The Panama Canal is one of the world’s most iconic waterways, bridging the gap between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It’s a feat of modern engineering with plenty of picturesque ports and relaxing beaches along the way. Although it’s now regarded as the ‘Crossroads of the World,’ the canal took decades of hard work, millions of dollars, and the lives of thousands of workers to complete! You can learn more about its fascinating history on a Panama Canal cruise, following in the footsteps of merchants from the past century....
Panama Canal Cruises
Colón, Panama - Panama Canal
San Blas Islands, Panama - Panama Canal
Colon is the gateway to the Panama Canal, one of the world’s most fascinating works of engineering. Visit the Canal Expansion Observation Centre to view its famous locks and the manmade Gatun Lake. You can also view the ruins of Fort San Lorenzo, or sail in Colon’s Caribbean waters. Fancy a bit of shopping? Colon is the world’s second largest duty tax-free port, making it a top place to flex your spending muscles.
Lush, tropical, and remote, the San Blas Islands may not be easy to get to but they’re well worth the effort! This gorgeous Panamanian archipelago includes just over 365 islands and cays, which are controlled by the local Guna people. Tourism numbers are limited in this autonomous region, so you’ll have those powdery white sands and swaying coconut palms (almost) to yourself. Read, swim, and just admire the view.
There are a few factors to keep in mind when you’re figuring out when to visit the Panama Canal Zone, starting with the weather. To avoid the rainy season, visit between the months of December and April. This region is hot, humid and tropical throughout the year, with short bursts of thundershowers often taking place between April and July in particular. Although there may be a chance of rain, July and August bring the sweetest deals on cruise prices so you may wish to risk it for a bargain! Just bring an umbrella.
The major highlight of this type of cruise is the canal itself! You’ll see many feats of manmade engineering, including Lake Gatun and the three locks along the canal, including Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. As an alternative, why take a journey on the Panama Railway for part of your voyage? This allows to you to view the canal from a different side, riding parallel to the waterway. You can also enjoy the port town of Colon, or venture into the rainforest at Gamboa to view colourful birds and flowers. The national forests of Costa Rica are also close at hand, including spectacular scenery of Tortuguero National Park.
Visiting Panama is straightforward if you’re a British national. You won’t need a visa, but you will need to show that you have a return or onward ticket as well as adequate funds to support your travel. (Generally either a credit card or $500 USD). Immigration officials won’t bother boarding transiting cruise ships to check paperwork - your passport will be stamped when you disembark the ship along the Panama Canal, with entry valid for 90 days. Make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of six months after your date of departure, with a few unused pages to collect those stamps!
It would be a shame to pass through this vibrant region without trying the deliciously fresh local cuisine! Panamanian dishes make ample use of fresh produce and tropical fruit, with a unique blend of Spanish, African and Native American influences. Chow down on thick corn cakes, crispy fried yuca fritters, and the light, fragrant chicken soup called ‘sancocho’. Ropa vieja is another popular dish in this region, consisting of slowly simmered shredded beef and vegetables that melt together in your mouth. As far as drinks go, you can expect plenty of delightfully fresh squeezed juices and a local favourite, rum punch.
Rintoul, Edinburgh on 2nd October 2018
Dining we eat in anytime Island for diner and Corel for breakfast and lunch, all the servers fantastic and excellent selection and cooking the gluten free, dream thanks to Paco head waiter.
Aitken, Ayrshire on 2nd October 2018
Going through the Panama Canal is a wonderful experience, I would recommend it to anyone, I have made many friends on my travels with P&O, and still keep in touch with lots of them.