Hi there, have always wished to see the Panama Canal and am looking into the various options. Because of timing constraints, cannot book a re-positionning cruise and am therefore wondering how much of the canal you really get to see when the brochure talks of " day of cruising " , in the Western Carib. cruises.
A- Is it simply Gatun Lake?
B- Is Gatun Lake the Caribbean opening of the canal?
C- Do you transit any of the locks?.
Spirit Jan 18th, Pride12-02/Elation12-01/Triumph12-00/Sensation10-99/Inspiration12-98/Sovereign of the Seas12-97/Scandinavian Sky04-82.
Mike: A partial transit is a great way to see quite a bit of the locks without having to go completely through to the Pacific.
The ship waits it's turn and enters the Gatun Locks - you will be raised 3 locks which takes a good 2 or 3 hours. I think the total height the ship is raised is 80 feet (could be way off on that figure!)
You will then "putz" around Gatun Lake - a very large man-made lake with little islands, lots of ships - for the afternoon and then go back out the same locks you entered about 5:00 p.m. There are always quite a few ships in the lake and it's most interesting to see them up close - huge tankers, foreign cruise ships (saw a great old Russian one there last year).
I've done both the partial and full transits of the Canal and if time is a concern, the 10 day round trip Ft. Lauderdale cruises are a wonderful way to learn a lot about the locks. One thing you'll notice about the Canal itself is that there is a real calm that descends the ship on the day you're going through. They have wonderful narrators on the p.a. explaining everything and everyone seems to be in awe of the massive and amazing engineering feat that those brave people undertook so long ago.
Go for the partial transit - you won't regret it! I've been through on Princess a few times and also Holland America but have seen almost every other line in the Canal and I'm sure they are all great!
If you have a chance before you go, read "The Path Between the Seas" to get a full history of how this magnificent structure was built and the cost of human lives involved.
Even a partial transit is an amazing site, going thru the locks is and learning about the history of the canal is truly amazing. FYI its really really hot and terribly humid, so drink a lot of water, wear a hat and sunscreen.
The partial transit is indeed great but you will miss a lot of the Canal experience and not get to see much of Panama. Let me suggest the best of two worlds;
You take a cruise that makes a partial transit. The ship enters the Gatun Lake through the Gatun Locks. You experience the lockage and actually enter the Canal on the ship.
Next you sign up for the "Two-Ocean by Railway Journey" excursion. You will dissembark the ship via tenders while she's still in Gatun Lake, take a 10 minute bus ride to the train station and then take the train excursion across the Isthmus of Panama alongside the Panama Canal and through lush rainforests. You will see the entire Canal and travel from Ocean to Ocean in one hour on the World's First Transcontinental Railroad. Once you arrive in Panama City on the Pacific Ocean side, you will board a bus and take a 2-hour tour of Panama which includes: a visit to the Miraflores Locks Visitor's Pavillion where you get to see the locks up close and personal, Bay of Panama, old US military installations and other sites of interest. Then you join the train again for the return ride to your ship. It's the best way to see all that Panama has to offer in comfort and safety. Princess Cruises has awarded the train excursion "Best Shore Excursion" for two consecutive seasons. Much better than seeing the Canal and the country of Panama from the deck of the ship.
Is there anything else to do in Panama if you're going only for a partial voyage up to the Lake?
I'm considering doing a back to back on a ship that I'm eager to sail with and which sails to at least one country in Latin America (notably Panama) which I've never really visited, other than for the Panama City airport.
I'm running out of places to visit and am doing my level best to avoid repeat experiences. After this, the only thing left for me is Antartica and the Galapagos. Until then, I'd really like this part of the trip to be worthwhile. The train trip sounds interesting to be sure, but engineering marvels are not on the top of my list of most favored things to do while abroad.
Just got back from a twelve day cruise on the Splendour of the Seas out of Galveston, Tx. Part of this trip was a partial transit of the Panama Canal. Great trip. Went through the Gatun Lock from the Atlantic side and was tendered from the Gatun Lake once through. Took an 8 hours tour which included the Miraflores Locks by bus and then and long tour of Panama City with the many sites in between. When completed we returned to Cristobal Pier and got back on the ship which had returned back through the Gatun Lock while we were on our tour. Got to see it all.
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