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Matman1215

Panama Canal Full Transit Experiences

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I’m going to be sailing a full transit cruise from LA to Miami through the new set of locks next month. I’ve read some reviews and watched many videos but I’m looking for personal experiences on what not to miss and the lecturers’ native to the area who come onboard (when and where they happen) - things of that nature.  What can I expect from this cruise that I would not experience on a typical 7-10 day cruise around the Caribbean? Thanks for your help!

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If you read around the board, you will find lots of advice and experience. For example the common recommendation to wonder the ship during the transit, it takes 8-10 hours. Don't just hang out on your balcony (if you are booked in one)...you are missing a lot. Experience going through a lock on the bow, if possible, and also at the railing on the promenade deck. 

 

The Canal will provide a "tour guide", but your ship might also...we don't know what ship and cruise line you are on. Each cruise line does a couple things special.

 

The cruise is about the Canal. Generally, the other ports will be Mexican Rivera or Caribbean ports, although you probably will go to Cartegena, which is covered by the Colombia board here, and has lot of unique things about it. Some of the Central American ports can also be pretty unique, but we don't know where you are stopping.

 

Read "The Path Between the Seas" for the incredible history. Long, very detailed book. But an excellent primer to seeing the real thing. Also commonly recommended here. 

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I don't think it will be hugely different from a 7-10 day Caribbean cruise.  Once you get away from the Mexican ports you will probably find less beach type activities.  The Central American stops will have sightseeing, eco or cultural tours than you find in the Caribbean.  Perhaps the vibe of the ship could possibly be a little more subdued, but not necessarily... every cruise is different.

 

As far as enrichment lectures or destination lectures, it can be a crap shoot.  I know there are some good lecturers out there and there are some that are just meh!  No way to predict, but I attend them regardless.

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A Panama Canal transit is always a must, and when I think back to my full and partial transits, it really IS special. Since the old locks are still operated with that old-fashioned locomotive technique, I guess the new locks are "less entertaining", but hundreds of people will definitely be out on the open decks, trying to find the perfect observation spot, mainly close to the bow. The narrator will be an employee of the Canal Administration, and what he told us, being transmitted to all public spaces, was very interesting and entertaining. Passing through Gatun Lake, he held a slide presentation in the theatre. The evening before the transit you'll find a brochure on your bed which explains technical details of the canal, a map, description of the locks etc. - and still I have listened to conversations like that: "Well, I have seen enough, I get back to this place as soon as we're getting close to the second set of locks". Person 2: "Oh, there is another set of locks?" Yes, there is, or do you expect us to speed down river rapids or a 90 feet waterfall?

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The Panama Canal full transit is an experience not to be missed. We are going back through next March and can’t wait. Be prepared for heat, humidity, and possibly rain showers. 

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I assume that heat, humidity, rain (and bugs?) will probably be worse in May?

Do you very much enjoy the various ports on the full transit (from where to where?) or is it essentially the transit itself that keeps you going back?

Thanks.

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On 10/6/2019 at 11:51 AM, poss said:

I assume that heat, humidity, rain (and bugs?) will probably be worse in May?

Do you very much enjoy the various ports on the full transit (from where to where?) or is it essentially the transit itself that keeps you going back?

Thanks.

We were there in April, and no bugs.  Here is my photo journal and maybe this will help with your questions.

Panama Canal Cruise - photo journal

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Thanks for the photo journal.    Seems as if you did a lot of beaching out.   Glad you enjoyed yourselves.

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I am another who will recommend “The Path Between the Seas”.  Understanding what was involved in the building of the canal will throughly enhance your experience.  I always recommend it to friends who are taking this cruise and they uniformly thank me after they return. 

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On 10/23/2019 at 4:30 PM, poss said:

Thanks for the photo journal.    Seems as if you did a lot of beaching out.   Glad you enjoyed yourselves.

Yes, we do enjoy a nice beach, but this cruise is not really a beach vacation.  In 2 weeks we only got to the beach in Aruba and Cabo.  Too much to see everywhere else.😄

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