Panama Cruising: Cruise the Canal
Panama is perhaps best known for its canal, which allows access between the west and east coasts of the American continent. It is the only point between Alaska and Argentina at which North, Central or South America can be crossed by ship, which of course means that it is a popular cruising destination!
Panama Canal and Other Cruise Highlights
The Canal is certainly a destination in its own right! It is a feat of modern engineering, with a series of locks which allow ships to be raised or lowered between the different levels of water across the canal. It takes around 8-10 hours to make the crossing, and only ships sized to the New Panamax limits can do it. Some of Panama's best scenery surrounds the canal, and cruise passengers can see the sights from the comfort of their cabin, or the ship's decks.
Fuerte Amador is the port which gives access to Panama City. It is made up of a causeway connecting four small islands, and is a tender port. The tenders drop passengers ashore and from there it is a twenty mile taxi ride to central Panama City. The multicultural city is full of friendly local people and great shopping, from the high-end to the bargain markets. A favourite pastime is to watch ships pass through the locks into the canal! There is an historic part of town. Casco Viejo, which is a great place to sightsee.
Colon on the Caribbean coast is at the entrance to the other end of the canal, and hosts plenty of ships as the enter or exit the waterway. Despite its unfortunate name, the town has some beautiful spots, including the spectacular Columbus Cathedral. The town is not a safe place for tourists to walk around, but the Colon 2000 and Cristobal Pier, the two places where cruise ships dock, provide safe shopping and dining areas. Taxis are regulated so visitors are advised to use these and tours organised by their cruise line.
Cruises to Panama: Crossing the Continent
Most major cruise lines have cruise holidays which include Panama, the majority of these traversing the Canal. These take place on their smaller ships, which fit the Panamax regulations. Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America, Celebrity and some smaller boutique lines such as Azamara Club and Seabourn run plenty of Panama cruises.
There are a variety of itineraries which take in Panama and its Canal, but the most popular one is a cruise between Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles, offered by several lines including Royal Caribbean and Princess. Caribbean cruises may stop at Colon, and some west-coast itineraries at Fuerte Amador. Cunard's World Cruises often cross Panama via the Canal, and some cruise lines offer itineraries which begin in the Caribbean then continue down the west coast of South America.
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