6 Amazing Tricks To Get The Most Out Of Your Panama Canal Experience

Panama Canal
Preparing to enter the very first lock

After a few days at sea, Danielle and I were finally  arriving at one of the destinations I was excited about from our itinerary: The Panama Canal. While I visited Panama previously and even got to see the Panama Canal, I’ve never actually gone through it so I was all about seeing it from onboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s Black Watch.



Waking Up Early For the Panama Canal

Panama Canal
Waiting with everyone on deck to begin the Panama Canal transit

Since Danielle had previously sailed through the first lock on another cruise, she decided not to get up early to see us enter the Panama Canal. Meanwhile, I was all about getting up and finding a spot to see all of the action. Little did I realize everyone else was thinking the same exact thing. When I got up to deck seven, there were massive amounts of people staking out a spot at the front of the ship to call their own for the next few hours.

TSG Tip #1: If you’re going through the canal on a cruise ship, get up early and grab a spot so you can get the best view.

Panama Canal
The Panama Canal

Not wanting to miss out on a single moment of this experience as we prepared to transit the 48 miles of waterway that makes up the Panama Canal, I pressed on. I had both my GoPro and my iPhone ready for the challenge.

TSG Tip #2: Work out the specifics of your camera before you need to use it. There’s nothing worse than missing the shot while you play with preferences and settings on your camera.

Panama Canal Total Transit Time

Panama Canal
Preparing to enter the lock

For some reason I thought the entire process would be a lot faster, but that wasn’t the case. In all, from entering to exiting took just about 11 hours.

Panama Canal
Exiting the first lock

Once we approached the first lock, we prepared to get lifted up to Gatun Lake, 85 feet above sea level. At this point, Danielle appeared and decided to set up her camera at the aft of the ship.

TSG Tip #3: Do make a point to visit the CruiseMiss.com website to read more about her experience transiting the Panama Canal.

Breakfast Time

Panama Canal
Sailing along in the afternoon

After entering Gatun Lake, Danielle and I decided to make our way to breakfast. It was so incredibly hot and humid standing outside so I welcomed the air conditioning. The transit at this point was slow and leisurely, like that on a river cruise boat. After breakfast I decided to visit the fitness center on deck 10 and work out while sailing along on the Panama Canal. How often can you say you’ve ever done that?

TSG Tip #4: While the locks are probably the most watched aspect of the transit time, you’ll have lots of free time as you pass through the canal. Be sure to listen to the commentary provided so you can know when to have your camera ready to take more pics. Then go and relax and enjoy your cruise in the meantime.

Panama Canal and Crocodiles

Panama Canal
Sailing along in the afternoon

Mr. Wilson in the Glentaner Restaurant mentioned that crocodiles are visible along the banks of the Panama Canal. I later learned that is, in fact, true, but unfortunately for me (and for you), I never spotted any crocodiles.

TSG Tip #5: While you might not spot crocodiles, you’ll definitely spot all kinds of interesting wildlife including reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

After Lunch On The Panama Canal

Panama Canal
Sailing along in the afternoon

After lunch in the Poolside Cafe, we enjoyed taking in the views along the canal as lazily sailed on in anticipation of exiting on the Pacific Ocean side.

Panama Canal
View from the aft of the ship

Many passengers enjoyed the view and the sun and spent the entire day out on the pool deck. This would’ve been my worst nightmare as I’m sure everyone was taking pics that included swimmers in each shot. Then again – I think some people actually enjoying having their picture taken as compared to me who enjoys being behind the camera.

TSG Tip #6: Don’t forget to stay hydrated and use sunscreen as the sun can be brutal, even in January.

Exiting The Last Lock And The Panama Canal

Panama Canal
Exiting the second lock on the Panama Canal

Before long it was time to exit the second lock, the Pedro Miguel Lock, on the Panama Canal. Then, in the most unceremonious manner, we were out of the locks, out of the Panama Canal, and in the Pacific Ocean. I was only aware of this as you get used to the speed of the vessel you’re on and it suddenly felt like we were going much faster than we had all day.

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend a cruise that provides you with the opportunity to transit the Panama Canal, one of the most amazing engineering feats of modern history. Next up on our world cruise itinerary is Manta, Ecuador.

Have you visited Panama Canal? Can you suggest other destinations in Panama that you found equally exciting? Leave your comments below. Discover some other great destinations and travel ideas here on the Travel Shop Girl website .

On my new SPONTANEOUS TRAVEL SCALE of 1-5, with 1 being super easy and spontaneous and 5 being you better plan far in advance, Panama Canal scores a 3 for spontaneous travel. I imagine you can enjoy a visit to the canal on land any time you visit Panama, but if you want to transit it, you need to plan a cruise in advance.

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