On European river cruises, ships pass through a number of locks to lift or lower boats from one level to another. Finding out firsthand just how locks work is one part of a river cruise experience along with visiting interesting places, enjoying the company of fellow travelers and more. Not far from home, the Panama Canal offers a similar experience, albeit on a much more magnificent scale. Holland America Line has crafted a number of interesting Caribbean itineraries that include partial and full transits of the Panama Canal, now just about done with a massive expansion project.
Visiting the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a water passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, built to make travel by ship much more efficient than going ‘the long way’ around South America. Ships sailing from New York to San Francisco prior to the canal opening traveled a distance of nearly 8,000 miles more going around South America. The marvel of passing through the Panama Canal has fascinated cruise travelers for decades. Now, new reason to visit is emerging as engineers begin flooding a newly enlarged section of the Panama Canal as authorities prepare to test a series of new locks that will allow the waterway to accommodate much bigger ships, affecting trade around the world.
Diverse Panama Canal Itineraries
Six Holland America Line ships will sail 11 full transits of the Panama Canal and one ship will offer 14 itineraries that feature both the southern Caribbean and partial transits during fall 2015 through spring 2016.
“To witness the fascinating operation of the Panama Canal from the deck of a Holland America Line ship is the ultimate way to experience one of the great engineering wonders of the world,” –Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president.
With cruises ranging from 10 to 22 days, Holland America Line provides guests more in-depth ways to experience the Panama Canal than any other cruise line. In the 2015-16 season, the combined full and partial transits will carry more than 44,500 guests through the lakes and locks of the man-made marvel.
From September 2015 through May 2016, ms Amsterdam, ms Maasdam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Oosterdam, ms Veendam and ms Westerdam will make 11 transits between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from six departure cities. Guests can set sail from Boston, Mass.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; San Diego and San Francisco, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Go Between Oceans on a Full Panama Canal Transit
In addition to the Panama Canal transit, the 14- to 22-day cruises include a variety of port calls along the way, making each voyage all the more enriching. On the full transits the ships visit destinations in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Caribbean, along with Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s award-winning private Bahamian island.
Partial transits include the ‘ABC’ Islands
Besides the full transits, ms Zuiderdam will make 14 partial transits between November 2015 and April 2016. The 10- and 11-day “Panama Canal Sunfarer” itineraries include an exploration of the canal’s Gatún Lake and a combination of southern Caribbean calls in Aruba, Bonaire, Columbia, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Grand Cayman, Panama and Half Moon Cay.
Go ‘On Location’ in the Panama Canal
On each Panama Canal cruise, guests can enjoy the On Location enrichment program that brings local experiences onto the ships through lectures, presentations, cuisine and entertainment. Guests can learn to weave with palm fronds during Caribbean sea days; and while the ship is in the Panama Canal an expert historian recounts the history and drama of constructing the famous waterway. A Panamanian market and buffet on the Lido Deck is a highlight of the voyage, where guests can indulge in regional delicacies such as empanadas, arroz con pollo, ropa vieja and pastel de tres leches.
“Our diverse itineraries bring travelers to all seven continents and to many of the world’s most compelling marvels,” said Ashford, adding”and with 25 departures we offer more ways to experience the Panama Canal than any other line.”
Panama Canal Expands
The diverse Panama Canal itineraries come as workers begin filling the new locks on the Atlantic side of the canal and later those on the Pacific side as they perform stress tests.
Here’s more on that:
Cover photo- Holland America Line
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