Long regarded as the “Crossroads of the World,” the Panama Canal should be on everyone’s “Top Ten Places to Visit” list. With an official open date of August 1914, the actual process of opening of the Panama Canal is a project that spanned nearly 400 years. The project resulted in roughly 20,000 French work-related deaths and between 1903-1914, it cost America $325 million. Do you see why this is one of the most important places to visit on the planet?
Nearly a million ships have passed through the Panama Canal from the Canal’s opening day to present. Today, nearly 100 years after its completion, it remains one of the most vital trade routes in the world. It is also one of the most explored.
The popular trip down the 50-mile isthmus that connects North and South America is available through most major cruise lines. Each cruise line has its own special itinerary and lists of excursions. Even smaller cruises lines such as Windjammer Cruises and Star Clippers Cruises offer a handful of Panama Canal cruises per season. The Panama Canal cruise season lasts from October to April, but the best time to go is after the rainy season ends, usually around November. If you’re looking for a wide variety of departures, keep in mind that one of the top cruise lines for Panama Canal cruises is Princess, with 40 scheduled departures this cruise season alone.
Current cruise itineraries are anywhere from 7-21 days depending on the cruise line. Regent Seven Seas offers 7-9 day cruises while Crystal, Holland America and Princess offer 10-11 days. Carnival, Celebrity and Silversea offer 14-16 days. Several lines, such as Cunard and Princess also offer a few Panama Canal cruises per season ranging from 18-21 days.
The most popular cruise itinerary is 14 days, from Florida to the West Coast, with stops in the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico. The main departure cities for this traditional itinerary are Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. If you live on the West Coast, the main departure cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.
Depending on your schedule, you may opt for a traditional trans-canal trip or a partial crossing. A traditional trans-canal trips takes an entire day, crossing from ocean to ocean. Partial crossing means the ship crosses through one lock and passengers are let off in Gamboa – a town that offers plenty of opportunities to sightsee, shop and dine.
Passengers can also enjoy some of the same excursions offered on a partial crossing through ships that don’t enter the canal at all. On these types of cruises, the ship docks for a day at the Pacific entrance to the Canal, at Colon, Panama. Silversea offers this type of cruise.
To book a Panama Canal Cruise, it’s best to contact your local cruise travel agent. Some cruise lines may not offer booking online for Panama Canal Cruises. Feel free to check your favorite cruise lines website for details.