A view of the Centennial Bridge & Gaillard Cut in the Panama Canal

For serious Cruise lovers, a Panama Canal transit is a must!

Panama Canal…

…doesn’t just saying that sound so exotic! 🙂

We have to say, our Panama Canal Cruise that we did on the “Coral Princess” this past Christmas was something we’d been looking forward to for a long time… definitely one we were happy to check off our “Bucket List”!

We were looking forward to it so much as 1. we’d already booked this Cruise two times before but had to delay both times as other things came up and 2. it’s such an important piece of how all the products and goods so essential to all of us move around the world and 3. the history of how it came to be, is pretty fascinating!

So just what is the Panama Canal?

Panama Canal Route vs Cape Horn Route
Panama Canal Route vs Cape Horn Route

It’s a 77km/48 mile ship canal that joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans… basically a huge ditch filled with water (a little more sophisticated then that though :-)) that goes through the country of Panama to save shipping containers (along with recreational & Cruise Ships) A LOT of time!

It plays a huge part in International Trade as it cuts the journey to well under half what it would be to get something from California to New York if the ships had to go right down around the bottom of South America around Cape Horn… a lot of shipping happens between places like China & the US so this is significant when sending things from say Shanghai to New York…

…in total the Panama Canal saves sailors over 12,000 KMs on their journey!

And it saves lives too… the path taken before the Panama Canal was built was down around South America via Cape Horn and is known as one of the most dangerous Ship passages in the World which has claimed many sailors lives.

The building of the Panama Canal though is where the real drama took place as it took over 30 years to complete, it claimed almost 30,000 lives and the costs were unheard of back in those times.

The short story is France started the building of it in 1880 but due to many issues (including over 20,000 workers dying, mostly due to malaria & yellow fever) they abandoned the project after a dozen years and they’d spent almost $300 million dollars… which is close to $7 Billion these days.

From there the US picked up the project a decade later and completed it between 1904 & 1914… spending around $350 million dollars more or about $7.5 Billion in today dollars…

…can you imagine spending over $14 Billion dollars to construct something… Wow!!

And even though the loss of life was much less (over 5000 people) during the US construction, a lot of people over those several decades made the ultimate sacrifice to get the Panama Canal built so make sure to take a few moments to appreciate that fact when there! 

Now as mentioned, that was the very short version of the history of how the Panama Canal was built… if you want to learn more of the Story check out a Panama Canal history book… the “Path Between the Seas” is probably the best.

Another thing that really blows us away about this impressive place is how much they charge to cross it…

…the average a ship pays to transit the Panama Canal is $54,000… some ships can pay a lot more though… one of the bigger Cruise Ships to have crossed the Panama Canal paid over $330,000… that’s a lot of air miles on the credit card! 🙂

Of course, this is chump change though compared to the alternative of the time and expense of sailing down around South America.

So now that you have your history lesson on the magnificent Panama Canal (which was named one of the Seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers) have a look at our pictures and videos below from our Panama Canal Cruise to see what she looks like in real life…

Nancy & Shawn Power at the Panama Canal
There we are looking pretty happy as we’re entering our 1st set of “Locks” at the Panama Canal


Below is a video overview of how the “Locks” at the Panama Canal operate… pretty impressive! 🙂


Shawn Power looking pretty relaxed as we do our Panama Canal Transit
There’s Shawn looking pretty relaxed & happy as we do our Panama Canal Transit


Here’s a little more “live footage”, this time a look at the view after the Panama Canal Locks brought us 85 feet above Sea Level… fun! 🙂


A view of the Centennial Bridge & Gaillard Cut in the Panama Canal
We had great views all day long during our transit like this view of the Centennial Bridge & Gaillard Cut


A portion of the Gaillard Cut in the Panama Canal
This view of a portion of the Gaillard Cut should give you an idea of the extreme challenges the engineers faced during construction… look how far down they had to cut into the earth! The dump trucks look so tiny next to that huge hill!


Miraflores Visitors & Viewing Center at the Panama Canal
If you’re ever in Panama but don’t have the chance to Cruise the Canal, at least visit the Miraflores Visitor Center where you can watch the ships go by… it was like having our own cheering section! 🙂


Nancy at the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal
There’s Nancy proving that “Yes”, we were at the Panama Canal 🙂


Nancy & Shawn leaving the Panama Canal and heading into the Pacific Ocean
Well we did it, we transited the Panama Canal… there’s one last look at the Miraflores Locks as we make our way into the Pacific Ocean


So there you have it… our Panama Canal Transit experience in words, pictures & videos… we truly hope you enjoyed it!

If you’d like to see what the rest of our Cruise looked like, then visit our Panama Canal photos & videos from our entire time on the “Coral Princess”.

We appreciate you!

Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!

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