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Panama Canal full or partial transit

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I have been looking at several cruise options. Is it worth the time and money to do a full transit or will the partial transit show the majority of the canal?

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We like the full transit. We did it a couple of years ago as a b2b from Fort Lauderdale to LA and back. It was wonderful

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41 minutes ago, paul929207 said:

We like the full transit. We did it a couple of years ago as a b2b from Fort Lauderdale to LA and back. It was wonderful

 

Absolutely do a full transit. You get to see the entire canal system, including Gatun Lake and Gaillard Cut. The scenery around the lake is beautiful, and that is where the canal is wide enough for ships to pass in opposite directions, which is quite interesting. And, you will have bragging rights to having done the entire canal as well as in two oceans separated by a continent in a single day. 

 

Panama%20channel%20wall.JPG

 

Ship%20passing.JPG

 

CIMG0930.JPG

 

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Of course 15 or more days on ship is nicer than 9 or 10, and the whole canal is better than the half way; but the closed loop of the partial from Fort Lauderdale saves time, money, and airfare - while giving a very good picture of the canal.

 

OP’s question is similar to asking: is a Queen’s better than a Britannia inside on a trans-Atlantic QM2 crossing:  of course —- but given the fact that most of us have limits, “first class, all the way” is not the only way to go.

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Highly recommend the full transit to really understand this engineering wonder.  I also recommend reading David McCullough’s “Path Between the Seas” before cruising.  It really gives you a much more detailed understanding of the entire project.

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Please take a FULL transit.  We've done both several times and the FULL is soooooooooooo much better and worth it! :classic_wink:

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Full transit would be best but if time and budget are issues, then the first locks would be fine.

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If you can only do a partial transit, the best is one Princess does on Island or Coral, from the west coast.  They transit the entire canal except the Gatun Locks at the Atlantic end.  Go through the Miraflores Locks, Pedro Miguel locks, through the cut, and spend the night in Gatun Lake.  EM

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1 hour ago, Essiesmom said:

If you can only do a partial transit, the best is one Princess does on Island or Coral, from the west coast.  They transit the entire canal except the Gatun Locks at the Atlantic end.  Go through the Miraflores Locks, Pedro Miguel locks, through the cut, and spend the night in Gatun Lake.  EM

That would be pretty good as you get to see nearly everything.

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Have completed 20+ full transits and a partial from the West Coast. The West Coast partial transit starts in Panama City, so you see the first 2 sets of locks, the cut and Gatun Lake, turning around at Gatun Locks, returning to the Pacific. This is the best partial transit, as you see almost the entire canal twice.

 

Unfortunately, partial transits from the Atlantic go up Gatun Locks, head through the lake and return to the Atlantic. You see less than 1/2 the canal.

 

My preference is always a full transit, but if budget and time-off only permit an Atlantic partial, it is better than no canal cruise.

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We have done quite a few full transits of the canal -- love them.

 

We have also done the partials from the Caribbean -- you do not see much on these cruises.  It is really just an introduction to the workings of the old locks.

 

Several years ago HAL used to offer what was known as PanAmerican cruises.  We entered the Panama Canal from the west coast and stayed over night at Gatun Lake.  This a couple of times -- very enjoyable.

 

SO -- we recommend that you take a full transit cruise.

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A partial transit, if from the Panama City side shows you the important parts.

 

Best way is to take a smaller tour boat that fits IN the locks.  I took a partial transit on a tour boat from Panama City.  You sail into the lock, looking at the walls, then rise up out of it.  On the way back, you sink down INTO the lock.  VERY cool.

 

From a cruise ship, you will be above the ground, and it will just get closer or further way.

 

Also, the tour I took, they showed a History Channel show about the building of the canal.  Watching, while cruising through it, was very nice.

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We had no desire to fly cross-country either at the beginning or end of our vacation...so we opted for the partial.  It showed us enough to satisfy our curiosity about the canal.  It's really up to you, the time you have, and if you're up for a long flight at some point during your vacation time!

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I have done both the full transit and the partial transit, and if I have the time I would certainly prefer the full transit cruise as you get to see the entire canal.  On the partial transit we went in the east side, sat for a couple of hours, and then came back out again.  You do get to see how the locks work with the partial transit but that is about all you get to see.

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We did the partial on Princess several years ago. At the lake we hopped on a smaller ferry boat that took us the rest of the way through the canal and then we were bused us back to the ship.   Using the locks on the small boat was kind of neat -- we shared space in the locks with all kinds of other vessels.  

 

Anyway, if they still offer this kind of excursion it might be an option to a full transit on the cruise ship. 

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A couple of years ago we did our second partial because DH didn’t want to fly home. This time the excursion boat from Gatun Lake was offered. We loved it. 

The top deck was mostly covered by a canopy, but we sat all the way forward in the sun. Very comfortably. 

The difference was huge. Instead of looking down at the canal and the locks, we were part of them.  We went through them looking straight ahead at the giant doors and sharing the locks with a catamaran from French Polynesia crewed by a group of French college students. 

We were served a light lunch and plenty of fruit and water or sodas. 

Going under the huge bridge and finally out into the Pacific was exciting. We came ashore at Panama City with its impressive skyline and then we were bussed back to the ship, passing things like the family housing from when we operated the canal, and multiple villages and farms. 

The whole day was eye opening and a real treat!

For us, it was one of our best cruising experiences. 

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I don't mean to b the naysayer but:    We've done both.  Full once,  partial several times.  If the purpose is to experience the locks, on a partial, you go in, you go out and  you experience the locks both ways.  On a full, you go in one end, out the other and number of locks you experience is pretty much the same.  The cruise down the river is slow, hot and humid with jungle on both sides.  Depending where you live, it might mean a cross country flight to or from which means a day of flying and most likely a substantial additional cost.  On a partial out of Fla, you stop at several Caribbean Islands as well, which we much prefer to the west coast Mexico ports of call.  If it's important to say "I've gone from the Atlantic to the Pacific (or vise versa)  through the Panama Canal", then do it.  If you just want to experience the locks, a partial out of Fla is my 1st choice. 

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You do get to see and hear wildlife in the trees as you pass the jungle though. Sloth and Howler monkeys as well as many birds.

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43 minutes ago, marco said:

I don't mean to b the naysayer but:    We've done both.  Full once,  partial several times.  If the purpose is to experience the locks, on a partial, you go in, you go out and  you experience the locks both ways.  On a full, you go in one end, out the other and number of locks you experience is pretty much the same.  The cruise down the river is slow, hot and humid with jungle on both sides.  Depending where you live, it might mean a cross country flight to or from which means a day of flying and most likely a substantial additional cost.  On a partial out of Fla, you stop at several Caribbean Islands as well, which we much prefer to the west coast Mexico ports of call.  If it's important to say "I've gone from the Atlantic to the Pacific (or vise versa)  through the Panama Canal", then do it.  If you just want to experience the locks, a partial out of Fla is my 1st choice. 

 

I agree with this post completely and well said.  Our interest in the locks was satisfied with the partial trip and the Pacific side Mexican ports were of no interest to us at all.  Our cruise (Coral Princess) stopped in Costa Rica and from there we saw sloths and howler monkeys  along with a visit to the banana fields.  I really enjoyed all of the stops on the cruise.  We are on the east side of the country and a round trip flight to FLL was much preferable than flying across county.  However, I see the OP has a California tag so a longer flight might be inevitable for either itinerary (except for a back to back out of L.A.).  As for me personally, I honestly would still prefer the partial, even if we had to fly cross country and even if the cost (per day) were the same.

 

Have a great cruise on whichever one you decide! 

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25 minutes ago, MicCanberra said:

You do get to see and hear wildlife in the trees as you pass the jungle though. Sloth and Howler monkeys as well as many birds.

 

We've been on 5 full transits (some partials too)  and never saw any wildlife of interest when actually in the canal.

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Just to be clear, there is a BIG difference in a partial from which end you enter.

 

From the Pacific end you get to see two locks, and the cut.  These are the marvels of the canal.

 

From the other end, there is one lock and lake.  Not much to see.

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1 hour ago, SRF said:

Just to be clear, there is a BIG difference in a partial from which end you enter.

 

From the Pacific end you get to see two locks, and the cut.  These are the marvels of the canal.

 

From the other end, there is one lock and lake.  Not much to see.

 

To be more specific, if transiting through the old locks, from the Pacific you go through two lock systems, one with two consecutive locks, and the other with a single lock. From the Atlantic side, you go through one lock system with three consecutive locks.

 

The  recently opened larger locks have sets of three consecutive locks at each end. 

 

PACIFIC SIDE, OLD LOCKS

APPROACHING MIRAFLORES LOCKS - SET OF TWO LOCKS

CIMG0871.thumb.JPG.e33eea10031affdcf677c1c255f41e01.JPG

 

APPROACHING PEDRO MIGUEL LOCK - SINGLE LOCK

CIMG0905.thumb.JPG.bd878efe4daa55414d508a848894630c.JPG

 

ATLANTIC SIDE

INSIDE GATUN LOCKS - SET OF THREE LOCKS

CIMG1049.thumb.JPG.1b843d18603ee9bd1adcfe62befe24dd.JPG
 

Edited by SantaFeFan

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2 hours ago, SRF said:

Just to be clear, there is a BIG difference in a partial from which end you enter.

 

From the Pacific end you get to see two locks, and the cut.  These are the marvels of the canal.

 

From the other end, there is one lock and lake.  Not much to see.

Agreed.

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