Planning A Panama Canal Cruise
I think a Panama Canal cruise is similar to an Alaska cruise for several reasons.
If your ship makes a port call in Cartegena, Colombia and Panama City, Panama, youre in luck. These were my two favorite ports on my Panama Canal cruise. Why? Cartegena is emerging as a world-class vacation destination with great restaurants, historical sights and fabulous shopping.
Panama City seems to rise out of the sea with unexpected ultra-modern skyscrapers that extend along the shoreline. Panama City is very modern urban city, and was a total surprise for me.
Despite a Panama Canal cruise being a bucket list vacation, I would go again without hesitation. Especially because now I know what to do in some of the ports of call that I missed doing the first time.
How To Choose The Best Panama Canal Cruise For You
There are three ways to do a Panama Canal cruise. All three types of Panama Canal cruises are offered by a handful of mainstream, premium and luxury cruise lines.
Not all cruises offer the same ports of call, either. So its important to study itineraries and not just price-shop.
Princess does several Panama Canal cruises throughout the year as does Norwegian. Also, when repositioning to or from Alaska, Australia or on a world cruise, youll find Carnival, Cunard, Holland America and others sail the full 48-mile, coast-to-coast canal transit.
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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Panama Canal Cruise Pros And Cons
The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel that links the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, saving ships the trouble of traveling around South America.
With its construction beginning in 1904, it took about 25,000 workers to move over 1 million cubic yards of earth a day before it was officially completed in 1914.
You can learn all about the history of the Panama Canal by visiting the museum at the Mira Flores locks during your cruise, which is just a short drive from Panama City.
The pros and cons of a Panama Canal cruise include:
The Direction Of The Panama Canal
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.
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.
Featured Panama Canal Destinations
Panama, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Grand Caymanyou can explore many distinctive destinations on one luxurious vacation.
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.
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.
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The Worlds Greatest Shortcut
Considered a modern wonder of the world, and recently listed as one of Condé Nast Travelers 7 Cruise Wonders of the World bucket-list destinations, The Panama Canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama, allowing cruise liners to easily traverse between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.
Opened more than 100 years ago, the 48-mile artificial canal is often referred to as the worlds greatest shortcut, providing cruise liners with an alternative to the 8,000-mile trip around the bottom tip of South America. With its series of locks rising to 85ft above sea level, lush rainforests and colonial towns, a Panama Canal Cruise is a travel experience like no other. The crossing, which takes between 8-10 hours, gives passengers the opportunity to see the highlights of the Panama Canal, as well as relax onboard their luxury cruise liner and make full use of the facilities.
Want To Cruise Through The New Panama Canal Locks Here’s How
The official opening of the 48-mile-long waterway’s massive new locks on Sunday will add a new twist to what long has been a bucket list item for cruising fans. Some lines will begin using the new locks for canal sailings. Others will stick with the older locks. Cruisers who want a specific experience will need to choose their ship wisely.
Princess Cruises, which offers more voyages into the canal than any other line, recently became the first line to announce plans to use the new locks. The line said its 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess would operate partial transits of the canal using the new locks starting in late 2017.
The Caribbean Princess’ first canal sailing on Oct. 21, 2017 will be a milestone for the cruise industry. Barring a last-minute announcement from another line, it’ll mark the first time a “post-Panamax” cruise ship — one too big for the waterway’s original, smaller locks — has entered the canal. The Caribbean Princess’ beam is 118 feet. That’s 12 feet wider than the maximum allowed in the older locks.
Disney Cruise Line also plans to use the new locks for its twice-a-year voyages through the canal starting in 2017, a spokeswoman tells USA TODAY. Disney’s canal sailings in 2017 are scheduled to take place on the Disney Wonder, which can fit in both the old and new locks.
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Best For Bird And Wildlife Lovers
The 10-night Costa Rica & PanamaCanal, Culture, Adventure trips offered by small-ship specialist UnCruise Adventures are all about hiking, kayaking, bird-watching, and other outdoor pursuits in Panama and nearby Costa Rica . Watch for giant frigate birds and yellow warblers as you head out in skiffs to explore Panamas Bartolome Island bird sanctuary, just a day after a wildlife-filled motorized canoe ride to a local village in Panamas remote Darien Jungle, where villagers will greet you with a traditional welcome and share customs, stories, songs, and dance. Another stop offers a vigorous hike in Costa Ricas isolated Osa Conservation Area, known for its diverse array of plant and animal species, including monkeys, tree frogs, caimans, anteaters, scarlet macaws, coatis, and 16 different types of hummingbirds. The trips take place on the companys intimate, 62-passenger Safari Voyager, which is notably packed with kayaks, paddleboards, skiffs, and other gear for use on daily adventures. Fares from $6,695 per person uncruise.com.
Best for luxury lovers
Courtesy of Crystal CruisesExperience a Panama Canal transit in style aboard the Crystal Symphony.
Best for the mega-ship fan
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineThe Norwegian Bliss is one of two Norwegian Cruise Line mega-ships that crosses the Panama Canal.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Highlights
- 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 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.
How Long Does A Cruise Ship Take To Go Through The Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is 50 miles long. A cruise ship can take approximately 8-10 hours to go through the entire Panama Canal.
Panama Canal cruise pros and cons are many and varied, but the benefits far outweigh the downsides.
The canal benefited from an expansion project in 2016 that doubled its capacity by incorporating a new traffic lane, allowing more ships to sail through.
The expanded canal has not only exceeded service expectations, but it has also reaffirmed Panama Canals leadership in the maritime industry.
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Panama Canal Cruise Highlights
Hike up to an active volcano. Raft one of the many rivers. Scuba dive in its beautiful seas, or zip along a cable through the rainforest tree tops. There are so many adventure sports such as kayaking, rafting, rappelling, and horseback riding.
Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers streets lined with old architecture plus modern amenities like restaurants and shops. The best historical structures are the churches, including the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion, dating from 1619, and the Iglesia de San Jose, noted for its vaulted side chapels and golden altar.
Central America has breathtaking natural areas, perfect for spotting wildlife or hitting the trails. In fact, more than 25% of Costa Rica is protected land or national parks. With more than 900 species of birds in this region, bird watchers can be sure to check the Resplendent Quetzal off their list.
Do Cruise Ships Go Through The New Panama Canal
Some cruise ships go through the entire Panama Canal while others only sail halfway . Full transit cruises travel from the Pacific to the Caribbean ,
sailing along the entire length of the canal. Partial transit cruises start from Florida and sail as far as Gatun Lake before turning around and back to Colon on the Caribbean side.
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How Much Does A Ship Pay To Go Through The Suez Canal
The giant ship stuck in the Suez Canal is costing the global economy an estimated $400 million per hour. A cargo ship the size of the Empire State Building has been jammed in a vital trade route for days. The Ever Givens blockage of the Suez Canal costs $400 million per hour, Lloyds List estimates.
Which Country Paid For The Building Of The Canal
In his new role, Bunau-Varilla negotiated the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903, which provided the United States with a 10-mile wide strip of land for the canal, a one-time $10 million payment to Panama, and an annual annuity of $250,000. The United States also agreed to guarantee the independence of Panama.
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Gatun Lake Cruiseimage Gallery
- Panamanian Balboa but US Dollars are widely accepted.
- Best Way to Get AroundTaxi ride to anything around town is very affordable yet, organized shore excursions are probably the best option!
- Fun Fact #1Barro Colorado Nature Preserve: is located at the Gatun Lake. In 1923 it was declared Biological Reserve, the first Tropical Rainforest Reservation in the hemisphere.
- Fun Fact: FoodiesPanama grows some of the most coveted coffee in the world, so start your day with a traditional cafe con leche. Or enjoy a cup as an afternoon treat.
- Fun Fact: LandmarksBetween 13,000 and 14,000 ships travel through the Panama Canal each year which, on average, takes a ship 8 to 10 hours to complete the transit.
Sheraton San Diego Hotel And Marina
Rejuvenate and relax at Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. Located a short drive from Downtown San Diego, our hotel offers award-winning service and an unbeatable setting. Situated right on the waterfront, with stunning marina views, our hotel boasts 1,053 spacious rooms and suites, each with its own patio or balcony, spread over two unique tower experiences – Marina Tower and Bay Tower. Savour modern American fare at Harbour’s Edge, dine al fresco on Baja cuisine at Shoreline, or sample a craft beer at Quinn’s Ale House.
- Distance/Airport: 0.5 miles
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Panama Canal Cruises Cruises
The Panama Canal is a unique cruise to take because not only do you get to explore exciting Mexican and Central American port of calls, but you can get an up close look at one of the most important engineering feats of the 20th century. The 48 mile-long waterway allows ships to pass between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Before the canal was built ships would have to travel around Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America. That would be a voyage of an additional 8000 miles! It takes a cruise ship about 12 hours to traverse the canal.
When you cruise through the canal three sets of locks of the two-lane canal work as water elevators that lift the ships to the level of Gatun Lake, 85 feet above sea level, and later lower them again to sea level on the other side of the Isthmus of Panama. Of course that is an overly simplified explanation! The cruise line will often have an expert onboard to explain the workings of the locks and give passengers an overview of the history and politics involved in the canals construction.
Panama Canal cruises are available as round-trip partial transits or one-way voyages that navigate the entire length of the canal. When doing the partial transit a ship will usually go as far as the first set of locks, then turn around in Gatun Lake, exiting the canal the same way it entered. These trips typically leave from Florida ports. Full transits however, go from East Coast to West Coast or vice-versa.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Travel Tips
- A brand name that you know and can trust.
- Industry master, with over 50 years of experience and operation in the cruise line sector.
- They provide an incredible travel experience to all ages and have amazing amenities to help heighten your experience.
- Rock walls, surfing, and even waterparks to offer you something unique that you won’t find on any other cruise ship.
- Simply unpack and settle in once, then relax into your stateroom for the remainder of your trip.
- Our fast processes for embarkation and disembarkation give guests even more time to explore and allow for quicker access to the ship to reach anything you may need from us or your room.
- Incredible staterooms and suites to offer you the most relaxing experience while onboard.
- Incredible personalized experience designed to provide a family-like atmosphere.
- The industry’s most knowledgeable cruise managers and guides, providing you with the best guided experiences in the cruise market.
- Varied excursions available including everything from walking tours to guided biking tours, hikes, and more.
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