineraries provide a wealth of shore excursions that are officially sanctioned by the cruise line, though some passengers want to explore ports of call on their own. Guided tours and activities are typically safer than self-directed outings, as cruise companies are responsible for the health and safety of their passengers during all organized events, whether they’re held onboard or ashore. This accounts for why many cruise lines only work with licensed and reputable tour operators.

Panama Canal Cruise Port Highlights

Puntarenas, Costa Rica. There are so many fabulous encounters with nature available from this port, you’ll have a hard time deciding on a shore excursion. A visit to the Tabacon Resort Hot Springs takes you to the slopes of the active Arenal volcano. The Poas volcano features the amazing sight of a huge crater filled with iridescent blue water. Walk through a cloud forest at Villa Blanca, where you’re surrounded by mist and water droplets clinging to the vegetation. See one of Costa Rica’s renowned rain forests at Pura Vida Gardens, or climb a set of wooden steps up to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Panama Canal. If you’re on a trans-canal trip, enjoy the engineering marvels of your 50-mile journey. The highlights are Lake Gatun, the Gaillard Cut along the Continental Divide and three locks: Gatun on the Atlantic, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores on the Pacific.

Colon, Panama. Those on “partial crossings” or simply docked at Colon might consider completing the crossing in a smaller boat. This popular shore excursion begins at Gamboa, one of the towns along the Canal. It takes passengers through the remaining two Canal locks, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. A motorcoach ride delivers passengers back to their waiting ships at Colon.


Panama Canal cruises often include stops in western Mexico, the Western Caribbean and Southern Caribbean. Read more about these ports in our destinations section.


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