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Panama Canal Cruises

Set sail with princess® – the best panama canal cruise line.

Best Cruise Line Itineraries

13-Time Winner Recommend Magazine

We’re the number one cruise line sailing to this bucket list destination, and as awe-inspiring as it is to travel through one of  Condé Nast Traveler’s  7 Cruise Wonders of the World, we’ll help you explore equally fascinating places along the way. So stretch out on a Caribbean beach, admire the pristine rainforests, stroll the cobbled streets of colonial towns and journey through the fabled Panama Canal with Princess.

Roundtrip Ft. Lauderdale

From the East Coast

  • Roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale
  • Experience a partial transit of the Panama Canal
  • Visit the pristine beaches of the Caribbean and explore the lush rainforests of Costa Rica
  • Uncover two or three of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) and enjoy their vibrant culture and marine life

Between Atlantic & Pacific Oceans

Ocean to Ocean

  • Sail from the East Coast to the West Coast or vice versa. Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles or San Francisco, or cruise from either of those two West Coast cities to Florida.
  • Ideal itinerary for those who want to experience a full transit of the Panama Canal
  • Transit all three sets of locks

Why Princess is the #1 Panama Canal Cruise Line

Meaningful travel to a bucket-list destination

Destination immersion

We craft our Panama Canal itineraries to enrich our guests' experiences to provide the most exposure to this bucket-list destination. You'll be enchanted by Spanish and Dutch cities dating back centuries, as well as diverse tropical rainforests, white-sand beaches, dramatic volcanoes and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And Princess provides live narration from the bridge while transiting the locks, just one reason we were voted "Best Cruise Line for Enrichment" by  Cruise International .

Photo: Las Bovedas in Cartagena, Colombia

The leader in the Panama Canal

From ships custom built to sail the massive locks to immersive onboard programs and onshore adventures that inspire, Princess is the number one way to explore this epic phenomenon. We've sailed the Panama Canal since 1967 and we have more itinerary choices and departures of any cruise line in the region.

Photo: View of locks from the ship

Abundant adventures ashore

Each voyage offers a myriad of experiences and cultures. There is something for every type of explorer in this culturally diverse region. Choose from immersive excursions such as exploring the engineering mastery of the Canal, trekking through surrounding rainforests, visiting local villages and relaxing on the pristine beaches of the Caribbean.

Photo: Old City in Cartagena, Colombia

Panama Canal Cruise Articles and Videos

Find fascinating articles with Panama Canal cruise tips for experiencing unforgettable attractions, regional cuisine, and more on both sides of this epic man-made wonder.

2024-2025 Panama Canal Cruises

Sail through a man-made marvel. Discover Panama Canal with Princess Cruises.

San Juan del Sur Excursions: A Volcanic Adventure in Nicaragua

Have a volcanic adventure during San Juan del Sur excursions from Princess Cruises. Nicaragua excursions show you dynamic landscapes and exotic wildlife.

Top Five Panama Canal Shore Excursions and Attractions

From walking the ruins of Old Panama to a tram ride through Soberania National Park, you'll come back enriched and enlightened from your Panama Canal cruise.

Try These 6 Panamanian Foods on Your Panama Canal Cruise

Taste your way through the diverse culinary culture of Panama on your Panama Canal cruise with Princess.

Costa Rica Excursions: Something for Everyone

Partake in a Costa Rica excursion for a Caribbean adventure with Princess Cruises. There's something for everyone on Costa Rica shore excursions.

Panama Cruises Trivia: 5 Facts You Should Know About The Panama Canal

Test your knowledge of facts about the Panama Canal with Princess Cruises.

Travel, Airfare, & Hotels: Let Princess Get You There

Princess EZair® Flights

Stress-free airfare

Remove the hassle from air travel and give yourself the gift of flexibility, time and a thicker wallet with Princess EZair flights. We negotiate lower rates with the airlines, allow you to modify your flight up to 45 days prior with no penalty and protect you if your flight is late or canceled.

EZair flight quotes are available on our cruise search result details pages.

Airplane to Ship Transfer

We get you where you need to go

Let Princess pick you up from the airport and take you directly to your ship or hotel when you arrive, even if you didn't book your airfare through us. A uniformed Princess representative meets you at the airport after you've retrieved your luggage and transports you directly to your ship or hotel without you having to worry about the logistics of navigating a new city.

Cruise Plus Hotel Packages

Stay longer and relax

Extend your cruise vacation, and simplify your travel plans with a hotel stay at the beginning or end of your cruise. With a Cruise Plus Hotel Package, a Princess representative meets you at the airport and pier, transporting you to and from your hotel. The package includes the cost of your hotel stay, transportation, luggage handling and the services of the representative.

Need help planning?

Princess Cruise Vacation Planners are a dedicated resource to help you every step of the way through the planning process of your cruise vacation. And the best part is, they are absolutely FREE!

Cruise deals & promotions

Find our top sales, deals, partnerships and promotions for our destinations all in one place. We run promotions throughout the year and sometimes run sweepstakes where you could win prizes!

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Panama Canal Cruises

Experience one of the wonders of the modern world on Holland America Line’s Panama Canal cruises. Our Panama cruise itineraries depart from both east and west coasts for loads of convenient options. A cruise to the Panama Canal is an incredible experience, worthy of any bucket list as you travel between oceans. The shipping channel—which took 33 years to complete and cost more than 25,000 workers their lives—is arguably the greatest engineering achievement of all time. As you cruise the canal, you will pass through the two-chambered Miraflores Locks, the one-chambered Pedro Miguel Lock, and three-chambered Gatun Locks. Along the way you’ll find Gatun Lake, once the largest manmade lake in the world, which has proved a boon for the species that thrive here, undisturbed by the passing ships.

The Panama Canal Cruise Experience

Feel your ship rise 85 feet as water fills the locks on the Panama Canal. Listen as a historian shares tales of this incredible engineering feat that divided two continents. Explore the intriguing landscapes, culture and people of this amazing region. From engineering marvels to exotic wildlife, there's so much to discover while on your Panama Canal cruise.

Aerial view of a Holland America Cruise Line ship on a Panama Canal cruise

See A Modern Marvel On Panama Canal Cruises

A picture of an orange frog on a leaf on one of many Panama Canal cruises

Panama Canal Cruises Have Diverse Ports Of Call

A picture of a Holland America Cruise Line ship on one of many award-winning Panama Canal Cruises. Logo reads, Holland America Line awarded Cruiser's Choice for Panama Canal and Central America regions.

Perfectly Sized Ships For Panama Canal Cruises

couple sharing a plate

Exceptional Cuisine & Entertainment

A smiling woman on a zipline on a Panama Canal cruise excursion

Extraordinary Panama Canal Cruise Tours

Relax through the holidays on a panama canal cruise.

A picture of colorful paper mâché animals on one of many holiday Panama Canal cruises

Something to Celebrate

Featured panama canal cruise ports.

An aerial view of a boats docked in Fuerte Amador, Panama while on a Panama Canal cruise

Fuerte Amador, Panama

A picture of colorful buildings in Cartagena, Columbia on a Panama Canal cruise

Cartagena, Colombia

Aerial view of Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

A picture of people enjoying the beach in Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica on a Panama Canal cruise excursion

Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica

A picture of a historic building in Puerto Chiapas, Mexico while on a Panama Canal cruise excursion

Puerto Chiapas, Mexico

Aerial view of a religious statue overlooking a beach in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua on a Panama Canal cruise excursion

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

SEE ALL PANAMA CANAL PORTS

Featured Shore Excursions

A picture of an old boat near an Embera native village while on a Panama Canal cruise excursion

Get Free Planning Help

Panama canal travel articles.

The ultimate journey between two continents and two mighty oceans, a Panama Canal cruise encompasses Spanish colonial architecture, verdant rainforest and an engineering marvel. Learn more about our ports in the region with articles on  Cartagena’s  graceful Old City and  Costa Rica’s  exotic Pura Vida Gardens;  Antigua, Guatemala , including La Merced, the city’s 250-year-old cathedral; and the storied past of  Panama Viejo , a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And be sure to explore the complex and fascinating history of the  Panama Canal .

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The second lock of the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean

Cruise to Panama Canal (Cruising), Panama

Panama canal (cruising) shore excursions, amazing experiences coming soon., sorry, there are no excursions for this port at this moment., things to do in panama canal (cruising).

The first lock of the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean with a view from a ship

Get Swept Up

The man-made system of locks are where the Panama Canal works its magic by lifting passing ships up to the canal's main elevation, then letting them down again. You'll see three lock systems as you make your way through the canal: Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun.

A yellow-backed bird found in the Soberania National Park that can be seen from the Panama Canal

Exotic Views

From the ship, you'll get great views of Soberania National Park, a 55,000-acre area of protected rainforest that's home countless species of birds, mammals and reptiles. See if you can catch a glimpse of an orange-chinned parakeet or a white-faced capuchin monkey.

Caupchin monkeys on Monkey Island in Lake Gatun on the Panama Canal

Be sure to look for the islands that surround Lake Gatun during your Panama Canal cruise. See the lush forests and colorful birds, and get to know the impressive body of water itself — at the time it was created, it was the largest man-made lake in the world.

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12 best Panama Canal cruises for a bucket-list trip

Donna Heiderstadt

A Panama Canal transit is a rite of passage for many cruise lovers. Experiencing this marvel of early 20th-century engineering appeals to those with a wide array of interests, from history and politics to colonial architecture and wildlife spotting. Built by the U.S. government between 1903 and 1914, this 50-mile waterway linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans revolutionized shipping by creating an expedited route for the transit of cargo and, ultimately, cruise ship passengers.

Panama Canal itineraries are offered by almost every cruise line. Thanks to a 2016 canal expansion project, a third set of locks can now accommodate larger vessels. It's possible to cruise the Panama Canal on ships of all sizes (from 148 guests to more than 3,000) on itineraries that range from a week in the sun to a six-month world cruise.

Some ships sail a full transit of the canal, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, or vice versa. These one-way journeys between Miami or Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles or San Diego, visits ports in Central America, South America, Mexico and California.

Others sail only a partial transit, entering the locks from the Atlantic and cruising into Lake Gatun before turning around and exiting again. These itineraries, sailing round-trip from Florida ports, combine the canal experience with island-hopping in the Caribbean.

For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

The array of options means that a Panama Canal cruise experience is possible even if you're short on time or have a limited budget — and chances are high that your favorite cruise line offers one or more itineraries. Most sailings attract couples, typically retirees, but if the timing is right a Panama Canal cruise can also be a great multi-generational experience.

Here are a dozen of the best Panama Canal cruises to consider.

Holland America's 14- to 16-day Panama Canal cruises

panama canal cruise from seattle

Holland America offers a variety of Panama Canal cruises , but the most popular itineraries span 14 to 16 days. They offer a full transit between Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, or vice versa, and are offered on multiple ships, including Zaandam, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam and Volendam. These sailings call on Cartagena, Colombia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Huatulco and Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Who should go: Holland America ships sailing a full transit are popular with retired couples who appreciate the cruise line's consistency and good value. All four ships accommodate between 1,432 and 2,106 passengers and offer signature onboard experiences that include the Greenhouse Spa and the BBC Earth in Concert multimedia performance. The larger Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam feature additional specialty dining options, such as Tamarind and Nami Sushi, as well as B.B. King's Blues Club, Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard Onboard.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' 16-night Los Angeles to Miami cruise

Regent Seven Seas Cruises ' newest ship, Seven Seas Grandeur, debuts in November 2023 and its first two Panama Canal itineraries in early 2024 are already waitlisted. For those planning ahead, the 16-night Miami to Los Angeles (Dec. 13-29, 2024) and 16-night Los Angeles to Miami (Jan. 8-23, 2025) transits offer luxurious all-inclusive pampering, plus port calls in Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas and Acapulco, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Corinto, Nicaragua; Panama City, Panama; Cartagena, Colombia; and George Town, Grand Cayman.

Who should go: This itinerary can be a wonderful splurge for a couple seeking to celebrate a milestone anniversary or birthday in a memorable way on a luxurious new ship. Prices start at a hefty $10,399 per person for a spacious balcony suite, but they also include airfare, transfers, gratuities, dining and beverages, Wi-Fi and shore excursions — meaning you'll hardly have any other vacation expenses.

Related: The 8 best luxury cruise lines for elegance and exclusivity

Celebrity Cruises' 11-night Panama Canal & Southern Caribbean cruise

panama canal cruise from seattle

For a Panama Canal experience that begins and ends in Fort Lauderdale, Celebrity Cruises ' 11-night Panama Canal & Southern Caribbean itinerary is a great option. There's plenty of time to plan ahead for the Dec. 2, 2024 cruise or the half-dozen almost identical sailings that follow through March 2025. All sailings are aboard the new 3,260-guest Celebrity Beyond and visit Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; Oranjestad, Aruba; Kralendjik, Bonaire; and George Town, Grand Cayman (Willemstad, Curacao replaces Grand Cayman on some 2025 sailings).

Who should go: Celebrity Beyond and its Edge-series sister ships appeal to Millennials, Gen Xers and young-at-heart Boomers who appreciate innovative design, entertainment and dining options. The ships are geared toward couples or groups of friends, but families with older teens might also enjoy the onboard vibe. There are no splash pools or waterslides for younger kids, although calls on three Caribbean islands offer aquatic fun.

Windstar Cruises' 7-night Costa Rica & Panama Canal cruise

To explore the Panama Canal region in a relaxed manner aboard an intimate motorized sailing yacht, check out Windstar Cruises' 7-night Costa Rica & Panama Canal itinerary aboard the 148-guest Wind Star. Bookable on more than two dozen dates in 2023, 2024 and 2025, the itinerary takes guests from Colon, Panama to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica (or vice versa). The ship will transit the canal and visit Panama City and Isla Parida in Panama, plus Golfo Dolce and Quepos (for Manuel Antonio National Park) in Costa Rica.

Who should go: Fans of small-ship cruising who enjoy a casual onboard ambiance, are interested in nature and wildlife and wish to sample the regional flavors of Central America should consider a Windstar cruise . All accommodations are in snug yet well-designed staterooms with windows, but no balconies. Wind Star is a cozy and social four-deck ship featuring a pool and pool bar, a lounge and two restaurants.

Related: Big vs. small cruise ships: Which will I like better?

Silversea's 31-day New York to Lima cruise

panama canal cruise from seattle

Silversea Cruises ' indulgent 31-day New York to Lima sailing aboard its newest ship, 728-guest Silver Nova features a Panama Canal transit in the middle of the trip. The one-way itinerary departs New York City in November and visits Bermuda and multiple sunny Caribbean islands — Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Barth's, St. Kitts, Antigua, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados, Bequia, Grenada, Curacao and Aruba — and Cartagena, Colombia before transiting the canal to call on ports in Ecuador (Manta) and Peru (Salaverry and Lima).

Who should go: Silversea's clientele is mostly mature couples with a luxury mindset and an appreciation for elevated dining with a strong regional focus. They also appreciate the cruise line's all-inclusive ease. A month-long itinerary such as this is likely to attract retirees seeking an extended warm-weather escape.

Related: The 10 best cruises for couples seeking romance and together time at sea

Carnival Cruise Line's 8-day Panama Canal cruise from Tampa

Experiencing the Panama Canal doesn't have to be time-consuming or budget-busting. Carnival Cruise Line 's 8-day Panama Canal from Tampa itinerary offers a round-trip, partial-transit sailing aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride with port calls in Limon, Costa Rica and George Town, Grand Cayman—beginning at under $900 per person.

With four pools (including an adults-only aft Serenity Pool), a WaterWorks aqua park, Camp Ocean kids club and seven restaurants, the ship offers enough diversions for sea-day fun, even at half the size of Carnival's newest megaships.

Who should go: Carnival's action-packed ships and affordable cruise fares appeal to families, friends and couples of all ages who enjoy a lively onboard ambiance and casual complimentary dining options (including a Guy Fieri burger venue).

Related: Best cruise lines for families

Seabourn's 21-day Caribbean & Panama Canal Passage

panama canal cruise from seattle

For a one-way Panama Canal transit that visits six countries (Aruba, Curacao, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico) and offers six relaxing and luxurious days at sea, consider Seabourn 's 21-day Caribbean & Panama Canal Passage . The 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn will sail from Miami to Los Angeles in December.

Calls on Golfito and Puntarenas in Costa Rica offer access to eco-adventure. Visits to Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala and Puerto Chiapas and Huatulco in Mexico feature excursions focused on pre-Spanish-colonial culture, coffee cultivation and more, while a call on Cabo San Lucas offers whale-watching, deep-sea fishing or tequila tasting opportunities.

Who should go: Work-from-anywhere entrepreneurs and retirees who enjoy the luxury and refinement of small-ship cruising will enjoy this three-week Panama Canal transit. Seabourn Sojourn pampers its guests with attentive service, elevated cuisine and all-ocean-facing suites featuring walk-in closets and spacious marble bathrooms. Seabourn's all-inclusive cruise fares also cover gratuities and complimentary wines and spirits.

Princess Cruises' 10-day Panama Canal with Costa Rica & Caribbean cruise

While Princess Cruises does offer several longer ocean-to-ocean Panama Canal itineraries — including two in 2023 that transit via the historic locks — its popular 10-day Panama Canal with Costa Rica & Caribbean cruises conveniently sail roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale on more than a dozen dates in 2023 and 2024.

What's more, you can choose from among three ships: 3,140-guest Caribbean Princess or 3,080-guest Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess. In addition to the partial transit, these sailings call on Jamaica and Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, as well as Cartagena, Columbia; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama.

Who should go: Couples who enjoy a ship with a more traditional vibe and families with kids who are content to participate in interactive learning activities and nature-based adventure (vs waterslides) will enjoy this cruise. Princess ships are known for their Movies Under the Stars screenings, multiple pools, specialty dining options such as Sabatini's Italian Trattoria and The Salty Dog Gastropub, and Crooners piano bar.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Princess Cruises ship

Norwegian Cruise Line's 17-day South America: Peru, Colombia & Chile cruise

panama canal cruise from seattle

There's no "Panama Canal" in this itinerary's name, but Norwegian Cruise Line 's 17-day South America: Peru, Colombia & Chile cruise in January 2024 does a full canal transit (and spends a day in Panama City) as it sails from Miami to Santiago, Chile. The 1,936-guest Norwegian Sun sails to historic Santa Marta and Cartagena in Colombia; Manta, Ecuador; Trujillo, Lima and Pisco in Peru; and Arica and Coquimbo in Chile, before disembarkation in Santiago.

Who should go: Couples and friends interested in experiencing not just a Panama Canal transit but some of the top coastal experiences along the Pacific Coast of South America should choose this itinerary. Norwegian Sun is an older, smaller vessel that was refurbished in 2018 and features a top deck more conducive to sunning than thrill rides. The ship also has a surprising number of restaurants for its size: two main dining rooms, a buffet restaurant, a sports bar and an outdoor grill on a complimentary basis, plus eight specialty dining venues (including Mexican, Italian, French, Japanese and a steakhouse) for an added fee.

Oceania's 16-day Miami to Los Angeles cruise

Following its May debut, Oceania Cruises ' 1,200-guest Vista — the first new-build ship in Oceania's fleet in more than a decade — will offer back-to-back 16-day Miami to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to Miami itineraries in October and November. Both sailings visit six countries with port calls that include George Town, Grand Cayman; Cartagena, Colombia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; and Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, Mexico. (The second sailing visits San Diego instead of Ensenada.)

Who should go: Oceania's newest ship offers a great compromise between a small and medium-size vessel and is ideal for those seeking a premium cruise experience with casual sophistication. Older couples especially will appreciate the ship's elegant stateroom decor in soft hues of wheat and seagrass, mix of grand and intimate spaces and wide array of dining options (including two new venues, Ember for inventive American cuisine and Aquamar Kitchen for wellness-focused breakfast, lunch and dinner). A more immersive mixology program features curated cocktail menus, indulgent pairing experiences and specialty beverage carts.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on an Oceania Cruises ship

Cunard's 29-day Alaska & Panama Canal cruise

panama canal cruise from seattle

Talk about packing for all kinds of weather! Cunard's 29-day Alaska & Panama Canal sailing aboard 2,081-passenger Queen Elizabeth begins in Vancouver on Aug. 7 and explores Alaska for more than a week (visiting Ketchikan, Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park and Sitka). Then the ship heads back south along the U.S. Pacific Coast (stopping in Victoria, Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles) before heading to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Only then will it transit the Panama Canal. The ship makes one Atlantic stop in Aruba before passengers disembark in Fort Lauderdale.

Who should go: British cruise line Cunard appeals mainly to older travelers who savor the line's formal traditions. This cruise is for you if you enjoy afternoon tea, dressing up for dinner, gala evenings and dancing to big-band orchestras. The particular itinerary appeals to retirees who wish to visit a variety of cruise regions in one singular itinerary.

Viking's 180-day World Voyage

For the ultimate cruise indulgence, Viking's 180-day World Voyage I includes a Panama Canal transit (on Christmas Day, no less) as 930-passenger Viking Sky cruises from Fort Lauderdale to New York City (Dec. 19, 2024–June 17, 2025). This round-the-world cruise will visit 37 countries as guests enjoy Viking Sky's modern Scandinavian interior decor, soothing LivNordic Spa, two pools (including one with a retractable roof) and six onboard restaurants. Pricing includes airfare, gratuities and complimentary wine and beer with lunch and dinner.

Who should go: With cruise fares that start at $79,995 per person, this six-month adventure at sea requires a luxury budget. Viking 's base clientele is mostly retired or close-to-retirement-age professionals who enjoy the cruise line's focus on educational enrichment (via onboard lectures) and serene ambiance (there's no casino and the nighttime vibe is on the quiet side).

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

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Cruises to the Panama Canal

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panama canal cruise from seattle

  • Ports of Call

Zoom your map way out and Panama looks like a small sliver of land, so a trip through its famous canal is a quickie, right? But not so fast — traversing the canal actually takes at least 20 hours! Cruise the Panama Canal and enjoy a zoomed-in real-life look at perhaps last century’s greatest engineering achievement… along with its surrounding lush, verdant lands. This testament to human audacity joins the Pacific and Caribbean in the most direct way possible, and is worth making a leisurely part of your vacation. Even better, Panama Canal cruises call at Central American ports along the canal like Limón and Cartagena… plus at Caribbean island hotspots along the way. You’ll get to explore the local beaches and culture while heading to or from one of the greatest man-made marvels in the world. Cruises through the Panama Canal promise one legendary trip.

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aerial view of panama canal

Celebration Key

white-sand beach and lagoons surround multiple recreational and leisure locations at celebration key

Half Moon Cay

aerial view of half moon cay and it's crystal blue waters

Montego Bay

explore the rose hall house in beautiful montego bay

Colón (Panama Canal)

historic building structures along  colon hillside

Santa Marta

stunning hilltop view of santa maria

Curaçao

dine and shop along the waterfront of curacao

Grand Cayman

dock on the blue pristine waters of grand cayman

Puerto Quetzal

view of the beautiful santa catalina arch

Cabo San Lucas

picturesque view of the arch of cabo san lucas

New Orleans

take a stroll down the new orleans river walk

Panama Canal Transit

aerial view of a carnival cruise ship navigating the panama canal

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21 Night Repo - Panama Canal (Sea/Mia)

Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered freestyle cruising with a variety of specialty dining restaurants, entertainment and onboard activities, including go-kart racing!

Experience the overwhelming sight of the Panama Canal and its surrounding attractions for your next cruise.

Known as The Emerald City, Seattle is a beautiful, luscious city with incredible views of the Cascade Mountains and Elliott Bay. The city is full of activities for both water lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

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Seattle, Washington , San Francisco, California , Los Angeles, California , Cabo San Lucas, Mexico , Puerto Vallarta, Mexico , Manzanillo, Mexico , Acapulco, Mexico , Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala , Puntarenas, Costa Rica , Panama Canal, Panama , Cartagena, Colombia , Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands , Miami, Florida

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21 Night Repo - Panama Canal (Sea/Mia) sailing on the Norwegian Encore

Departure dates: oct 2024 - oct 2024.

From $1,599

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The Points Guy

What to pack for a Panama Canal cruise

P acking for a cruise that travels through the Panama Canal isn't all that different from packing for an itinerary for other tropical destinations. However, since the trip brings with it the bucket list experience of the all-day canal crossing, which can last 10 hours or more, you'll want to make sure to bring things to stay comfortable outside on deck and items to capture and truly enjoy this unique journey.

You'll also want to pack for the other destinations on your itinerary, whether they're Caribbean islands, other Central American ports or both.

Follow this Panama Canal cruise packing list to make sure you don't forget anything on your Central America cruise of a lifetime.

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Panama has a hot and humid, tropical climate, with temperatures that stay pretty constant throughout the year, in the mid- to high-80s Fahrenheit during the day and the mid-70s at night.

The rainy season generally lasts from May to December, bringing anywhere from 10 to 30 inches of rain, while the shorter dry season runs from January to May. As is typical in tropical destinations, showers can be brief, passing quickly before the sun comes back out.

Considering you're going to be outside for a long time watching your ship pass through 12 locks and travel across Gatún Lake, you'll want to pack to protect yourself rain or shine.

Related: 12 best Panama Canal cruises for a bucket-list trip

Sun protection

It will take your ship at least 10 hours to traverse the entire Panama Canal, and since this crossing is such a unique experience, you'll want to be on deck for much of that time. This means you'll need ample protection from the already intense Panama sun, made more so as it reflects off the water.

Pack sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30; spray is convenient, but it doesn't provide as much coverage as lotion and is better for touch-ups. If you're not checking your luggage, purchase a set of small silicone squeeze bottles that meet TSA carry-on liquid requirements and fill them with sunscreen lotion.

If you're planning any snorkeling expeditions during the rest of the cruise, buy reef-safe sunscreen, which uses a physical barrier like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide rather than a chemical one. Don't forget lip balm with an SPF, too.

Bring sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection and a hat with a wide or floppy brim to shield your face from the sun. Choose one with a chin strap, so it doesn't blow off on the windy deck. A rashguard, swimshirt, quick-drying board shorts (or another quick-drying bathing suit) and a cover-up are useful if you want to take a quick dip the day of the crossing but don't want to miss anything by going back to your cabin to change.

Related: Packing for a cruise? These items aren't allowed on board

All of these items will also come in handy for any tropical beach ports on the itinerary before or after the Panama Canal crossing.

Comfortable clothing and shoes

Your Panama Canal cruise packing list should be full of cool and comfortable clothing to help you weather the Panamanian heat. Natural fabrics like cotton and linen are a better choice than synthetic ones like polyester. Shorts and T-shirts are safe bets, as are cotton skirts or sundresses.

If you plan on being up on deck in the early morning hours as your vessel enters the first set of locks, you might want to bring a lightweight sweatshirt, cotton sweater or casual button-down shirt that you can remove as the sun and heat become more intense.

A lightweight rain jacket or poncho will keep you dry during those brief tropical showers that can leave as quickly as they came. You'll definitely need wet-weather gear if you're cruising during the rainy season.

Since you might be standing for much of the day, pack comfortable shoes — whatever that means for you. Some people prefer sneakers or tennis shoes, while others like boat shoes or sandals.

Even if you love wearing flip-flops, pack a pair of sneakers or close-toed shoes if you've signed up for excursions during the rest of the cruise, such as a Panama City walking tour, visit to a coffee plantation or a hike through a rainforest.

Eveningwear

While you'll want to be comfortable and casual during the crossing and any excursions, you might need to pack dressier attire for the evenings.

Depending on the cruise line and onboard restaurants you select, dinners can be casual, dressy or semi-formal. Plus, cruises often have themed nights where passengers are invited to wear a certain color or costume. Check the cruise line's website for the most relevant information about what to pack for evening soirees.

Related: Bow ties and ballgowns: 5 reasons I always dress up on cruise ship formal nights

If you don't have room to pack a multitude of dressy outfits, stick with neutral colors that you can dress up with accessories, like a basic black dress with a few scarves or different jewelry, or a tan suit with a few ties and pocket squares.

Items to help you capture the Panama Canal crossing

If you're a serious photographer, pack a point-and-shoot or digital SLR camera with a decent zoom lens to capture the Panama Canal crossing and the scenery and wildlife you view along the journey. A tripod that wraps around the ship's railing, like ones made by GorillaPod, will come in handy for hands-free shooting and time-lapse photos and video.

Depending on the make and model of your cell phone, your camera might be sufficient to take high-quality pictures and videos — especially if you just want to capture memories for social media or a photo book when you come home. If your cell phone tends to lose battery power quickly, bring an external charging block, so you can stay juiced up all day and don't have to be tied to an outlet.

A waterproof phone case will be helpful in case it's raining on the day of the crossing. Plus, you can use it for beach, boating and snorkeling excursions the rest of the cruise.

If your phone doesn't already have a time-lapse feature, download an app designed for this purpose; going through each lock is a time-consuming process of entering the lock and having it filled or emptied to raise or lower the ship. Time-lapse videos that capture this process are very cool. You'll want a tripod that attaches to your phone for the best results.

Binoculars are useful for spotting wildlife on the banks of Gatún Lake. You might also want a small notebook to jot down notes, thoughts and cool things you see, as well as factoids from the onboard local guide providing commentary during the Panama Canal crossing.

Books about the Panama Canal and the surrounding region

If you're a reader who wants to glean all you can about this engineering marvel, pack a book that tells about the history and construction of the canal or download one onto your Kindle.

"The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914," by David McCullough does an excellent job of capturing the tragedy and triumph involved in building the canal.

If you're traveling with kids, "What is the Panama Canal?" by Janet B. Pascal breaks it down in an accessible way designed for those aged 8 to 12.

"Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal" by Margarita Engle talks about the human toll that was needed, and "Erased: The Untold Story of the Panama Canal" by Marixa Lasso recounts the history from the Panamian point of view.

Related: The best time to cruise the Panama Canal

If you want something that encompasses more about the region, especially if you'll be exploring Caribbean islands on your cruise, James Michener's classic "Caribbean: A Novel" takes you through 700 years of conquests, pirates, revolution and romance.

While not necessary, a few optional items can make your trip more pleasant.

You'll be thankful for a portable fan charged via USB when you're standing on the deck during your crossing, embarking on a walking tour or waiting in line.

A wet bag to keep your phone and valuables dry is helpful for snorkeling trips, sunset cruises and jet skiing, and a lightweight nylon backpack that folds into itself will be great to hold what you need during city jaunts and day trips away from the ship.

Insect repellent will keep those pesky mosquitos, which can be brutal in Central America, especially after it rains, at bay.

Panama Canal cruise packing list

Here is a list of some essential items, as well as nice-to-haves, for your Panama Canal cruise adventure:

  • Comfortable warm weather clothing (shorts, skorts, skirts, T-shirts, tank tops, cotton or linen casual button-down shirts for layering)
  • Swimwear, including a rashguard, swim shirt, board shorts and/or beach coverup
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Flip-flops or sandals
  • Evening attire for nicer dinners and events on the ship
  • Wide-brimmed or floppy sun hat, ideally with a chin strap
  • Toiletries and medications
  • Sunscreen (minimum 30 SPF and ideally reef-safe) and lip balm with sun protection
  • Sunglasses with UV protection
  • Insect repellent
  • Charging block
  • Waterproof phone case
  • Point-and-shoot or digital SLR camera (optional)
  • Tripod with wraparound stand
  • Small backpack (ideally a nylon one that folds into itself)
  • Books about the Panama Canal

Related: The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise

Bottom line

Packing for a Panama Canal cruise is similar to other Caribbean sailings, but you'll want a few extra things that will help you enjoy — and mark — the most memorable day in your bucket list itinerary.

Photos and videos are fitting souvenirs of this event, so make sure you're prepared on the tech side. But since you'll also want to be in the moment and take in all the sights and sounds, dress comfortably and protect yourself from the elements. In that way, you can better enjoy the 48-mile ride without distraction.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

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  • The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
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Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Cunard_Facebook_Panama Canal 2

More upheaval for global shipping as Panama Canal cuts traffic due to drought

Shipping companies already dealing with attacks on vessels in red sea.

A cargo ship passing through the Panama Canal.

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With shipping companies already dealing with disruptions in the Red Sea due to attacks on ships, word comes that another important trade route is being forced to curtail traffic.

A severe drought that began last year has forced authorities to slash ship crossings in the Panama Canal by 36 per cent.

The cuts announced Wednesday by authorities in Panama are set to deal an even greater economic blow than previously expected.

Panama Canal administrator Ricaurte Vasquez now estimates that dipping water levels could cost them between $500 million US and $700 million US in 2024, compared to previous estimates of $200 million US.

One of the most severe droughts to ever hit the Central American country has stirred chaos in the 80-kilometre route, causing a traffic jam of vessels, casting doubts on the canal's reliability for international shipping and raising concerns about its affect on global trade.

Cargo ships at anchor in a bay.

"It's vital that the country sends a message that we're going to take this on and find a solution to this water problem," Vasquez said.

The disruption of the major trade route between Asia and the United States comes at a precarious time. Attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea by Yemen's Houthi rebels have rerouted vessels away from the crucial corridor for consumer goods and energy supplies.

panama canal cruise from seattle

How the Houthis defied the U.S. | About That

The combination is having far-reaching effects on global trade by delaying shipments and raising transport costs. Some companies had planned to reroute to the Red Sea — a key route between Asia and Europe — to avoid delays at the Panama Canal, analysts say.

Now, that's no longer an option for most.

On Wednesday, Vasquez said the canal authorities would cut daily ship crossings to 24, down from 38 a day in normal times last year. Vasquez added that in the first quarter of the fiscal year the passageway saw a 20 per cent drop in cargo and 791 fewer ships than the same period the year before.

It was a "significant reduction" for Panama, Vasquez said. But he said that more "efficient" water management and a jump in rainfall in November have at least ensured that water levels are high enough for 24 ships to pass daily until the end of April, the start of the next rainy season.

  • Analysis Could Red Sea attacks reignite supply chain chaos?

Canal authorities attributed the drought to the El Niño weather phenomenon and climate change, and warned it was urgent for Panama to seek new water sources for both the canal's operations and human consumption. The same lakes that fill the canal also provide water for more than 50 per cent of the country of more than four million people.

"The water problem is a national problem, not just of the canal," Vasquez said. "We have to address this issue across the entire country."

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