Difference between Partial and Full Transit on Panama Canal Cruise

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874 Posts
Joined May 2007

Can someone tell me the difference between a partial and full transit on a Panama Canal Cruise.

Is it better to cruise to Panama Oct./Nov. or Feb., March, April?

Thank you for your thoughts.

London, Canada
7,532 Posts
Joined Mar 2001
The full transit goes all the way from Atlantic to Pacific (or vice versa) and they usually are longer cruises, involving repositioning (although not always). Partial transits are typically from the Atlantic side, and involve going up the set of Gatun locks, into Gatun Lake, and then returning through those locks again to the Atlantic side. You get to experience the going up and down the locks, but you miss out on the sailing through the narrow waterways to the other side.

It gets quite hot down there, and we went in January. That's probably when I would go again if doing a partial. If doing a full, I would likely do a spring repositioning from the east coast to the west coast if only because the fall is still hurricane season.
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We've gone in November and January twice. Each time the weather was slightly different even the two times in January. Overall, I prefer January though.

602 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
Panama has two seasons:
The rainy season in Panama is from May through November and the dry season is December through April. During the rainy season it typically rains every day. During the dry season it is unusual to have any rain.
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Mike & Dee

Pride of Aloha, Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Caribbean Princess, Celebrity Solstice,
Coral Princess, Grand Princess, Golden Princess, Royal Princess, Regal Princess
5,520 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
If your focus is to see the Canal, I would recommend a full transit, now let me insert a "but" here! There are some great advantages in taking the a partial transit cruise. Nomally, once your ship reaches Gatun Lake after passing through Gatun Locks, a tour is offered that takes you on a partial transit of the Pacific Locks and Gaillard Cut. By taking this tour you will have been through a large portion of the Canal, plus you will have the benefit of seeing the operation from the vantage point of your Panamax ship and then from a smaller vessel as well. A great comparison and I believe that the Pacific Locks and Gaillard Cut have more of a visual impact.

Using weather as your only factor, probably the best time is January through mid February. This is when the temps and humidity are at their best... a word of caution, anyone coming from a temperate climate is going to think the humidity is high! This would be particularly true coming from where it is cold and jumping right into the tropics. Use this as only a tie-breaker since the differences will only be slight
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S.S. Badger R/T from Manitowoc June 02
Midwest USA
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Joined Jan 2010
Wife and I cruised the canal in October of 2008. We prefer the full transit. As for the weather, we got a bit of everything. It was very humid, close to 100 degrees, sun was shinning, then thunderstorms rolled in. What ever way you choose to go you are going to see a wonder of the world, its amazing.