The history of the Panama Canal is dramatic, and its reputation as one of the world’s great feats of engineering is well deserved. A cruise is a fantastic way to see this manmade waterway and the surrounding scenery in the beautiful Central American country of Panama.
The canal cuts through a slim, jungle-covered isthmus that connects North and South America, allowing ships to glide between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Begun by the French in 1880, the difficult work of canal construction was finally finished by the U.S. in 1914.
There are interesting options for cruising the canal: you have a choice of how far to go. Specifically, you can choose from a full crossing, partial crossing or no crossing at all.
Full-crossing itineraries sail all the way through the canal, a 50-mile voyage that includes three locks, Lake Gatun and the Culebra Cut on the Continental Divide. Be sure to check out the shore excursion options within the canal. You could ride on the Panama Railway, built in the 1850s to speed prospectors across the isthmus on their way to the gold fields of California. Or, take a boat tour around Lake Gatun to spot monkeys and other wildlife, and stop on an island where you can swim, kayak or fish.
Partial crossing itineraries don’t go through the entire canal; instead, they venture through one lock and often a call on the town of Gamboa, where you can enjoy a variety of shore excursions.
A no-crossing itinerary calls on Colon, Panama, the city at the Atlantic/Caribbean entrance to the canal. Your cruise ship won’t enter the canal at all, but you can take an excursion into the canal on a smaller boat.
Clearly, it’s a thrill to traverse the entire canal. But an advantage of a partial- or no-crossing cruise is that your ship may have more time to visit other Central American ports, such as Costa Rica’s Limon or Puntarenas (fantastic ports for seekers of adventure and tropical beauty).
A wide variety of cruises lines sail to the Panama Canal, which means you have a great choice of ships and staterooms. For this cruise, you may want to reserve a cabin with a balcony.
There’s a lot more to know about Panama Canal cruises, and Anita, your professional travel advisor, can give you all the details on shore excursions, the Caribbean and/or Pacific portions of various itineraries, and the variety of North American home ports from which you can sail.
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