Dubbed the “Crossroads of the World,” the Panama Canal should be on everyoneâ€™s â€œTop Ten Things to Do Before I Dieâ€? list.
The opening of the Panama Canal is a project that spanned nearly 400 years, resulted in roughly 20,000 French work-related deaths, and between 1903-1914, cost America $325 million. The Panama Canal opened in August 1914.
Nearly a million ships have passed through the Panama Canal from the Canal’s opening day to present, and 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, with varying itineraries and excursions. Even the smaller cruises lines such as Windjammer and Clipper 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 youâ€™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.
Choosing An Itinerary
Current cruise lengths can be 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 Gamboaâ€”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 donâ€™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.
Booking a Panama Canal Cruise
To book a Panama Canal Cruise, itâ€™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.