June 18, 2024

Cruising the Canal – ‘Big Ditch’ engineering marvel has become major tourist attraction

Cruise ship Coral Princess traverses the Panama Canal, which links the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Travellers can opt for partial transits through the canal on a round-trip from Florida.

By Anne Vipond, Vancouver Sun

The Panama Canal, carved through dense jungle across the Isthmus of Panama, has created more controversy and intrigue than any other waterway on earth. It took a revolution, endless landslides and the deaths of thousands of workers to construct this man-made wonder linking the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific. Once of huge importance to the United States for its strategic and economic value, the canal’s usefulness faded following World War II when Harry Truman was the first American president to propose “ditching the Big Ditch.”

A cruise ship approaches man-made Gatun Lake. Passengers can disembark by ship tender for shore excursions or stay aboard and enjoy a cruise in the lake.

Today the Panama Canal is thriving. Not only is it undergoing expansion with construction of additional locks large enough to accommodate massive cargo ships and mega-cruise liners, the canal has become a tourist destination – especially among cruise passengers who line the ship’s rail to watch firsthand the incredible sight of their ship being raised 85 feet above sea level in the canal’s colossal locks.

Cruise ships have been transiting the canal for decades and still do. These two- to three-week itineraries run between Florida and the West Coast, and are an ideal way to experience the canal. However, if you have limited vacation time, an attractive alternative is to make a partial transit of the canal on a round-trip cruise from Fort Lauderdale. Princess Cruises and Holland America Line both offer 10- or 11-day canal itineraries that include stops at several Caribbean islands as well as Costa Rica and Cartagena.

See the entire Panama Canal story by Anne Vipond at the Vancouver Sun Travel Web Site.

Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.