Panama Canal - Which side is best

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#1
Milford, Delaware
233 Posts
Joined Feb 2012
We're planning a Panama Canal cruise (east bound - San Diego to Miami). We'll select a veranda. Which side would provide the best view through the canal? We have not selected a cabin yet.
#2
Beautiful BC Canada
3,724 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
The back side. Aft, cause you will be able to see both sides at once from your room

but best to wander the decks for things that happen depending on which side of locks you go through etc.
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#3
Jax, FL
525 Posts
Joined Aug 2008
Originally posted by first_state101
We're planning a Panama Canal cruise (east bound - San Diego to Miami). We'll select a veranda. Which side would provide the best view through the canal? We have not selected a cabin yet.
Port
Have fun
Mike
#5
Here I am
3,320 Posts
Joined Dec 2009
The "right" side going west to east has better views than the "left" side. Sorry, don't know those sea terms

Eastbound - great choice! Wake up early to see the small lighted boats approaching the canal. If in doubt whether or not to take ship tours from lake Gatun - by the time you are in the lake, you've seen the best, take a tour if you wish.
#6
montreal,quebec, canada
3,838 Posts
Joined Feb 2001
I would agree with an aft view if possible
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#7
WA State, USA
1,034 Posts
Joined Oct 2011
No matter which side or balcony cabinn you have, you may want to spend a little time on the promenade deck because, at the lower level, you will very up close and personal with the walls of the locks and the crew who is working your transit. The promenade deck had an almost festive atmosphere that day as passengers enjoyed the transit. Staff were present to answer questions and the ubiquitious ship's photographer snapped such a great photo of us in the canal that we couldn't resist taking it home!
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#8
Cape Coral, FL
10,752 Posts
Joined Jul 2007
Don't chose a port or a starboard cabin based on what you think you will see as you go through the canal. There is no guarantee which lane you will end up in. And, as others have said, best views are out and about on deck unless you're lucky enough to score an aft. Even if you do, you will want to go out and see different vantage points, such as the helicopter pad.

We had 6143 on the canal transit, a fabulous cabin with an extra large balcony. Didn't watch any of the transit from the balcony.

Rather, make a choice between port and starboard based on when you would like the sun to be on your balcony.
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#9
San Jose, Calif
3,674 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Originally posted by Dayenu
The "right" side going west to east has better views than the "left" side. Sorry, don't know those sea terms

Eastbound - great choice! Wake up early to see the small lighted boats approaching the canal. If in doubt whether or not to take ship tours from lake Gatun - by the time you are in the lake, you've seen the best, take a tour if you wish.
This is a trick answer. If you look at a map of the Panama Canal, you will see that if a ship is going west to east, it is actually sailing from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This is one of the many fascinating aspects of the canal.

It is one of the few places in the world where your large cruise ship will not be at sea level during it's transit, being 83 feet higher than the Pacific and Atlantic. Another is when sailing from Amsterdam's cruise terminal to the open waters of the North Sea. The ship will be lower than sea level during this transit.

#10
Saint Simons Island, Georgia
11,357 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Others have provided good advice. We did the canal last December on Infinity. We had a Port side balcony cabin, which worked out great, since Infinity was assigned the right side lock (there are two sets of locks, side by side).

We did not spend the entire transit on our balcony, but did about half. We had breakfast and lunch at the buffet restaurant and ate at the outdoor deck 10 at the aft end of the ship.

Also, we spent a little time at the deck 11 observation deck.

If you happen to get a cabin where you can watch the transit, save some of your wine for that day (you can bring two bottles on board).

Further, if you stop at Colon, you can take an excursion to the Gatun Locks, which I recommend.

Going through the canal is a great experience. Make sure you read the book "The Path Between the Seas."
#11
Florida
5,375 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Topside is really the best side to be on... or at least be on deck where you can take in what you would like to see. As mentioned earlier while you are at one of the Locks you will want to be on one of the outside main decks where you can really see how close you are to the lock wall. Even the coveted rear balcony cabins come up short for me, since the narrator will in his forward view of things point something out and by the time the aft balcony gets to that point you will be overcome by other events. Going the direction you are going, an aft balcony would be nice during the crossing of Gatun Lake from Gamboa (which is after you clear the Gaillard Cut) to Gatun Locks. This is a quiet time of the transit where you cross Gatun Lake and there is just the tree covered islands on the way. Not a lot of things to point out.... just tranquil scenery.

Select your cabin for how you will use it for the rest of your voyage, at the Canal you should be flexible as to where you will be.
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#12
Vienna, WV
4,562 Posts
Joined Feb 2001
Originally posted by LeftcoastBC
The back side. Aft, cause you will be able to see both sides at once from your room

but best to wander the decks for things that happen depending on which side of locks you go through etc.
Gotta agree with my old friend. Best views are aft. Not really necessary to have a cabin there, as there are usually many good vantage points on the open decks.

If you happen to be on the Century, there are great little areas in the rear corners on several decks that are just as good as having an aft cabin.

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#13
San Jose, Calif
3,674 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Originally posted by BillB48
Topside is really the best side to be on... or at least be on deck where you can take in what you would like to see. As mentioned earlier while you are at one of the Locks you will want to be on one of the outside main decks where you can really see how close you are to the lock wall. Even the coveted rear balcony cabins come up short for me, since the narrator will in his forward view of things point something out and by the time the aft balcony gets to that point you will be overcome by other events. Going the direction you are going, an aft balcony would be nice during the crossing of Gatun Lake from Gamboa (which is after you clear the Gaillard Cut) to Gatun Locks. This is a quiet time of the transit where you cross Gatun Lake and there is just the tree covered islands on the way. Not a lot of things to point out.... just tranquil scenery.

Select your cabin for how you will use it for the rest of your voyage, at the Canal you should be flexible as to where you will be.
We had a balcony on deck 8 and we had front row seats watching how the ships are handled through the Miraflores locks. This was a much better location to watch the process than on the top deck. We had much appreciated shade, our own chairs, no jostling with others for the railing, a bathroom only feet away, and refreshments we had ordered from room service. Ahhhhh, the good life!!

However, the people on the other side of the ship missed out on the following views. It is a 50-50 chance your stateroom will be on the "interesting" side.

PS: the gentleman in the first photo shows why I personally am not interested in those popular angled hump staterooms. It wasn't easy for him to see forward. He has this view angle only because the ship is at about a 20 degree angle left of center as it maneuvered into the left lane. Straight on and he would have had to squeeze himself against the corner even more.









#14
St. Paul MN
3,036 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Boogs,
thanks for the great photos. It is like you are on the balcony with these great pictures.

i got the check list. thanks everyone

Will have done Gatun locks/Portobelo tour the day before transit.
Be up on open deck , move around, be there at 6am.
Have wine on my SV balcony for the middle part through Gatun Lake.
Take lots of pictures
Once through the last lock and in the Pacific Ocean, get ready to celebrate Christmas Eve on the Century at dinner.
#16
Virginia
341 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
Originally posted by first_state101
We're planning a Panama Canal cruise (east bound - San Diego to Miami). We'll select a veranda. Which side would provide the best view through the canal? We have not selected a cabin yet.

Looking toward the front (bridge) of ship get a balcony on the right side.
I want to see the action as it happens so would not take an aft balcony.

Above all, get down close to the water as you go through the locks so you can see the locks fill with water to raise the ship, or the lock empty of water to lower the ship.

IMHO, plan to be on deck before sunrise and until sunset. It is a long day.
Drink lots of water. Take a bag with sunscreen, cover up, an umbrella, and a fan for the day.

Claire
#17
Houston, Texas, USA
20,558 Posts
Joined Jan 2001
The best views of the Panama Canal are from the bridge.
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TEXED-N-JACQUIE
#18
San Jose, Calif
3,674 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Also, on many transits the captain will open up the helipad for a closer look. The access to this area is from deck five. Enter the theater on the port (left) side and walk past all the seats. At the end of the seating area you will find a steel door that leads outside and to a set of stairs up to the helipad.

Hopefully it will be open on your cruise. The view is quite impressive.

The first two photos were taken through the main lounge panorama windows. You can see people enjoying the view as our ship approaches the first lock from the Pacific side. The third photo was taken after we figured out that anyone could have access to the helipad.





#20
Clarksburg, WV
13,949 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
Originally posted by boogs
It is a 50-50 chance your stateroom will be on the "interesting" side.
Originally posted by Happy Cruiser 6143
Don't chose a port or a starboard cabin based on what you think you will see as you go through the canal.
Originally posted by ClairetoCruise
Above all, get down close to the water as you go through the locks so you can see the locks fill with water to raise the ship, or the lock empty of water to lower the ship. Claire
Originally posted by BillB48
Select your cabin for how you will use it for the rest of your voyage, at the Canal you should be flexible as to where you will be.
Best answers of the day.