Panama Canal Cruises
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What can I do on a Panama Canal cruise?Panama Canal cruises often make ports of call in the Western Caribbean, but usually spend some time in remote regions of Central America where travelers can find the last remnants of indigenous cultures.
While these ports are interesting offer numerous opportunities for shopping, sightseeing, watersports, and more, the greatest appeal of the Panama Canal is the transit itself. The actual transit of the Panama Canal typically begins the evening before the scheduled transit, when your cruise ship must get "in line" behind dozens and dozens of freighters tankers and any other boats or ship waiting to take their turn to enter the massive locks of the Panama Canal. Once your ship is cleared to enter, you'll be amazed at the precision and physics involved in raising and lowering a 100,000 ton cruise ship as the Panama Canal does and you'll leave with a greater appreciation of the effort and sacrifices made to built engineering wonder in the early 1900's.
During your transit, you may will enter Gatun Lake and visit a port of call, which is located in the center of the Canal itself. It offers opportunities for cultural visitations, eco-safaris into the virgin jungle and escorted tours of the country of Panama. Naturalists and cultural experts are also usually on board the ship to offer insight into this unspoiled region's unique place in the modern world.
Where does a Panama Canal cruise go?There are two ways to visit the Panama Canal, either by full transit or partial transit. A full transit would be offered on a one-way itinerary that begins on one side of the canal and ends on the other. For example, your cruise may depart from San Juan, Puerto Rico and end in Acapulco, Mexico. Full transits offer a daylong passage through the entire 51-mile-long canal and each of its systems of locks, as well as port of call in both Caribbean islands and along the west coast of Central America and Mexico, with the most frequently visited country being Costa Rica.
Partial transits enter and exit the canal from the same direction, usually the Caribbean side, and therefore pass through the same set of locks twice. In the center of the canal there is a large natural lake in which the ship can turn around amidst some of Panama's most beautiful scenery. Partial transits typically depart from Fort Lauderdale and offer the convenience of a round-trip itinerary.
When can I take a Panama Canal Cruise?Panama Canal cruises are offered only during the winter months from November through April and are generally a minimum of 10 nights up to 14 nights in length. Holland America Line has the greatest number of Panama Canal departures on a seasonal basis.
Panama Canal cruises are also offered once in the spring from east to west, and again once in the fall from west to each by almost every cruise line as a ship moves from the Caribbean to Alaska for the summer. These repositioning cruises are a tremendous value for travelers available on those specific dates. Some repositioning voyages can take as long as three weeks and are sold in segments, of which one will be the Panama Canal portion. This allows those with plenty of time to book their Panama Canal cruise in conjunction with a second, or even a third, itinerary and get a great deal on all of them!
How do I get there?Although a few of today's largest cruise ships cannot pass through the locks of the Panama Canal, most major cruise lines offer Panama Canal itineraries. Departures are common from San Juan or Miami and then typically end in Acapulco, Mexico.
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