Cruising the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is one of the engineering marvels of the world, and there’s no better way to experience it firsthand than by cruise ship. Not only does it offer the perfect view of the canal itself, but gives the traveler the unique opportunity to witness the beauty of this Central American nation in all its natural splendor. Getting the opportunity to see the operation of the locks themselves as the cruise ship narrowly and expertly glides through and then taking an excursion to experience the flora and fauna of Panama has made more than one person’s “must-do” list. As the Panama Canal recently celebrated its 100 anniversary, there’s no better time to take a peek at this incredible man-made structure.

There are generally two types of cruising options to experience the canal: full and partial crossings. Full crossings will take the traveler the full length of the canal, from Atlantic to Pacific or vice versa. A partial crossing involves traversing the locks, then offloading passengers for shore excursions and provides an opportunity to explore the Panamanian countryside before returning to its embarkation point. Whichever option you chose, the best time to visit is between November and April, after the rainy season has concluded.

Princess Cruises offers a variety of Panama Canal cruise options. Their partial transit travels roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and visits Panama and Costa Rica as well as the Cayman Islands. For a full transit of the canal, they also offer an itinerary departing from Fort Lauderdale and ending in Los Angeles, California. Holland America offers a plethora of Panama Canal choices, mostly ocean to ocean transits that also visit Colombia and Mexico. And Carnival cruises offers partial transits of the canal departing from either Baltimore, Maryland or Tampa, Florida and takes travelers to such destinations as Cartagena, Colombia, and Limon, Costa Rica. Finally, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl has partial canal transits departing from and returning to Miami, stopping in a wide variety of Central American and Caribbean spots that will give you an experience to remember.

Taking a cruise through the Panama Canal is an excellent way to cross this destination off your bucket list. See for yourself the masterful expertise with which these behemoth ships pass through the locks, and appreciate the stunning effort that went into creating this spectacular feat of engineering. With a wide selection of cruise companies and itineraries to choose from, there’s never been a better time to witness the splendor of the Panama Canal for yourself.

Panama Canal is regarded as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, the 40-mile (77 km) Panama Canal is a testament to the resilience, tenacity and ingenuity of the human spirit. The simple name “canal” is a poor substitute for the visual marvel that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across spectacular vistas of lush mountain scenery teeming with exotic wildlife. It is the perfect juxtaposition of nature and technology as each ship has to be raised over 80 feet (26 meters) into the air to pass through the locks. To traverse the entire canal takes approximately twenty hours. Depending on the craft you are traveling on, there may be just inches of clearance between it and this gargantuan feat of engineering. The Panama Canal cruise season starts in September and extends through April. This is ideal for those from the Northern hemisphere looking for a warm equatorial getaway when the mercury starts to plummet. It is advisable to avoid the peak holiday months of November to February for a less hectic escapade.