What are the reasons you want to take a Panama Canal Cruise?

  • Do you want to just see the Panama Canal?
  • Or do you want to really experience the Panama Canal?

What is your choice?

The following article is very controversial, but is very informative for anyone who is seriously considering taking a Panama Canal cruise. This is something that most cruise lines do not want you to know because they need to fill their ships. If you are interested in the canal for not only historical purposes, but want to be able to roam around the ship and be able to view the locks in action from every angle, choosing the right cruise ship for this transit makes all the difference.

Pictured above is Admiral Kris enjoying a very unobstructed view of the Panama Canals' Gatun Locks.

Incredible, Spectacular, Indescribable, Awesome and "A dream come true" - These are some of the words I overheard from fellow passengers describing a recent transit of the Panama Canal.

It was much more than I expected. The first thrill was leaving the Atlantic in the morning and entering the bay at Colon, Panama. Our cruise ship was slowly guided into the first set of locks called Gatun Locks. The three sets of locks located here raised our ship 85 feet. Then as the large metal doors (seven feet thick and as tall as a six story building) slowly opened we entered a large serene fresh water lake, called Gatun Lake. Here we cruised for the next few hours. This wide manmade flooded pass eventually narrowed to a mere 500 feet and our ship zig zagged for many miles through what used to be jungle as the Panama Railroad (the first transcontinental railroad) sped by. As we passed the mighty Chagres River (the main source of water for Gatun Lake and locks) hills and mountains then began to rise on both sides of our ship. Before we knew it we crossed the continental divide via Gaillard Cut (an impressive man made canyon) without fanfare but in total silence.

Pictured above is an unobstructed view of the "Continental Divide" taken from the top deck of our ship -- Photo taken by K. Krenz

Then we entered another lock at Pedro Miguel which lowered us into another small lake called Miraflores Lake. A few moments later our ship entered the final set of locks, named the Miraflores locks, which took us back to sea level at Balboa where the modern skyline of Panama City was visible. Before us was the "Bridge of the Americas" (the Pan-American Highway), the gateway to the Pacific. We waved to smiling faces on colorful busses and almost touched the girders of this the "tallest iron bridge."

Finally after leaving the Atlantic 8 plus hours earlier, we were now entering the Pacific 51 miles later.

Pictured above is a "mule" -- The mules help guide and pull the ship through the Panama Canal locks. On our cruise, I was able to get up close enough so I could actually talk to the mule driver, who explained for me his job and the functions of the mule. - Photo taken by K Krenz

It was and is hard to perceive all the work and lives involved in making this man made wonder of the 20th Century. The Canal still operates basically the same as it did the day that it opened August 15, 1914.

Yes, the canal was the highlight of our 10-day cruise, but the ports of call were a big plus! This cruise ended up being one of the pinnacles of our cruising experience.

Of all of the cruise ships that Transit the Panama Canal, Maureen, our "hosted" group and I felt that our ship was definitely the correct choice for this trip.

Pictured above is not a ship PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours would offer for your Panama Canal transit: Why deck layout is important -- My father is the one facing the camera with white shorts, blue shirt and white hat. He has cruised as a Chaplain on many ships (assigned by a service not PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours), so he has experienced various ships and repeated itineraries such as the Panama Canal. His observations on this cruise were that passengers were frustrated and couldn't get a good view of the locks. My mother was yelled at by staff for being in a "crew only" area where she snapped this picture. My mother being a little over 5 feet tall was at a disadvantage and unable to get a good view of the canal locks on this cruise. Pictures don't lie. -- How happy would you be on this ship?

What made our ship a good choice? Plenty of viewing deck area inside and out that offered unobstructed panoramic views. There are only a handful of ships anyone should consider for a Panama Canal cruise if they are serious about viewing and experiencing the Panama Canal to the fullest. The certain class of ships offered by this popular cruise line (priced similar to the competition) are only one of a limited few that will allow the passengers onto a deck located on the bow of the ship. For our passage the crew even installed an awning overhead to provide shade. A wide wrap around promenade, located on a lower deck, allowed us to walk outside full circle around the whole ship or to watch the canal transit from a lovely cushioned lounge chair while crew members came by with a selection of cold drinks and tasty sandwiches. While topside fore and aft, plenty of viewing areas with folding chairs to rest on were available. For those not wanting to be in the hot sun, An air-conditioned roomy lounge provided excellent unobstructed panoramic views of over 180į.

If you've been told or believe that purchasing a stateroom with a private balcony/veranda, will provide you the best view of the Panama Canal and its workings, then guess again. We had one of these staterooms and there was absolutely no advantage to having this type of stateroom for viewing the Panama Canal. In fact there is no real way of viewing the locks from a balcony/veranda unless you purchase a balcony/veranda that faces aft. You will be satisfied with a balcony if you don't mind the view straight out to the side and down, which was not as exciting as watching the locks open and close. Then the only way you will be able to watch the lock doors open and close may be on your stateroom TV. Now why would anyone travel all the way to Panama to watch the canal transit on TV?

Above -- Passengers on these cruise ships are fighting for a view of the locks. But then the open crew decks are off limits to the passengers. At least this crew member will have some great pictures! Is this the way you want to see the Panama Canal?

You do have a choice. That choice is to let PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours personal experience select the right ship for your Panama Canal Experience!

Selling point for PAK-N-GO - All ships are not created equal. When we inspect or cruise on different ships we look at the physical qualities of the ships to determine if there are sufficient viewing areas. I personally stand in strategic locations and imagine that I am cruising through the Panama Canal. I can tell you that a majority of cruise ships old and new will not offer a good view of the Panama Canal. There are some ships I wouldn't recommend or consider for a canal transit yet the cruise lines push these cruises to get their ships to Alaska from the Caribbean and visa versa. The sad thing is that you can't tell by looking at the brochure if a deck area is off limits or has an obstructed view or if the rake of the bow is at an angle that makes looking over the side impossible. Only experience will determine this. This is why you can trust PAK-N-GO when making your cruise vacation arrangements, we help you in determining what ship is right for you.

What you get when you purchase your Panama Canal Cruise from PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours:

  • Concise 4-page history of the Panama Canal - compiled by Kris Krenz
  • Suggestions on where the best places are to view the canal locks for each and every lock. Also there are some points of interest along the Panama Canal that you may not want to miss.
  • Suggested reading. -- For cruisers craving a more in depth history that is not too boring. This is for people that want to fully take advantage of the Panama Canal experience.
  • PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours personal port tips that may help save you time money on the other ports you will visit during your Panama Canal Vacation.
  • PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours personalized cruise hints.
  • As per any cruise we sell, you will receive the official acknowledgement from the cruise line showing your official booking number. This is to assure you that the cruise line reflects your payments and that you are listed on the ship's manifest. - Be cautious of any agency that won't provide this important paperwork. They are probably hiding something from you.
  • When purchasing the cruises Air/Sea package, PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours retrieves your flight information before we receive your tickets, We call ahead of time to try and get the best seat assignments. We confirm your flights to your destination and back. We do the work so you don't have to worry.
  • Plus Service, Service, Service, before, during and after your cruise.

You the cruise consumer has a choice. You may or may not want to believe the importance of selecting the right ship. But if you ultimately don't want to throw your vacation dollars away, a knowledgeable cruise agent can and will make all the difference otherwise it is buyer beware!

"At home I've heard statements from people who have cruised the Panama Canal telling me that they were bored or when you've seen one lock you've seen them all. I did not hear one comment like this from any passenger onboard our ship. Is it just possible these unsatisfied cruisers picked or were sold the wrong ship for their vacation? I thought that our Panama Canal cruise was a thrill and experience of a lifetime. I don't see how anyone could not enjoy the experience." -K Krenz

If you are curious -- Why will PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours not disclose the name of the ship we were on or which ships in our opinion are the best for a Panama Canal Transit? ---We will, but we can't give all of our secrets away on line. We have to have little advantage over our competitors. It takes years of experience to learn the cruise products. Pick a dedicated travel agent and stick with them, they will be your best value in the long run. Our customers have realized our value. Not to mention that PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours quotes you the lowest discounted prices offered by the cruise lines. We rate protect* should the rate of your booked cruise vacation go down. Contact PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours if you are serious about expert advice, services and truth in cruising. If your current travel agent can't help you choose the best ship for your Panama Canal experience, it is time to switch to the experienced CLIA Master Cruise Counsellors of PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours. Let us fully handle just one of your cruise vacations and you will keep coming back to us again and again.

This article by Kris Krenz all rights reserved.

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* Depending on the terms and conditions of the cruise lines' offer.

Note: This article is not a reprint. This article is based on Maureen and Krisís own travel experience. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.

Pat Metheny Group Midi - Dream of the Return by Franco Fabbrini