Panama Canal cruises provide a unique and unforgettable way to explore this beautiful destination.
Started in 1818 and eventually finished in 1914 this 48 mile long canal stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Previously ships had to journey around South America and Cape Horn, taking one of our Panama Canal cruises cuts approximately 8000 miles off the journey.
Gatun Lake 85 feet above sea level provides the water for the canal.
The current 3 sets of locks are 110 feet wide. Due to the width of the locks and the canal only ships which are classified as “Panamax” can traverse the canal. These ships are built to the width specification of the canal and demonstrate why not all vessels can traverse the canal.
There are Panama Canal cruises to suit all. There are opportunities to cruise just part of the canal and into Gatun Lake these cruises start and finish in either Fort Lauderdale or Miami. But nothing beats doing the full traverse from either the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific or vice versa. Having done it one way several people at some stage do the traverse the other way to be able to say they’ve been through the canal in both directions.
The small passageways of the panama canal
The cruise ships do the traverse during daylight hours and it really is fascinating to see just how little space there is between the locks and the ship when looking through windows or from the open spaces on deck.
I personally transited the canal a few years ago and couldn’t believe just how close to the side we were and it was when I went downstairs and viewed from one of the lounge windows rather than from up on deck that this really did become apparent.
Although the canal is the obvious main reason for taking this cruise, you also get the opportunity to visit many other places as well. Costa Rica, Panama City, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Cartagena to name a few. These depend on the ship and length of cruise you decide on, the shortest full transit journey is 14 nights, for those of you with more time on your hands there are opportunities for longer durations of up to 21 nights.
There is currently a new canal being built to enable larger ships to pass through.
Capuchin Monkey at Lake Gatun, on the Panama Canal