Panama Canal Cruising times and direction

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Oklahoma City, OK
11,338 Posts
Joined Jan 2006
You don't have as much choice as to when, even less if you've chosen a cruise line. Most ships sail through when repositioning. In April, westbound, heading to Alaska. In Sept or Oct, eastbound, going back to Florida. There are some at other times, but these are the main times.
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South Carolina
28,862 Posts
Joined Dec 2001
It's always HOT. Winter is best because it's less humid and not the "rainy season".

We've been on full transits both ways a couple of times over the years. Those going from the Caribbean to the Pacific were best for us because of the timing of going through the locks.

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Happy Sailing! OCruisers (LuLu & Roundman)
80+ Cruises .... Princess, Celebrity, RCCL, HAL, Carnival, NCL, Costa, etc. (Still miss Sitmar)
GTA, Ontario, Canada
34,913 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
We have done 2 west coast to east & 1 east coast to west coast cruises
Jan Feb & Mar all were Hot HOT Hot

Pick the best time that works for you
573 Posts
Joined Jun 2001
Westbound is best if you like your cruise to last the longest time possible. Westbound cruises are 6 hours
longer (1/4 of a day) than Eastbound cruises. Why? Because going west you set the clock back a total of three
hours (+3 hours to your cruise) while going east you set the clock forward a total of three hours (-3 hours to your
cruise). Combined the difference is 6 hours in cruise time. Maybe not a critical decision factor but for the very
serious cruiser it could be.
5,562 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
In addition to the Alaska repositioning cruises mentioned earlier, Princess, HAL, Celebrity and to a lesser extent RCI offer Canal cruises throughout late fall and winter. In addition to those cruises Princess and HAL also offer what is know as a partial Canal cruise during that same time period. Even though a full Canal transit cruise is preferable, the partial transit cruise has one distinct advantage which is it is a round trip cruise. This eliminates the need for open jaw airline tickets, generally simplifying your transportation needs before and after the cruise.

As far as direction through the Canal..... that is equally rewarding in either direction. Most people's preferences of direction are based on their travel plans fitting into getting to the embarkation port and getting home after the cruise. Whatever works the best for you.

If you are going to make your decision based solely on weather alone, the best time of the year generally is January through late February. The heat and humidity are about the best it is going to get. Don't worry it will still seem very warm to someone that is from a temperate climate. That time period is also in the Dry Season and the foliage will still be very lush. Just don't forget that Dry Season in that part of the world doesn't mean no rain... just less rain! In a practical sense rain should not be much of an issue whatsoever during the Dry Season which runs from late December through April. The differences are really slight from the other times that Canal transit cruises are available and I would only use it as the very last (maybe least) deciding factor.
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S.S. Badger R/T from Manitowoc June 02
1,095 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
Originally posted by OCruisers
It's always HOT. Winter is best because it's less humid and not the "rainy season".

We've been on full transits both ways a couple of times over the years. Those going from the Caribbean to the Pacific were best for us because of the timing of going through the locks.

Nit true. It Poured All day, Dec 17th 2012
Virginia Beach, VA
4,785 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Just got back. It was hot, but the sky was clear blue and you could see forever. The captain even commented about it being the clearest day he had experienced in years.

We liked the idea of gaining three hours by going east coast to west coast instead of losing time the other direction.