One of the most popular cruise choices
In the past, all Panama Canal itineraries were 14 days in length and went from Florida to the West Coast. Generally, stops were made in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico on these voyages. Today, however, cruise ship passengers have more choices and they don’t necessarily have to make a full transit of the canal. They can opt for a “partial crossing,” where the ship doesn’t actually pass through the entire canal. Rather, it crosses only through one set of locks and then spends some time at Gatun Lake. From there, passengers can participate in a variety of shore excursions for the day and the ship will then pick them up at Colon, Panama, where it will dock for the day.
Not only do passengers have to decide whether to do a full or a partial crossing, but they also have options in terms of itinerary length and cruise line. Just about every major line traverses the Panama Canal, as long as they have ships in their fleet that can fit through the locks. Some of the mega ships cannot make the crossing due to their size, but other, smaller ships can. The new Panama Canal expansion will offer larger ships to travel through giving even more choice.
The season for Panama Canal voyages runs from October to April. This is to avoid both the rainy season and the season when the weather is simply too hot and uncomfortable to enjoy the voyage.
The most popular Panama Canal voyages follow the Florida-West Coast route. That is generally from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Other voyages will cruise out of Port Canaveral to Vancouver or from Tampa to Seattle.
Panama Canal cruises will generally make port calls in the Western Caribbean, as well as the Costa Rican ports of Limon and Puntarenas. Some also stop at Colon, Panama, as well as Cartagena, Columbia.
As for the Panamanian ports, there is much to see and do in them. In Puntarenas, Costa Rica you can have unparalleled encounters with nature on just about any shore excursion you may pick. Visit the Tabacon Resort Hot Springs, which is located on the slopes of the active Arenal Volcano. If you go to the Poas Volcano, you can view its huge crater filled with iridescent blue water. You can also walk through a cloud forest at Villa Blanca, where you will be shrouded in a mist, with water droplets clinging to the vegetation all around you. Visit the rain forest at Pura Vida Gardens, or climb up the wooden steps to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
You may dock in Colon, Panama, if you’re on a partial crossing, so make the most of your time there. One option for doing so is to disembark your ship and make the crossing in a smaller boat where you can get up close and personal with everything going on around you. After your trip, you will be picked up by motor coach and delivered back to your waiting ship in Colon. Another option in Colon is to ride the Panama Railway from the Pacific to the Atlantic side of the Canal. This trip offers a great view that can be enjoyed in luxuriously panelled railway cars. You can also opt to trek through the rain forest at Gamboa, or an authentic Embera Indian Village along the Chagres River. The possibilities are endless.
Finally, in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica you can visit the Torrtuguero National Park which offers close encounters with green tortoises, crocodiles, monkeys and exotic birds, all viewed from the canoe in which you are travelling. You can also visit Braulio Carillo National Park which is home to the first aerial tramway in Central America. Here you’ll be way above the tree line, at times over 100 feet above them. From here you can view up close and personal tiny orchards, multi-coloured exotic birds, butterflies, and even a toucan or monkey. You can even try white water rafting on the Revantazon River if you have the time.
A transit of the Panama Canal has been long considered one of the most popular cruise choices. Considering all the remarkable sights you will see, it should definitely be one of the items on your “to do” list in the not too distant future.
If you are planning a trip to Panama you should consider visiting Colón. Economically the city has seen better times, but it is rich in history and culture. It is definitely a city worth visiting or holidaying in. It is the second largest city in Panama and it is the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean from the Panama Canal. It is a major asset for Panamanians because it is an important sea port for touristic and commercial use.
Colón is a beautiful port city where you can take walks in one of the many parks and boardwalks in order to view the sea and ocean. Many people enjoy going to Portobello, which is a small sight where you can find the ruins of five Spanish forts and a Spanish Colonial designed house. This house served as a gateway to take the gold extracted from Peru to Spain during the colonisation era. This is also one of the Panamanian spots protected by the UNESCO World Heritage.
Cruising to Cristóbal will give you access from this seaport on the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama to Colón and Panama City.
It has much to offer, including the world’s first transcontinental railway, where the trains cross Central America from the Atlantic to the Pacific in one afternoon. Panama also has a virgin rainforest that is home to 10,000 species of plants and 900 species of birds.
The two-main cruise ship docking areas are at Colón 2000 and Cristóbal Pier. Colón 2000 is the more modern and is a fabulous showcase for the goods of Colón’s 50-year-old free trade zone, which is the second largest in the world next to Hong Kong.
Cristóbal Pier, on the other hand, has a lively craft market and folklore shows.
Limon is a lovely city in the South of Costa Rica. It is also frequently known as Puerto Limon. It has a very relaxed vibe, due largely in part to the Jamaican descendants and their unique and laid back culture. The weather is generally nice all year round, although sometimes it’s plagued with severe thunderstorms. However, in the summer it is usually hot all day long so remember to pack your sun block, sun glasses and visor when you go out for the day in Limon.
Mostly, Limon is known for its tranquil and beautiful Caribbean beaches as well as some outdoor activities such as water rafting. The best two rivers to water raft in are the Pacuari River and the Reventizon River. The latter has class two rapids which are for beginner white water rafters.
Other things you can do in Limon include going on a tour of the jungle where you will be able to see the wild life of Limon, including sloths and different snakes and insects. If you like Iguanas than you should check out the Iguana Conservation Tour at the Iguana Verde Foundation.
Puntarenas is a lovely area off of Costa Rica full of exciting adventures. It is located on the Pacific Side of the country and is home to various beaches that run along its coastline. The weather is beautiful year round; no matter what time of year you go to Puntarenas you will be sure to find lots of sun.
In the Province of Puntarenas there are a variety of different beaches that you can go to. Some of the best beaches are located at the southern tip with some on the Gulf of Nicoya side and the others on the Pacific Side. These beaches include Tambor, Montezuma, Mal País, Santa Teresa and Cabuya. You will find that the majority of these beach towns are very tranquil and safe, even when you are out walking along at night.
Panama City on the Pacific coast is a fun and exciting place to go no matter what you like to do because it has everything! It has amazing natural sights such as beaches and national parks, and it also has many cultural and historical sites, which have been named as World Heritage Sites. The people are friendly and many speak English to help you get around. It is also very inexpensive compared to the costs of neighbouring countries.
In the older part of Panama City, which is normally referred to by one of three other names; Cascao Viejo, Casco Antiguo or San Felipe, you will find many architectural delights and historical sites. Las Bóvedas are the vaults which are waterfalls that fall into the Pacific. You can then go to the main Cathedral which is conveniently located in the Plaza de la Catedral, which is lovely to pass a moment in. The National Theatre is also popular especially since it has now been restored. If you are looking for some historical information regarding the canal you can visit the Museo del Canal Interoceánico, which has bilingual captions on all of the museum’s features.