A Panama Canal cruise is one of life’s greatest cruise experiences, the 48-mile long canal takes a full day to transit and will take you from Colon in the Caribbean through to Panama City which sits on the Pacific side.
Work originally began on the Canal in 1881 and construction was finally completed in 1914. The completion of this system meant ships no longer had to make the long voyage around Cape Horn on the southern most tip of South America or navigate the dangerous waters of the Strait of Magellan.
The canal works via a system of Lock Gates; these are located at 3 different places along the length of the canal. They are Gatun lock gates, Pedro Miguel lock gates and Miraflores lock gates.
They are combined in six steps; three lifting the ship up to roughly 26 metres above sea level and three locks that pull the ship back down. Each lock has two lock chambers; this enables two way transits of ships which ultimately reduces the traffic.
As you make your transit you will have the opportunity to admire the lush green forestry that sits either side of the waterway as well as watch with intrigue at how this system actually works.
Aside from the engineering marvel that you are witnessing you also have the chance to glimpse at some amazing wildlife including Cayman and Crocodiles that live in the canal’s waters. If you are really lucky you may also catch a glimpse of Monkey’s making their way from tree to tree.
The best time to cruise this region is between October and April. The weather is usually warmer during these months and it is also the dry season in Central America.
So where can you expect to visit on a Panama Canal cruise, well, it varies by cruise line but some of the most popular destinations include:
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Fuerte Amador, Panama
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
San Juan, Puerto Rico
There really is no shortage of stunning locations and each offers its own unique flavour and feel. You could enjoy a casual hike through the Carara Biological Reserve in Puntarenas, an island tour in Tortola taking in all the stunning views this island has to offer, including breathtaking views across to the other B.V.I. islands, or you could even go off road on a jeep safari adventure in Jamaica.