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BillB48

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  1. Once in awhile the cruise lines will specifically mention in their description of the Canal transit which locks they will be using. Beyond that the only way for you to determine which locks will be used is to look up the ship's length and beam. Maximum length is 965' and 106' beam for the old locks. When you look for those figures it is often easy to find the beam of the ship expressed with the extreme width which could include things like the bridge wings which may exceed the 106' measurement. As long as that measurement doesn't exceed 106 at the waterline, the ship would use the old locks. Sometimes finding that figure can be a bit illusive. As Bruce noted if it fits the old locks it will almost always go in the old locks. While there have been a number of exceptions for cargo ships that could use the old locks being assigned to transit the new locks because of Canal convenience, there has only been one instance where this occurred to a cruise ship. That happened at the outbreak of Covid, HAL's Zaandam and Rotterdam were temporarily barred from transiting the Canal because of Covid cases onboard. Ships using the old locks require a number of Canal employees to come on board, this would include the pilots and Canal seamen who handle bringing the locomotive cables onboard. While trying to minimize exposure, this had all the trappings of becoming a public relations nightmare for Canal officials, a decision was made to take both ships through the new locks during the overnight hours. There were no passengers on deck and the manner they were taken through the new locks was quite different from how ships are normally handled. Normally a tug on the bow and a tug on the stern help guide the ship into the lock where it is made fast to the lock wall while the water is admitted or spilled from the chamber. While a tug on the bow and stern were used, the ship was held in the center of the chamber during filling and spilling, no lines and no other contact with the locks. Also this size ship normally requires two pilots, however for this transit only one pilot for each ship was used. After the pilots left the ship it was a two week quarantine for them. Hopefully that is all in the review mirror.
  2. You are correct the Millie "should" use the original locks! It will use the original locks almost without a doubt. I always like to leave room for that infinitely obscure chance that there could some sort of unforeseen circumstances that would cause the Millennium to take the detour through the new locks. The Canal is certainly mindful that such a detour would create a great deal of disappointment for many of the passengers wanting to see the original locks. The more practical reason that your ship won't use the new locks is there are only a specific number of transit slots available each day for the NeoPanamax ships (ships too big for the original locks) and they are the ones that would be paying the premium tolls at the new locks. I looked at Celebrities shore excursions and what I saw did not provide me with enough info to know how the tours were constructed. I think a trip to the new locks would certainly be interesting in just being able to see it up close. Honestly you probably will get most of your knowledge about the new locks from the video presentations and perhaps not from being able to see a vessel transit the locks. Even when you are witnessing a vessel going through the locks it all takes place rather slowly. A large ship can take 2 to 3 hours to get through the new locks. I think what would make a visit to either the original or new locks a good excursion would be what other items of interest are included in the excursion. I think the excursion Panama Canal, the Present & Future may take you to the Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side and then to the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side. I just can't be certain as their description is just a wee too brief. However if it does visit both locks it would be a pleasant drive across the Isthmus and a great chance to see some of the country. I can try and answer any other questions you may have.
  3. Hikingryan... True you will miss the return trip through the locks and the short sail to Cristobal, which is the exact reverse of your route earlier in the day. You will only see about 5 miles of a 50 mile canal. If you haven't transited before or been to Panama consider one of the shore excursion offered. The one that takes you through Gaillard Cut and the Pacific Locks would allow you to see the original locks and a lot more of the Canal as well. Either way, enjoy.
  4. True, those times for Colon are guesstimates at best, the 3PM arrival is probably the most flexible since that would require for everything during your partial transit run with complete precision. While the mall connected to the pier is safe to visit, there is not anything there that would be in the must see category.
  5. There is not time for a tour after the ship arrives in Colon, many times many of the shore excursion passengers are already waiting at the pier. There is usually enough time to browse the shops at the shopping mall connected to the pier, but nothing else.
  6. I can't speak with any certainty as to whether or not the Bliss paid for a reservation or not, probably be dependent on when they needed to get the ship up to the West Coast for whenever she starts Mexican Riviera cruises in October. I just looked at the number of days wait for a NeoPanamax ship (one that uses new locks) and it is presently a one day wait for transit for a southbound ship, so they may have had enough slack built into their schedule to not have a reservation. However northbound neo ships are presently facing a 6 day wait for a transit. I feel certain they probably skipped the $30,000 day light transit guarantee expense. I really think the reason she camped out overnight in the Cut is because of her air draft. To have unrestricted passage under the Bridge of Americas the air draft cannot exceed 190'. For ships with air draft in excess of that figure passage is permitted at low tide on a case by case basis up to 205' air draft. The Bliss is a little over 198', so she would have had to be at the Bridge of Americas at 1:48PM for low tide, probably too tall of an order. Holding her north of Cocoli Locks for a low tide today was probably a convenient option. There was another low tide a little after 2AM this morning, but I would think they are holding off for this afternoon's low tide at 2:36. Just an aside, the low tides during yesterday and today are not all that low of a tide. To put some numbers to the height of the tide, last night's low was +3.1' and this afternoon's low will +4.0. Tides at Balboa can range from a high of +18' to a low of -3'. My source tells me that she paid $816K or $861K, may have swapped the smaller of the numbers, not the first number! Headed to the locks now.
  7. Here is a view from the Bliss's bridge cam with Miraflores Lake and Locks to the left of the Borinquen Dam. The Dam is the barrier between Gaillard Cut (Gatun Lake) and the lower Miraflores Lake. The approaching ship has just cleared the Cocoli Locks. The Bliss started her Canal transit yesterday (9/27) and presumably complete her transit today.
  8. Can't really help you in regards to which ship, but if I were headed to the Canal for the first time I would prefer a trip through the original locks first. Not that I would pass on a trip through the new locks, it is just I don't feel that the new locks has the visual attractions. They are just the single lane, no locks "mules", only tugs forward and aft to assist and often time they are out of view from the upper decks. There is just more to feast your eyes at the original locks.
  9. My best guess is she is waiting for low tide to clear the Bridge of Americas. While there was a low tide at 2AM this morning (9/28) would think that they may prefer to negotiate the Bridge during daylight. Low tide this afternoon is around 2:30PM
  10. Pick your cabin based on your preference on your use during the rest of the cruise. Unless there are mobility issues there is a lot to miss if you homestead your balcony. A good time for the balcony would be after your ship clears the Atlantic Locks (Gatun or Agua Clara?), that would be the best time to see oncoming ship traffic if you select the port side balcony. I too would favor the port side in that direction, but that doesn't mean the starboard side is a wasteland with horrible views😉. Lots to see, take it all in!
  11. Been looking for a photo that shows the proximity of the cables from the locomotive to the balconies affected. This one shows the Coral Princess or the Island Princess before the addition of the new cabins. Where the two men are standing is now balconies of the new cabins that begin with PR and in the lower 700s.
  12. You are able to use your balcony the entire transit including the locks. Now a but! I see your screen name includes Princess and that is where the "but" comes in. I am pretty sure it is the Island Princess that has had additional cabins added and some of these cabins can be a little to close to the cables from the mules. As a result access to the balcony is restricted during the time the ship is in the locks. The Coral Princess does not have this issue since she wasn't modified and any ships using the new locks would not have this issue with the cables. The Island and Coral are the only ships left in the fleet that would use the original locks, all other Princess ships would have to use the new locks.
  13. Yes, that is the excursion I am referring to. The actual bus ride is just a little over an hour each way over decent roads for the most part. It's a good way to see a little more of the country side.
  14. Have a short Caribbean cruise scheduled for November. I am more concerned on just how the new requirements will impact the cruise and my enjoyment. Thinking of timely testing right before the cruise and just how noticeable and how convenient (or inconvenient) the safety protocols will be once on board.
  15. While the Canal is very attractive at night, I think cruise lines would have a hard time convincing their passengers the advantages on experiencing the Canal at night. As a result the Canal has found a very profitable "option" that the cruise lines can select. Daylight Transit Guarantee provides you to arrive at the first lock after sunrise and clear the last lock by sunset. Panama's proximity to the equator gives you almost 12 hours of daylight and night year round and sunrise/set occur close to 6:AM/PM. To include the Daylight Transit Guarantee in your checkout cart will only increase the tab another $30,000.
  16. Even though the only cruise ships that have been transiting the Canal are doing so without passengers, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is proposing a change in the manner tolls for cruise ships are calculated. The big change is the elimination of the toll calculated on the maximum passenger berth count and only using the PC/UMS (Panama Canal Universal Measurement System. It's not a completely new method of calculating tolls, they had continued to use the PC/UMS for the calculation of tolls for smaller cruise ships. The PC/UMS is a measure of internal volume of a ship similar to the Gross Tonnage which most ships use to denote their size. The big difference is certain areas of a ship are excluded in the Canal's calculations such as engineering spaces, crew quarters and any areas that are necessary to run the ship. Normally the PC/UMS figure would be less the the ship's gross tonnage. The only change in the table below from 2016 is the elimination of passenger per berth method of calculating the toll. Ships the approximate size of the Coral Princess, Serenade of the Seas and the Zuiderdam would fall around the total in the second example. Ships like Celebrity Edge and Caribbean Princess, the third example would best approximate the tolls. While ships such as the Norwegian Bliss is best represented by the last example. Small boutique cruise ships won't see any change as they have always been charged under the PC/UMS. Also bear in mind that those totals above do not include the reservation fee, tug services, wire charges at the original locks and fees for line handlers add quite a bit to the toll. As long as there is one paying passenger on board, the ship is considered laden in the calculation.
  17. Interesting question. I suppose in the most basic elements there is not a huge difference in any locks regardless of their size, all of the locks end up doing the same task of filling and spilling. Probably the biggest difference in the locks on the inland waters of the US and the Panama Canal is the types of vessels you will encounter. On the rivers you are going to find more barges and tugs while at the PC more seagoing ships. Perhaps locking through a PC Lock might be a wee bit more adventuresome, often smaller pleasure craft are locked through with ships or other Canal equipment. Once in awhile they will run a special lockage for pleasure craft (as in your pic) if there are a number of them. From what I have experienced on locks in the US water is moved much slower when filling and spilling compared to the PC Locks. There are certain areas in the PC chambers where the turbulence is not as pronounced, IMO it is more noticeable in PC locks. The ease of traversing a lock in the US will not be found in the PC. First of all it isn't free! The present administration of the Canal is not thrilled to provide service to pleasure craft. While they would never admit it publicly, the price they charge for a transit would certainly discourage you from doing so if you really did not need to get to the other side of the continent. Depending on the size of your boat you would need either a Transit Advisor or a Canal pilot. I think transiting the Canal whether it is in a large cruise ship or a pleasure craft is a total package, two oceans, the Cut, Gatun Lake all wrapped up in its history.
  18. Looks like she will have to use the new locks because of her beam of 116'. Max beam for the original locks is 106'.
  19. Over the past few years Princess seemed to have the most full transits over the Canal "season". you might want to look at HAL and Celebrity as well, however Celebrity seemed to drop multiple transits recently IIRC. Princess has also offered a partial transit cruise from LA entering the Canal from the Pacific side traveling all the way to, but not through Gatun Locks on the Atlantic side. The following day they would retrace their route back out the Canal and back to LA. It was about a 19 day r/t cruise. It would pay to look at all the mainstream cruise lines as well since they throw in a single Canal roundtrip at some point during the Canal season. Carnival, NCL, Royal Caribbean etc. Royal Carib had a series of 4 complete transits during the year before everything shut down. NCL has some complete transits scheduled this season using Ft. Amador as the start/end port. Generally these full transit cruises will start/end in LA or San Diego or start/end in Miami or Ft Lauderdale
  20. Just got a text back from my contact at the Canal and the word is for an October opening. Let's hope so!
  21. Whether or not it is officially open I can't confirm, the completion has had several delays to include the suspension of cruising. The last I read was it "should" be open by October. The facility looks largely completed if you look at the satellite view on Google Maps. No way of knowing when that view was recorded.
  22. I don't disagree with your figures (or NOAAS either😉), what I posted is what is allowed.
  23. The figure I posted for the Narrows Bridge is the permitted navigational clearance below (air draft) which is less than the actual clearance. The attachment is from NOAA chart for New York Lower Bay, note B refers to a further reduction in the vertical clearance when the maintenance platform is in use.
  24. Can't answer your question with any certainty about mailing postcards from the cruise terminal, but I am sure you would be able to buy some there. There were a number on stores selling things you would expect at the port. And you are correct, the area beyond the cruise terminal is not the greatest and somewhere that you don't want to strike out on your own. There is nothing inherently unsafe about traveling through Colon as part of a tour or even in a taxi, just not by yourself.
  25. In a manner of speaking😉! Actually both the Oasis and the Allure were built with retractable funnels so they could clear the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark when the ships were delivered from the shipyard. Lowering the funnels reduced the air draft of the Oasis from 236' (72m) to under the clearance of 213' (65m) of the GB Bridge. They also took advantage of about another 1 foot as a result of "squat". Squat is the ship settling in the water as a result of its forward motion and is also magnified when operating in shallower waters. I suspect that since neither the Oasis or Allure had any itineraries that were restricted by their air draft, the mechanisms to lower the funnels were probably not used after delivery from the shipyard. This most recent visit to the yard no doubt included overhauling of the lowering mechanisms. The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge has a navigational clearance of 215', in any event the lowering mechanisms will surely get a regular workout. Here's short video of the Oasis passing under the Great Belt Bridge...
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