Traversing the Panama Canal

A Must Have Cruise Experience

Sponsored by Holland America Line

When creating your bucket list of travels, I’m sure it includes New Zealand and South Africa and oh those Greek Isles, which it should! But you might be missing out on one of the world’s greatest wonders that happens to be much closer to the United States.

The Panama Canal is one of those places you can visit many times and still not fully appreciate what a marvel it is.

There are three sets of locks to transit, a cruise on Gatun Lake, two beautiful bridges to pass under and a splendid view of the very modern Panama City at the end.

A Marvel In The Making

A ship traveling from New York to San Francisco saves 8,100 miles by using the canal instead of going around Cape Horn.

For centuries, it was a pipe dream: the idea of a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via Panama. As early as 1534, people had tried – in various ways – to improve trade without the need for lengthy and dangerous sailings around the horn of South America. But sufficient technology did not yet exist to allow the creation of a canal, and those who attempted the journey overland were beaten down by the inhospitable conditions in the dense jungle.

Today, the Canal is entering a new phase in its life: A third, larger set of locks are opened in 2016 to allow additional and larger ships to transit the Canal for the first time. The expansion cost over 6 billion dollars, but doubled the canal’s capacity!

Holland America Line is one of the few cruise lines to offer Panama Canal sailings on a nearly year-round basis for either Caribbean to Alaska sailings or much longer grand voyages.

Cruising the Canal

Wonder why it takes a full day to pass through the canal and what it’s really like? Frequent cruisers Steve and Wendy share this great personal journey:

We still get up early to watch the elaborate ballet of perfectly timed maneuvers that make it all work. We are allowed out on the bow of the ship to get a very up close view, while enjoying those delicious Panama rolls (soft and sugary pastry rolls filled with apricot jam) served on deck.

A speaker provided by the Canal Authority is giving commentary on the outside decks.  He was full of all sorts of interesting facts.

One of our favorites is that it costs about 600 million dollars annually to run the canal while they take in 3.4 billion in revenue! Wouldn’t you like a share of that!

There are three sets of locks to transit, a cruise on Gatun Lake, two beautiful bridges to pass under and a splendid view of the very modern Panama City at the end.“ 

You’re able to watch the work, the locks, the water, the nearness of the metal sides and other ships, all while pondering what a feat it was for man to create this massive waterway hundreds of years ago!

What is a lock? The ship enters an area filled with water, then gates in front of and behind the ship close created a locked area where the water level can be controlled.

The water either rises or lowers, to allow the ship to reach the next portion of the river! The front lock opens and allows the ship to exit, then closes and re-balances the water before the next ship enters.

You’ll find the excitement on board is quite contagious and it’s wonderful to watch the day unfold with fellow passengers, while enjoying breakfast or mimosas!

Of course the canal isn’t the only thing you’ll see on a cruise that includes the Panama Canal. Ports stops often include Cartagena in Columbia, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas and Puerto Caldera in Costa Rica just to name a few.

This is truly a unique cruise experience, which will not only give you a new appreciation for the travel of our ancestors, but a new experience in cruising.