Panama Canal - Panama

Linking the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Panama Canal provides one of cruising's most unforgettable experiences. Over 10 years were needed to complete the canal's 51 miles in 1914 - so avoiding the lengthy and often dangerous voyage around Cape Horn. 'The Big Ditch' lifts your vessel by a fascinating feat of mechanics aided by on-shore 'mule' locomotives through three great locks, traversing man-made lakes, channels blasted through rock, and the dense jungle. The narrow waterway has become an avenue between the oceans for seabirds such as pelicans and cormorants, as well as ships. The lush rainforest protects crested guan, sungrebe, rufescent tiger heron, chestnut mandibled toucan, howler and capuchin monkeys, American crocodile, green iguana, and the splendid blue morpho butterfly. The Panama Canal was the culmination of a dream shared by many that begins in 1513 with the Spanish conquistador Balboa. He was the first European to trek across the 43 mile wide isthmus. The French Canal company began construction of the Panama Canal in 1880 but, plagued by disease, financial burdens, and engineering problems, sold its rights and properties to the United States for $40 million, a loss of $240 million. The United States began construction in 1904 and completed the monumental project in ten years at a cost of approximately $387 million. Today the United States continues to oversee operations of the canal, although it did sign a treaty in the late 1970s to transfer the canal back to Panama by the 21st century. Until that time, the canal is under the direction of the Panama Canal Commission, a US government agency set up to operate it. A complete canal transit is comprised of cruising through three sets of locks. The Gatun Locks are situated on the Caribbean side of the Continental Divide while the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks are on the Pacific side. Ships transiting the canal are raised and lowered 85 feet in this three lock system. Two other special highlights of the canal are Gatun Lake and the Gaillard cut. Gatun Lake is one of the world's largest man-made lakes covering 163 square miles. Gaillard Cut is an 8 mile channel built through solid rock which was the most difficult excavation in the canal construction. There are more than 30 cruises calling at this port. Click the month or cruise line logo you are interested in to see details of the cruises.