We 'did' the Panama Canal in April this year on Island Princess. A 21 day round trip Los Angeles/Los Angeles. We chose this itinerary because we wanted to experience the Panama Canal and had not previously visited the ports of call which were as follows. Mexico : Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatulco. Costa Rica: Puntarenas. Panama: Panama Canal, Fuerte Amador. Nicaragua: Puerto Corinto. Guatemala: Puerto Quetzal. Mexico: Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta. The Panama Canal is amazing and once through the locks (Miraflores and Pedro Miguel), the scenery is beautiful. We sailed as far as Gatun Lake and then back out of the canal into the Pacific. The ship then anchored off Fuerte Amador and the following day we took an excursion to see the locks up close. Central America is quite poor, particularly Nicaragua and it really makes you appreciate what we have here in the UK. You can, of course, make a full transit of the canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific or vice versa. So if you have not been to the Caribbean, this is a good way of seeing both cultures. We had two days in Los Angeles on the return journey and this we thoroughly enjoyed. I am not going to recommend a particular cruise line (although we did enjoy the Princess cruise), because everyone's taste is different. I would do a search on this web site which will give you a choice of cruise lines and itineraries. Happy searching. Hope you find something suitable. Regards, Jean Whittle.
I would suggest there are two options. Either take a cruise on a ship that is transitting the whole of the Panama Canal, which is normally a re-positioning cruise from one side of the USA to the other, Royal Caribbean or Celerity for example are your best bets in my view. Or, take a Southern Caribbean cruise that stops at Colon at the Eastern end of the Canal. From here you can do an excursion from the ship which takes you by coach to the middle of the canal where you join a small boat which transits two of the three locks to Panama City where you pick up the coach and drive back to Colon. We have been though the Canal both ways and really couldn't say which was best, they were both fantastic. The main differance is that one one you stay or your ship and on the other you see more of Panama and the locks up close. Hope that Helps.
Try a P&O Vessel they do a complete transit of the canal, take care not to get a ship that only goes into the first lake as lots of ships do. Be sure to bbk a ship that does do a complete trensit. The voyage through the canl takes about eight hours, but can be longer if there are lots of ships in transit.
You can do Southampton to San Francisco via Panama on P&O Oriana or San Francisco to Southampton on Aurora next winter. If you have the time you can do both and avoid flying. Each around 3 weeks.
I would recommend P&0-the Artemis is based for the next 2 winters in the Caribbean with several cruises through the Canal to Acapulco and back again.
A wonderful experience.