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.
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.
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.
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Cruise Through The Panama Canal
Sailing through the engineering masterpiece that connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean is a bucket-list event on its own, but along the way youll also visit other exciting tropical destinations steeped in culture, history, and natural beauty. Explore the breathtaking beaches of Cabo San Lucas, the colorful colonial architecture of Cartagena, the thriving jungles of Costa Rica, and more.
On your Panama Canal cruise, venture deep into the Panamanian rain forest, meet the locals, and learn the inner workings of the fascinating Panama Canals locks. Take an Eco Cruise on Lake Gatun and explore island habitats created during the Canals building. Uncover legends of pirates and conquistadors among the ruins of Panama Viejo.
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.
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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.
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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The Deck Offers The Best Seat In The House
How long does it take for a ship to pass through the Panama Canal? The full Panama Canal crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic takes an average of;8 to 10 hours. Much of that time is spent peacefully navigating flat waterways like Gatun Lake and the Culebra Cut, an artificial valley running through the Continental Divide, and scanning the shoreline to spot monkeys and birds. While passing through the locks, however, the action picks up.
Traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific, your ship first enters the three Gatun Locks, which raise it 85 feet from sea level to reach the level of Gatun Lake. The process is so slow and smooth that it feels like nothing at all is happening, but as you watch the walls of the lock, you can measure your ships steady progress. After navigating across Gatun Lake, your ship enters the Pedro Miguel Lock, where its lowered 31 feet . The two Miraflores Locks do the rest of the work, moving your ship 54 feet back down to sea level. This process reverses when traveling from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
The sensation of traveling smoothly up and down through each lock as more than 100,000 cubic meters of water moves slowly in and out is almost meditative. Its also a real-world physics lesson that you dont have to be a scientist to appreciate it.
Panama Canal And Central America Cruise Highlights
The Panama Canal LocksPanama Canal Cruises are available in a variety of itineraries. Partial transit itineraries are offered for those seeking the convenience of departing from and returning to the same port. Full transit Panama Canal cruises are also offered for those who prefer to sail coast to coast and can often be combined with back to back cruises to create a longer and more diverse cruise experience.
A Variety of ItinerariesPanama Canal Cruises are available in a variety of itineraries. Partial transit itineraries are offered for those seeking the convenience of departing from and returning to the same port. Full transit canal cruises are also offered for those who prefer to sail coast to coast. Full transit Panama Canal cruises can often be combined with back to back cruises to create a longer and more diverse cruise experience.
A Variety of Excursion OpportunitiesA variety of excursion opportunities are offered in the different ports on a Panama Canal cruise. In the Caribbean there are beautiful beaches and a variety of watersports and shopping. In Central and South America guests on a Panama Canal cruise can explore local markets, colonial towns and exotic surroundings.
Diverse PortsIn addition to the time spent transiting the canal, the itineraries include diverse ports throughout the region including beautiful Caribbean ports, Central America ports as well as stops in South America and Mexico.
Special Cruise Offers
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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?
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.
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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 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 .
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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.;;
Best For A Deep Dive Into The Canal
While many Panama cruises bring only a day of canal-related sightseeing, the seven-night Costa Rica & Panama Canal sailings that Windstar Cruises offers on its 212-passenger Star Pride promise a much deeper exploration. In addition to a day spent transiting the canal, the itinerary includes a day at Colón, Panama, on the Atlantic side of the waterway, where passengers can arrange tours to the giant new Agua Clara Locks a few miles away . The ship also docks for a night and day at Balboa, Panama, on the canals Pacific side, for tours to the nearby Miraflores Locks and related exhibit halls . The trips are rounded out by a beach day at Panamas pristine Isla Parida and two outdoorsy stops in Costa Rica where passengers have the opportunity to bird-watch and hike in rain forests or kayak through mangroves. Fares from $1,999 per person; windstarcruises.com.
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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?
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Panama Canal Cruise Unlike Any Other
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.