Panama Canal Cruises From San Diego
Three cruise lines offer cruises through the Panama Canal from San Diego. They are one-way trips that end in Florida or Texas. All go fully through the canal, and they visit resort ports along the way. See the schedule of departures below.
This time-lapse video shows a full transit of a cruise ship through the Panama Canal in just 5 minutes. The actual trip was more than 10 hours.
The Panama Canal is 100 years old, and is one of the engineering marvels of the world. A voyage through the canal is a real must do adventure. See an interesting 100 years of the Panama Canal in 10 photos gallery by PBS.
Why A Panama Canal Cruise Should Be On Your Bucket List
Enjoy 50 Miles Of Slow Cruising Through the Panama Canal
Before the Panama Canal was officially opened to oceangoing traffic in the year 1914, seafaring vessels wishing to sail around the world had to go nearly to the bottom of the Earth to Cape Horn. Although that area possesses a stark beauty, wind and stormy seas were the norm, making it less than desirable for trade routes. The canal came into existence to shorten global commerce routes and to minimize the amount of time the ships spent navigating through rough waters. The French first attempted to create the canal in the late 19th century, but that project was unsuccessful. The United States took on the job in 1904, and 10 years later, a new world trade route that cut over 8,000 miles from the former option was born.
At the time that the canal was finished, however, no one realized the potential it had or cruise ship traffic. It wasn’t until the year 1967 that a Princess cruise ship made the 50-mile trek down the length of the canal, and it wasn’t long afterward that many others followed suit thanks to the firsthand accounts of the awed passengers on that first ship.
Why Choose a Panama Cruise?
When is the Best Time of the Year to Enjoy a Panama Cruise?
How Long Does a Panama Canal Cruise Take?
What Are Some Top Excursions During a Panama Cruise?
What Are the Top Cruise Lines for Panama Canal Cruises
What Are Some of the Best Stops on a Panama Canal Cruise Itinerary?
Small Ship Cruise Tours
Those who cant 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 dont stop at places like Panama City like small ships do.
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Which Is The Number One Cruise Line In The Panama Canal
Set sail with Princess® the #1 cruise line in the Panama Canal. Were the number one cruise line sailing to this bucket list destination, and as awe-inspiring as it is to travel through one of Condé Nast Travelers 7 Cruise Wonders of the World, well help you explore equally fascinating places along the way.
Panama Cruises With Adventuresmith
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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Entering The Pacific Ocean
Almost undetectable, we then began to pick up speed. The next time we glanced over the side of the Infinity, we were passing all the freighters lining up in the Pacific awaiting their transit to the Caribbean. The sun set down behind the Isla Tobaga, a familiar island for us to reflect back on, since we had spent a beach day there earlier in the year. And before we knew it, we were in open ocean. The transit was complete.
Transiting The Gatn Locks
The first of three locks we would reach was the Gatún Locks, which was nearly at the mouth of the Caribbean Sea. This lock would lift us up from the Caribbean Sea and deposit us into Lago Gatún. The closed circuit TVs on the ship provided commentary and the bow of the ship was open to passengers. But perhaps it was high atop the upper decks of the ship that perhaps provided the best views.
Upon the upper deck, you could really get a good vantage point of exactly how tight a squeeze this would be for the Celebrity Infinity. You see, at 964.6 feet in length and 105.6 feet wide, the Infinity is what is known as a Panamax vessel, as it is the maximum size able to fit in the Panama Canal. The locks are only 110 feet wide, so this only leaves about two feet on either side to spare! Once the new portions of the canal open in 2015, these dimensions will change, so it was kind of neat to do this transit on a Panamax ship in the original canal, 100 years after it was opened.
The Gatún Locks opened up. We smoothly glided in as if a hand had slipped into a perfectly sized glove. The boat was roped-up to devices that looked like little train engines that appeared to be pulling us in. In actuality, we learned these were more so helping to steer and straighten the massive ship as it entered.
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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.
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.
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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.
We’ve 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.
When To Go To The Panama Canal
The majority of Panama Canal cruises are offered between October and April, with a few ships doing the run year-round since temperatures consistently hover in the mid- to upper80s throughout. The high season, like the rest of the Caribbean, spans January through April, plus major holiday weeks, when the winter weather in the U.S. drives people south to warmer climes. A Panama Canal cruise during the offseason summer and fall months will be cheaper, but with a caveat: high humidity and the threat of heavy rains.
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How To Choose A Panama Canal Cruise
A Panama Canal cruise had been on my bucket list for a long time. Not only would it be transportation for me to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific and onto Alaska, the canal itself was a huge curiosity for me.
After 35 years of grueling construction in horrible conditions, the Panama Canal was completed in 1914. All the canal-building stories I learned about in school stoked my imagination. It was an adventure I had wanted to do for years.
But when I started to look at possible cruise itineraries, it was a bit confusing. While there arent a zillion cruise ships heading to the canal, the ones that offer a Panama Canal cruise have a variety of itineraries.
There are basically three itinerary choices to decide on for a Panama Canal cruise. It all depends on how much time you have for the trip and of course, how much you would like to spend.
What if you really want to see the Panama Canal but time and/or money are a concern? Here are the choices to help you decide which amazing experience to do along this 48-mile man-made wonder.
When I found Crystal Serenityhad a less-expensive repositioning coast-to-coast Panama Canal cruise, the decision was easy. Luckily, I had the time to spend 20 days from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles. But not everyone has the time or budget for 20 days. Then, what are your choices?
What Are The Different Panama Canal Itineraries
There are way more Panama Canal cruises than you probably thought possible! With that, you may be wondering what the best itinerary is for your specific cruising goals. From repositioning cruises to Mexican Riviera adventures, there are positives and negatives to every itinerary option in the cruising realm in regards to Panama Canal cruises.
With that being said, all Panama Canal cruises can be categorized into three categories Trans-Canal Crossing, Partial Crossing, and Faux Crossing.
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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.
More About The Panama Canal & Central America
What is the best time to cruise to the Panama Canal & Central America?
Panama Canal and Central America cruise season is from October through April. The rainy season doesn’t end until November, so cruises here are more popular from December onward. For more: Best Month to Cruise to the Panama Canal
Which cruise lines go to the Panama Canal & Central America?
Most major cruise lines, including Princess and Holland America, feature at least a few Panama Canal sailings in addition to expedition lines like Tauck and Lindblad. Cruisers can choose from a partial or full transit of the canal . Cruises that specifically explore countries like Costa Rica are on offer, from small-ship lines like Windstar Cruises.
What are some things to do in the Panama Canal & Central America?
In addition to either a full or partial crossing of the Panama Canal, most cruises in this region include stops in popular ports throughout Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. That means you can do anything from lounge on the beach to explore ancient ruins or enjoy some duty-free shopping. If you can, trek Arenal Volcano from Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.
Do you need a passport to take a cruise to the Panama Canal & Central America?
Yes, a passport is required for travel throughout Central America, including Panama.
What should I pack for a cruise to the Panama Canal & Central America?
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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.
Panamanian Ports Of Call
Most Panama Canal cruises are part of either Mexican Riviera or western Caribbean itineraries, and their ports of call vary depending on their specific route. Typical ports of call include:
These and other ports of call offer a wide range of shore excursions to explore nature, history, and modern civilization, including river cruises, fishing expeditions, rainforest nature walks, kayaking adventures, historical highlight tours, and Indian village visits. No matter what type of distraction passengers crave during their Panama cruises, they will be able to find it.
From shopping to snorkeling and from one ocean to another, traversing the Panama Canal on a cruise vacation is an awe-inspiring experience. For the discriminating cruise passenger in search of a unique destination and exotic voyage, visiting the Panama Canal is the answer.
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When To Take Panama Cruises
Cruises that traverse the Panama Canal only sail during the winter, typically between September and April. During the summer, canal traffic is crowded with cargo shipments and passenger traffic is severely limited. The greatest number of voyages are scheduled for April, though there will be assorted itinerary options available throughout the winter.
Types Of Panama Canal Cruise Lines
No matter what type of Panama cruising experience you are looking for, I guarantee you will find it through one of these main and not-so-main-stream cruise lines.
From 3-day weekend trips to 180-day world cruises, these Panama Canal cruises are worth every penny. There are plenty of Panama cruise deals available for eager cruisers booking through a travel agent or directly with the cruise line.
Make sure to research diligently to find the best Panama Canal cruise for you!
Mainstream Cruise Lines for Panama Canal Cruises
Just about all the main cruise lines offer sailings to and through the Panama Canal:
Smaller Lines Cruising through the Panama Canal
Active travelers may be looking for expedition-style voyages or cruises on a smaller ship to enjoy more time exploring the Panama Canal.
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