Since its debut nearly a century ago, the Panama Canal has been considered one of the world’s most important engineering marvels. This 51-mile passageway between oceans can save a ship more than 7,000 transit miles around South America, and never ceases to amaze cruise passengers. Princess Cruises’ ships have long offered a front-row view of the Panama Canal, and in 2011-12 the line will offer 38 cruises to this signature destination, with five different itinerary options.
The Panama Canal’s history adds to its status as a “must see” destination. The single most expensive construction project in United States history at the time, “big ditch” took more than 30 years to build at a cost of about $375 million. The Canal’s lengthy history included construction efforts by two different nations and the creation of an independent Panama. In total, Canal construction involved as many as 80,000 workers and the excavation of around 268,000,000 cubic yards of earth.
Today the Canal offers passage to approximately 14,000 ships a year. Princess passengers sailing the Canal will enjoy the amenities of two vessels specifically built for Panama Canal cruising – Coral Princess and Island Princess. The sides of these ships just clear the massive locks that use an average of 52 million gallons of water in each chamber as they eventually lift and lower vessels a total of 170 feet as they pass from the Caribbean to the Pacific during the nine-hour transit.
“Our ships have been transiting the Panama Canal for more than 40 years and, in fact, we even christened Coral Princess as it moved through the Canal,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “There really is no better way to watch the fascinating process as the ship transits each lock than from the decks of our ships – it’s an exceptional way to experience this wonder of engineering.”
Princess’ unique Two-day Canal Experience, available on many longer sailings, combines a full transit of the Canal, including the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks, with a second day in Panama at Fuerte Amador. This extra day gives travelers time to explore Panama further with excursions such as riding the Panama Canal Railway, exploring a rainforest, visiting an authentic Embera Indian village or touring bustling Panama City.
Beyond the Panama Canal, these itineraries offer calls in Caribbean Islands, Mexican Riviera resort towns, and a number of intriguing ports in Central America. In Costa Rica, passengers will discover a land of tropical rain forests, lush coffee plantations and white sand coastlines set against a backdrop of majestic mountains. In San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, this scenic fishing village offers beautiful white-sand beaches and ecological richness, while the nearby city of Granada is the oldest city in Central America.
Panama Canal itineraries include:
Panama Canal Two-Day Experience Cruises – Coral Princess and Island Princess will feature three itineraries offering Princess’ Two-Day Canal Experience – a full Panama Canal transit combined with a full day at Fuerte Amador on the Pacific side of Panama. The 14-day itinerary sails between Ft. Lauderdale and Los Angeles with calls at Aruba, Cartagena, and Puntarenas (Costa Rica) in addition to the Two-Day Canal Experience. A 15-day option offers an additional call in Puerto Quetzal (Guatemala). And another 15-day option sails from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale with calls at Cabo San Lucas, Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Cartagena, and Aruba. Sailings on these itineraries depart between September 25, 2011 and April 27, 2012. Coral Princess and Island Princess also offer longer Grand Adventures of 17, 18 and 19 days, sailing to and from Vancouver.
Full Panama Canal Transit Sailings – A new 14-day itinerary between Los Angeles and Ft Lauderdale, offering a full Panama Canal transit plus visits to Cabo San Lucas, San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua), Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Cartagena and Aruba. Coral Princess offers four sailings on this route, with departures on October 25, November 8, 2011, February 28, and March 13, 2012.
Roundtrip Panama Canal Cruises – Island Princess will sail on this classic 10-day roundtrip itinerary from Ft. Lauderdale, which offers a partial Panama Canal transit to Gatun Lake followed by a call in Colon, plus calls in the Caribbean ports of Aruba, Cartagena, Limon (Costa Rica), and Grand Cayman or Ocho Rios. The ship offers 20 departures between October 10, 2011 and April 17, 2012.