Panama Canal - A Cruising Experience

Panama is located in Central America, in the northern and western hemispheres. It has two bodies of water the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It also has a canal going straight through it.

Experience of cruising through the Gatun Locks and into Lake Gatun by an Explorer, divulges some of the precious moments at Panama canal. Let's Join too.

We are aboard Holland America's "Rotterdam" and are now approaching the Panama Canal from the Caribbean side. On this morning we have the first entry priority.

The Panama Canal is a 77 km (48 mi) ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, annual traffic has risen from about 1,000 ships in the canal's early days to 14,702 vessels in 2008, measuring a total 309.6 million Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tons. In total over 815,000 vessels have passed through the canal.

A canal tug comes to escort Rotterdam into the first lock.

One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the canal had an enormous impact on shipping between the two oceans, replacing the long and treacherous route via either the Strait of Magellan or Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. A ship sailing from New York to San Francisco via the canal travels 9,500 km (5,900 mi), well under half the 22,500 km (14,000 mi) route around Cape Horn.

The first sight of the Gatun Locks by dawn's early light.

Passengers brave the early morning rain and gather on the foredeck.

The first of the locks is straight ahead. Note the vehicle on the swinging bridge.

The gates of the first lock are open and we're entering ever so slowly.

Passengers view the Canal from Navigation Deck

A vehicle bridge swings out of the way.

These locomotve "mules" operate on each side of the ship to keep it centered on its passage through the locks. Note the taut cables.

We are at the first gate entering the lowest lock.

We are now in position in the first lock. The gate behind us is closed, and as water flows into our lock, the ship rises.

A container ship going in our same direction occupies the series of locks next to us.

This shot is from the stern of the ship and shows the gate behind us as we are ready to enter the next lock.

We are now well into the third and last lock. Ahead lies Lake Gatun.

The third lock is almost filled and the last lock will soon open into the lake.

On the Gatun Lake side of the locks, the "mules" turn around on this turntable.

This is the dam which holds back the 183 billion cubic feet of fresh water which is lake Gatun.

One of Rotterdam's tenders being lowered for passengers going on a shore excursion.

A tanker on its way to the Miraflores Locks and into the Pacific.

Here comes our escort tugs to take us back through the Gatun Locks to the Caribbean.

This is the "Navigator Venus", a tanker launched in 1990.

Note the "Quick Escape" crew lifeboat mounted on its launch ramp.

We are now re-entering the Gatun Locks for our return to the Caribbean.

A telephoto view from a high perspective on the bridge deck.

The spillway where the water from the emptying locks escapes into the Caribbean.

We are now at sea level and the last gate is opening.

The canal locks are behind us and we are on our way to the next port-of-call, The San Blas Islands.

Some of the Container ships entering the canal are seen below