We don't want to "move" to a wrong spot at the wrong time and miss those interesting sights...
Note: We're doing eastbound (from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale) on HAL Westerdam.
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You really don't have to wait until you reach Gaillard Cut to start seeing lots of things that are interesting. I think you are on a northbound transit (Pac-Atl) correct? Then one of the neatest things to catch a glimpse of is sunrise in the Pacific... then you will be able to enjoy the sun setting in the Atlantic later that day. Not many places in the world you can do that without using something that travels at supersonic speeds!http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showp...39&postcount=8
Once you actually start your transit and enter the Canal channel, off to the port are several islands in the Bay, the largest being Taboga. Taboga was once used as a sanitarium for Canal workers to beat the ravages of the yellow fever and malaria mosquitoes. On the starboard side there is a group of islands that are connected to the mainland via a causeway. These islands were known as the "fortified islands"... they were once part of the coastal defense of Canal that included 16" disappearing guns various long range mortars. Commercial development and and nature have covered up much of that.
I'm sure a look to the starboard side you will see the ever present skyline of Panama City... hard to miss... and of course ahead, the Bridge of Americas. After passing the BoA and the harbor of Balboa and before Miraflores Locks be looking off towards the port, this will be about the best chance for you to see the new Cocoli Locks and their 3 large "steps" that will lead to Gaillard Cut.
After clearing Miraflores Locks and crossing Miraflores Lake on the port side is the access channel that connects the Cocoli Locks to Gatun Lake and the Cut. If your timing is right you could see a large neoPanamax ship navigating it towards the Cut. I point that out because it is an interesting sight to be able to see a ship sailing near you at another 30' higher than you.
Pedro Miguel Locks and finally the Gaillard Cut! The most prominent feature ahead of you after leaving Pedro Miguel is the Centennial Bridge. After sailing under the Bridge be on the "lookout" for the Continental Divide, it lies between Contractor's Hill (port) and Gold Hill (starboard). Those two hills have been a continual source of geological headaches for the Canal even when the French were chomping away at them. During the rest of your 8 mile passage through the Cut there are not a lot of specific items to point out, but having the knowledge of what went on there a hundred years ago does give you an appreciation for the accomplishment. Just before you leave the Cut on the starboard side is El Renacer, now the "home" of everyone's favorite dictator, Manuel Noriega.
Shortly after Noriega's digs on the same side will be Chagres Crossing... an old railroad trestle bridge that spans the Chagres River were it empties into the Canal. Just beyond the Crossing is Gamboa which is the home of the Canal's Dredging Division. Good chance of seeing some interesting floating equipment there. One of the tallest floating cranes in the world calls Gamboa home. That would be the Titan which was formerly known as Herman the German. Herman was shipped from Germany after WW2 as a war prize through the Canal and resided in Long Beach until the late 90s when it was acquired by the Canal. The Titan replace another German crane, the Hercules which came from Germany to the Canal in 1914 just before WW1.
Gamboa marks the beginning of your passage across Gatun Lake, not many individual items to point out, only to take in the largely undisturbed scenery... it is pretty much been the same for the last 100 years. In a few parts of the wider channel which follows the path of the Chagres River you will be fairly close to the jungle canopy in some areas, but it is all around you in the distance. On the port side will be your best chance to see oncoming ship traffic.
As you approach Gatun Locks the Gatun Dam and Spillway are on the port side and you may get a glimpse of the new Atlantic Locks of Agua Clara. Your best view of the new Locks will shortly after clearing Gatun Locks from the starboard side. However before you reach that, do be sure to look to the port for a rather insignificant looking "creek" for the lack of a better word... this is about all that remains that is visible of the original French excavation. If you are not looking for it, truly you will miss it.
Then a short sail toward the breakwater with Colon on your right and the former US Army's Fort Sherman. If you take a close look towards Ft. Sherman you will see a fairly tall lighthouse, Toro Point Light. This lighthouse dates back to the French who erected it along with another one on Isla Grande (you won't see that one) in the 1890s.
Your transit is complete... now time to plan the next transit!!!
OP: I am quoting below a very helpful post from the always helpful BillB48 from last fall, which has great info about "points of interest" along the way, in your direction of travel. Thanks again for that, Bill!Thank you so much for this.
At 7am the observation deck was 10 rows deep and the helo deck was completely filled.Yikes! That doesn't sound good... But we do want to be at the bow when we enter the canal, so I guess we'll have put up with the crowd.
Are you doing a full or partial? Makes a bit of difference. On a full transit, it takes so long, that you will have AMPLE opportunity to see everything. There is no one thing that is more of a "must see" than another.The OP says in their frst post they are going from San Diego to Ft Lauderdale. Sounds like a full transit to me.
On a partial, going INTO Lake Gatun will be PACKED along the railings.....but once the excursion folks leave, the ship will have MUCH more space per person...and going back OUT of the locks, you'll have your choice of viewing...so don't try to see it all on the way in!
On a full transit, it takes so long, that you will have AMPLE opportunity to see everything. There is no one thing that is more of a "must see" than another.Thank you for your tip, cb at sea! Good to know that I'll have ample opportunity to see everything