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Do Cruise Ships Go Through The Panama Canal

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Time-lapse Shows How Ships Get Through The Panama Canal

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.

Sailing From The Pacific Ocean

Starting from the Pacific Ocean, here is a;brief description of the journey ships take through the Panama Canal.

  • Ships pass under the Bridge of the Americas in the Gulf of Panama, located in the Pacific Ocean, near Panama City.
  • They then pass through the Balboa Reach and enter the Miraflores Locks where they go through two flights of chambers.
  • Ships cross Miraflores Lake and enter the Pedro Miguel Locks where a single lock lifts them up another level.
  • After passing under the Centennial Bridge, ships sail through the Gaillard or Culebra Cut, a narrow man-made waterway.
  • Ships travel west as they enter Gamboa Reach near the city of Gamboa before turning north at the Barbacoa Turn.
  • Navigating around Barro Colorado Island and again turning north at Orchid Turn, ships finally reach Gatun Lake.
  • Gatun Lake, which was created when dams were built to control water flow during the canal’s construction, is the open expanse where many ships anchor if they cannot travel for any reason or don’t want to travel through the night. The lake’s freshwater is used to fill all of the locks on the canal.
  • Ships travel in a fairly straight path north from Gatun Lake to the Gatun Locks, the three-tiered lock system that lowers them.
  • Finally, ships enter Limon Bay and the Caribbean Sea within the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 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 ship’s excursion to disembark, and if you do so, you won’t 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 you’re looking for a more luxury experience, you’ll need to choose a full transit.

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    Visiting The Panama Canal:

    How to get there: The drive from downtown Panama City to the canal takes approximately 45 minutes, by private car or taxi. Theres a local bus that heads all the way out to the canal, as well as many organized group tours as its considered one of the best day trips from Panama City.

    Where to stay: Those wanting to stay as close to the canal as possible should book at room at the Holiday Inn Panama Canal, which is on the site of the former U.S. base just a two minute drive from the entrance.

    Top tips: Discounts on admission are offered to visitors who visit both the canal and the BioMuseo, which is a top attraction in Panama City.

    When to go: The best time of day to visit the Panama Canal changes daily, depending on when ships are scheduled to go through. While the visitor centre closes at 5 p.m., the on-site restaurant is open until 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Its a great option for visitors whod like to experience the canal at night without any crowds, while enjoying a great meal.


    Read The Panama Canal Authority’s Full March 27 Statement:


    Holland America’s ship Zaandam arrived Friday, March 27 to Panamanian waters. Like all vessels that use the Panama Canal, the Zaandam had to comply with the regulations on health and prevention of contagious diseases.;Following protocol of Panama’s Ministry of Health, if a vessel has individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 on board, it cannot make any port operations or transit the Canal.;All ships transiting the Panama Canal require personnel, including line handlers, boarding officers, and Panama Canal pilots, to board the ship throughout the transit in order to ensure a safe passage throughout the waterway. These protocols are in place to safeguard our customers and workforce.

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    Small Ship Cruise Tours

    Those who can’t stand the hustle and bustle of a big cruise ship like the Norwegian Pearl may rather travel the canal on a smaller vesselsay, one that has only 60 guests as opposed to 2,000-some. Some companies, like Grand Circle Travel, offer full-transit land-and-cruise tours for these smaller groups of people. The combination tourswhich can last between one and two weeksprovide a more intimate experience and they actually allow travelers to see more of the country than they would aboard a mega-ship. The bigger vessels don’t stop at places like Panama City like small ships do.

    Facts To Know About The Panama Canal

    The Panama Canal recently turned 100 years old, but even after all of this time, it still stands out as one of the true engineering marvels of the world. While it frequently tops the must-see list among visitors to Panama, the Canal also plays a hugely important role in Panamas history and the lives of Panamanians. Whether you are preparing yourself for a visit or just want to admire the Canal from afar, here is a list of 23 facts to know about the Panama Canal.

    1. The French first attempted to build a canal through Panama in 1881. However, due to a high number of deaths and other issues, they abandoned the project in 1889. The United States started construction on the Panama Canal in 1904 and completed it in 1914.

    2. The US began negotiating the rights to build a canal with the Colombian Government when Panama was under Colombian rule. When negotiations fell through, The US Government and President Theodore Roosevelt encouraged the Panamanians to revolt and declare independence from Colombia. Panama declared its independence on November 3, 1903, and the USS Nashville was deployed to prevent Colombia from interfering with their independence.

    3. After declaring independence, Panama granted the US control of the Panama Canal Zone through the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty. The US paid Panama a one time sum of $10 million for the rights, as well as a yearly lease.

    13. All tolls for the Panama Canal must be paid in cash, and must be paid at least 48 hours in advance.

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    Where Is The Panama Canal And Why Is The Panama Canal Important

    The construction of the Panama Canal took more than a decade and cost nearly $400 million. By the time it was completed in 1914, the Panama Canal had created a shorter and more economical shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, dissecting Central America to simplify the transportation of goods. Today, ships pass through the 48-mile-long waterway about 11,000 times each year without the need to navigate around Cape Horn or the Straight of Magellan. It was a bold project made possible by ground-breaking engineering, and theres still nothing else like it on earth.

    The Panama Canal works by moving ships from one ocean to another through inland waterways. But because those waterways lead down to sea level, six lock chambers each work as elevators. Gatun Lake holds the massive amounts of water needed to operate this system that raises and lowers ships from sea level up to the level of this reservoir and then back down again.

    Panama Canal Cruise Unlike Any Other

    – Cruise Ship Going through the Panama Canal (Panama)

    After 105 years, the Panama Canal remains one of the world’s 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 world’s greatest wonders.

    “A Panama Canal cruise is unlike any other you’ll 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 can’t replicate that experience with a land visit.”

    McDaniel says it’s important to pick the sailing that’s right for you, whether you do a full or partial crossing.

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    Panama Canal Cruise Options

    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 America’s website.

    Watch: Visiting The Panama Canal

    Operating around-the-clock, the canal sees some 40 vessels pass through each day, including tankers, cargo ships, yachts and cruise ships. The system is made up of three sets of locks , which raise ships from sea level to the same height of the Gatun Lakea two-step process that sees the vessels raised an impressive 27 feet to get through each gate. Passing through the locks only takes about 15 minutes, before ships set off on their eight-to-10 hour journey to sail the length of the canal.

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    Panama Canal Cruise Ship Transition Cost

    Following the Panama Canal Authority Board’s recommendations, on April 28, 2015, Panama officially approved the proposal to revise the Canal’s toll structure.

    • LNG carriers and LGP tankers’ tolls are based on m3 .
    • Dry bulk carriers’ tolls are based on DWT .
    • Tankers’ tolls are on PC/UMS tons and metric cargo tons.
    • Container tolls are based on TEU capacity .
    • Cruise vessels’ tolls are based on passenger capacity. They are levied based on PC/UMS or pax berths.
    • A new segment was created to toll local tour ships.

    Cruise ships through Panamax Canal are charged USD 138 per berth. Cruise ships passing through the Canal’s new locks pay USD 148 per berth. When this decision was made, the new canal locks were 85% complete. The new toll system was implemented on April 1, 2016.

    • On May 7, 2008, the boxship MSC Fabienne paid a record highest Panamá Canal transit toll – USD 317,142. Currently, the Canal’s average transit cost is USD 54,000 per vessel.

    Due to historic low water levels, in January 2020 the waterway’s transition fees were increased by adding an additional “Freshwater Charge” – fixed at USD 10,000 for vessels with LOA length 125+ ft . Also new is the handling service fee – USD 5,000 and USD 1500 .

    Keep An Eye On The Weather

    It was very educational to watch ships move through the ...

    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, it’s important to pay close attention to any tropical storm warnings and sign up for weather alerts on a mobile device. It’s unlikely that your cruise ship will be caught by a severe storm while it’s at sea, but preparing for the worst can give you significant peace of mind.

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    Panama Small Ship Cruises

    Panama has it all: mountains, jungles, beaches, an astounding biodiversity of flora and fauna, world-renowned coffee, indigenous cultures and the incredible Panama Canal. Panama small ship cruises feature daily excursions into awe-inspiring national parks, immaculate shoreline and numerous islands. AdventureSmith handpicks Panama small ship cruises tailored for adventures in nature. A cruise to Panama will introduce you to the Isthmus in the best way

    through nature, wildlife, geology and history. Many visitors want to ensure their small ship cruises the Panama Canal. The mighty Panama Canal acts as a vital link between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, shepherding some 14,000 ships each year through its more than 50 miles of lakes and locks. Fortunately, many cruises do a full transit of the canal; speak with our experts to select the right Panama Canal small ship cruise for you.

    Each Panama Canal Crossing Brings History To Life

    During your Panama Canal cruise, remember that the waterway is more than 100 years old, and much of the infrastructure is original. From the front or back of your ship, check out the original steel doors on both ends of each lock. They may look old or hand-crafted, even, and perhaps sturdy enough to hold back tons of water. But theyre actually engineering marvels. Though each steel door weighs up to 662 tons, their semi-hollow construction means they can be operated reliably by two 25 horsepower motors.

    There are three observation decks at locks along the Panama Canal. As your ship moves through, you and your vessel become a fascinating focal point for canal watchers. The Gatún Lock, which has a small grandstand seating area, happens to be the longest and most dramatic lock in the canal.

    Even the most stoic of passengers should prepare for their waving arms to tire from greeting those onshore. Theyre sure to enthusiastically watch your precise passage from ocean to ocean thanks to the Panama Canals enduring engineering wonders.

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    Which Panama Canal Cruise To Go On Old Or New

    There are a few factors you need toconsider before you book a Panama Canal cruise.

    • First what type of cruise ship do you like to travel on
    • Have you ever been on a Panama Canal cruise
    • Do you want to see the new Panama Canal
    • Are you interested in the history of the canal and how the original canal was built
    • Would you like to know how the new Panamax Canal was built
    • Which cruise would you like to go on transit through the whole canal Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles or vice versa
    • Are you going on a ten-day cruise which does a half transit

    Panama Cruises With Adventuresmith

    Cruise Ship through The Panama Canal

    Panama small ship cruises highlight colonial cities, indigenous cultures, lush rainforest, white-sand beaches and emerald waters. Transit or visit the Panama Canal by small ship, alongside explorations of neighboring Colombia or Costa Rica. Why book your Panama cruise with AdventureSmith?;


    Experience Panama and the Central America coast via kayak, paddleboard, snorkeling and hiking.


    Our Panama small ship cruises benefit the communities and environments along their routes.;


    Our experience traveling in Panama ensures you book your optimal Panama small ship cruise.


    Take advantage of our Panama cruise deals for discounts, complimentary extensions & other benefits.

    Panama Canal Cruises on Small Ships

    The;Panama Canal acts as a vital link between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, shepherding some 14,000 ships each year through its more than 50 miles of locks.;Panama small ships combine small ship cruises through the Panama Canal with unique access to dazzling national parks, pristine coastline and over 1,500 islands with daily opportunities for shore landings in this melting pot of world cultures.

    Consider options for a full transit at night or day, or a day tour off of your Panama small ship. Our award-winning Adventure Specialists can help you experience the Panama Canal in the best way and we remain a resource while youre packing and abroad.

    Colombia, Costa Rica & Panama Cruises


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