Completed in 1914, The Panama Canal is a magnificent sight to behold and is a true engineering masterpiece, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans together through a man-made waterway - a cruise through which is an unforgettable experience.
A trip to this part of the world is widely regarded, as a once in a lifetime opportunity and from the moment you arrive it’s not hard to see why. The canal took an arduous 30 years to complete, and the introduction of the waterway revolutionised water transportation between Europe and the Americas. For anyone with an interest in cruising, and in sea travel, a Panama Canal cruise is one of the most informative and fascinating trips you can take.
Previously, trade ships transporting goods between mainland Europe and the west coast of the United States were forced to sail around the tip of Cape Horn in South America - an area known for its treacherous waters. The canal created faster, safer, and more comfortable ways to navigate the seas between west coast America and Europe, and is today one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
One of the most common questions for passengers upon arrival here is ‘just how are we going to fit?’ Indeed, upon arrival, it may seem impossibility, but your ship will fit! It’s amazing as you pass with mere inches to spare either side of your luxurious cruise liner to the canal’s sides. The views you’ll get as your ship sails through the canal are truly stunning, with luscious green jungle backgrounds and an ambience enhanced even greater by the tropical birds overhead. Sailing past small communities and tiny villages, you’re transported another world, miles apart, in terms of both geography and culture, from the East and West coasts of America. Of course, not all cruise ships can fit, and you’ll find that only the smaller liners are assigned to this itinerary.
European colonialism is rife along the canal, and Spanish influences can be seen and enjoyed along the journey. Panama became independent from Europe in the 19th century, yet typical Spanish features, such as the flamboyance and the colourful architecture still exist, and remain one of the most attractive aspects of the region. Parita is a wonderful example of preserved colonialism, while Panama City is a great example of how the region is venturing into the 21st century.
The sheer design of the Panama Canal is awe inspiring in itself, and is equally as fascinating as the spectacular views. Each cruise ship arriving here is raised a total of 26 metres in the iconic locks for them to rise to meet the Gatun Lake. Guests can marvel at each lock along the way, using 197 million litres of fresh water; an amazing statistic. The Panama Canal stretches a total of 48 miles and will take approximately ten hours for a full transit to be completed.
If you want to pick up some unique and authentic Panama Canal souvenirs, either for yourself or for friends and family back home, one of the best places to do so is at the cruise port in Colon. Unlike some other cruise ports around the world, Colon 2000 offers great shopping and dining opportunities, complete with stores selling perfumes, Central American spirits and wines, and local, handcrafted, one of a kind trinkets. Other ports along the way include the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean, the sunny sands of Mexico, and the culturally fascinating coasts of Central America.
Even if you’re not interested in engineering, history, or culture, if you enjoy warm and sunny weather you’ll still adore taking a Panama Canal cruise. The weather in Colon, for example, is a pleasant 26 degrees Celsius all year round, so whether you’re looking to take a summer holiday or simply want to escape for some much needed winter sun, Panama has what you’re looking for!
While it is possible to view the canal from land, if you’re going to take the time to see one of the world’s most grand pieces of man-made engineering then you should do so in style on a Panama Canal cruise!