“Joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, this 50 mile (80 km) engineering marvel is used by thousands of ships, both large and small, each year. On partial or complete transits of the canal (a complete transit takes a day), you can sail beside giant cargo ships and the little tugs that guide them from one sea to another through three sets of double locks. Stretching for more than a mile (1.6 km), the Miraflores locks, with their twin flight, are the most spectacular. At Gamboa, 22 miles (38 km), north of Panama City, the canal meets Lago Gatún, created by damming the Río Chagres in 1879. Then the world´s largest artificial lake, it drowned villages and turned a mountain into the Isla Barro Colorado.
This 13,800-acre (5,600 ha) island, together with five nearby peninsulas, is today a biological reserve, where ocelots,sloths, monkeys, and many other species thrive in the moist tropical forest. Perhaps the most charming of the boats that ply the canal is the Isla Morada, a 1911 Prohibition-era rumrunner. This 90 passenger wooden boat gives a more intimate experience as you are dwarfed by enormous ships to left and right. While steaming along, keep a lookout for parrots, toucans, or snail kites on the wing.”
There are several ways to cruise the Canal – Check out my special Panama Canal blog Richard in Panama Cruising The Panama Canal. The best handbook for preparing for your Panama Cruise and the cruise itself is my book PANAMA CANAL DAY: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO CRUISING THE PANAMA CANAL.
The definitive historical tome on the building of the canal is THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS: THE CREATION OF THE PANAMA CANAL 1870-1914 by David McCullough. I had one captain say to me, “Richard, I just can’t get into that book. I try, but I keep falling asleep.”
I said, “Cap, just get through the first 150 pages and you will be hooked,” and he was. Aside from the fact that McCullough’s book is 698 pages of heavily-footnoted history, it covers ONLY the period, as the title indicates, of 1870-1914. While it is a great read, it does not cover much of the stuff that cruise passengers need to know about Panama and its history before 1870 and after 1914. So that’s why I wrote my book, PANAMA CANAL DAY: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO CRUISING THE PANAMA CANAL, for cruise passengers, and besides it’s only 374 pages.
If you are thinking long-term about cruises, keep your eyes open for when the “open the books” [a phrase in the cruise industry that goes back to pre-computer days when they actually had these huge books where they kept records of passenger bookings] for upcoming Panama Canal cruises.