A cruise that includes the Panama Canal is an opportunity to see not only one of the greatest feats of engineering in the world, but a lush and beautiful country. The canal cuts through a slender, jungle-covered isthmus that connects North and South America, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans: it’s a true crossroads of the world. Begun by the French in 1880, the canal was finally finished by the U.S. in 1914 and has been busy ever since.
Several cruise lines sail to the Panama Canal, providing you with an excellent choice of ships. For this cruise, you may want to choose a cabin with large picture windows or a balcony – the better to see the canal and the scenery.
Panama Canal itineraries are available in a nice variety of lengths, too, ranging from seven days to 21 days or more. Most itineraries include stops in the Caribbean and/or along the Mexican Rivera. Some cruise lines visit the canal all year long, while others focus on the winter months (especially after the rainy season ends in November).
The most important decision you’ll make regarding your Panama Canal cruise is whether to cruise part of the canal or all of the canal.
Full-crossing itineraries will take you all the way through the canal. It’s a 50-mile scenic journey that includes three locks, Lake Gatun and the Culebra Cut through the Continental Divide. Some ships have expert lecturers on board to provide historical and engineering highlights along the way.
Partial crossing itineraries don’t go through the entire canal; instead, the ship passes through one lock, then sails a bit further, usually to the town of Gamboa. Passengers can disembark here for a variety of wonderful shore excursions.
You can also choose a “no-crossing” (or “faux-crossing”) cruise that calls on Colon, Panama, at the Atlantic/Caribbean entrance to the canal. Your cruise ship won’t enter the canal, but you can choose an excursion that will take you into the canal on a smaller boat.
There’s a lot more to know about Panama Canal cruises, and Anita Thompson, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert, can give you all the details on shore excursions, the Caribbean and/or Mexican portions of various itineraries, and the variety of ports from which you can sail.
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