Panama Canal Stories and Tips

Cruising the Panama Canal

Port of Colon Photo, Panama Canal, Panama

It is daybreak, and everyone on the ship is heading up to the Lido deck for our first glimpse of the canal. It is an overcast day and the humidity is 100%. This is normal for this part of the world. We entered from the Atlantic side. After you pass the city of Colon, there is not much else to see, except trees. The ship provided a narrator giving excellent information on the canal. Nothing else is allowed to be built along the canal because it would kill Gatun Lake (man-made for the canal). The trees draw the rainfall, the rainfall feeds the lake, and the lake feeds the locks. Gatun Lake was once the largest man-made lake in the world. I think it is ranked third at this time. Up ahead, we see the first sight of Gatun Locks. Our ship is considered Panama Max, with only inches between the locks and the ship. It is the largest size ship that can go through the locks. A small tub hooks up to our ship and pulls us towards the entrance of the locks. It amazes me how a small tug can pull a large ship. As we enter the first lock, the tug pulls away and we are then hooked up to four trains. The trains pulls us through as we ascend. The entire process takes about 45 minutes. You never feel the ship going up. It is great to see something built so long ago still operating the same way it did almost 100 years ago.

We now are entering Gatun Lake. You will disembark if you planned an excursion with the cruise line. We decided not to take an excursion. I would suggest staying on the ship. It is great. Most people are off of the ship, and you have a better view from the rear of the ship as you go back through the locks. My husband watched most of it from the gym as he road the treadmill and I watched the process from deck 11 in the rear. This is the best view you will see of the gates opening and closing and how the water ascends or descends.

We are through the locks and headed to the port of Colon for a few hours. There is no need to take a cab into town, as there is not much to see, but if you plan on buying electronics, this is the place for that. There are not many touristy shops here. Since everything the world ships go through this area, you can get great deals on anything. At the port where the ship docks, there is an open flea market with all kinds of T-shirts, local pottery, jewelry, and other miscellaneous items. The prices are a little higher than in town. The port does provide entertainment. Dancers are dressed in their native costumes and perform their native dance. It is entertaining.

My suggestion, if you go on this trip, is to stay on the ship and NOT take an excursion.
The return trip through the locks, you will get your best view at the back of the ship.
Do not go into the city of Colon. It is not tourist-friendly. The port has plenty of shopping and entertainment for the short amount of time you spend here.

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