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Best/Better Cruise Line for Panama Canal

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Is there a better or best cruise line for a panama canal cruise?

 

For example lots of people suggest Princess and HAL as the top two lines for Alaska as they go to Glacier Bay.  Is there something similar for the Canal (i.e. a must see)? 

 

Is it better to be on a smaller ship that go through the old locks or are the newer locks more scenic?

 

We would be looking at a multi-generational trip (70s, 40s, teens).  Previously we have been on Disney, Celebrity, HAL, RCI, Carnival.

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Although we no longer sail on any mainstream line, we have completed a number of Panama Canal cruises on Island/Coral Princess. They have 2 passenger decks fwd, below the Bridge, which are excellent spots to watch the transit through the canal.

 

I would also suggest booking a Panamax vessel that can use the old locks. Post-Panamax must use the new locks.

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There is no one "best" cruise line or ship for everyone.

 

The Island/Coral Princess get a lot of comments, but I don't believe Princess opens the bow for Canal transits. HAL does. Great place to be at least for one lock. The Promenade deck outside is also a great place to experience a lock.

 

Using the old locks is far superior to the new locks. If you read around this board, you will see that discussed here frequently. Far more cruise ships go through the old locks, compared to the new locks. It isn't really an issue of smaller versus larger...currently few of the largest cruise ships do Canal voyages. 

 

I believe HAL does more Canal transits, both full and partial, than any other cruise line.

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If you have a favorite of the cruise lines you listed, that would be a good place to start your selection process,  Having said that, HAL will have the most transits along with Princess (not on your list) so that will provide most choices in dates.  On the other hand Disney and Carnival offer transits in conjunction with ship repositions, so there are not always a lot to pick to pick from.  RCL and Celebrity offer few more each season but they still offer fewer than Princess and HAL.

 

Old locks, new locks... I would come down on the side of the old locks, the historical value, more visual interest are my thoughts for the choice.

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Small ship to fit through the locks. The only way to experience the canal, is the old locks.

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Although Princess doesn't "open the bow" I definitely recommend Coral Princess. They open two forward areas for canal transit viewing. Coral still has a full promenade, which is great for getting some exercise (walking) on sea days. The ship has a great ratio of open space to passenger numbers; we never felt crowded even though the crew said all cabins were booked. We did some research before we cruised, and most past Coral Princess passengers said it was their favorite ship. Having cruised on her, I can understand why and now count her as a favorite myself.

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Is there a way to know if a particular ship will be using the old or new locks? I will be on the Carnival Legend, transiting the canal on October 21st.

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35 minutes ago, thekidsandi said:

Is there a way to know if a particular ship will be using the old or new locks? I will be on the Carnival Legend, transiting the canal on October 21st.

Assuming the data I found is accurate your ship is within Panamax size limits so it should be going through the old locks unless the cruise line has made specific arrangements to use the new locks or there is an operational issue in the canal that forces the ship to use the new locks.

Edited by njhorseman

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I don't suppose there is list of the ships scheduled for each of the locks on a specific day, much like you can find for ports of call.

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4 hours ago, thekidsandi said:

Is there a way to know if a particular ship will be using the old or new locks? I will be on the Carnival Legend, transiting the canal on October 21st.

 

According to Wikipedia the Legend is 963x105.6 which makes her the correct size to use the original locks.  Since the new locks have been opened they have not taken a ship through them that could fit in the original locks.  I think it is a safe bet you will use the original locks.

 

Actually there are only a limited number of slots for new locks each day and they would rather allot those slots to ships that are unable to pass through the original locks.

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3 hours ago, thekidsandi said:

I don't suppose there is list of the ships scheduled for each of the locks on a specific day, much like you can find for ports of call.

 

While not a list of ships scheduled for each locks there is a website that provides the date when most passenger ships will be transiting.  Try sea cruise chat dot com and scroll down.

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1 hour ago, BillB48 said:

 

According to Wikipedia the Legend is 963x105.6 which makes her the correct size to use the original locks.  Since the new locks have been opened they have not taken a ship through them that could fit in the original locks.  I think it is a safe bet you will use the original locks.

 

Actually there are only a limited number of slots for new locks each day and they would rather allot those slots to ships that are unable to pass through the original locks.

Thank you so much for this information.

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Agree that you should experience the old locks for the historical perspective.  A couple of years ago we did the full transit on Celebrity Infinity.  A great overall experience!  Note that transit is determined by the size of the ship in the locks and by the ability of the ship to fit under the Bridge of the Americas on the Pacific side of the canal.

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On 5/17/2019 at 5:39 PM, JBCall said:

Is there a better or best cruise line for a panama canal cruise?

 

For example lots of people suggest Princess and HAL as the top two lines for Alaska as they go to Glacier Bay.  Is there something similar for the Canal (i.e. a must see)? 

 

Is it better to be on a smaller ship that go through the old locks or are the newer locks more scenic?

 

We would be looking at a multi-generational trip (70s, 40s, teens).  Previously we have been on Disney, Celebrity, HAL, RCI, Carnival.

 

 

 

 

I see you've cruised on Disney.  It was a long time goal of mine to cruise with Mickey at the helm through the Panama Canal.  Mickey did not disappoint.  It really was a special cruise with characters all over the ship throughout the transit.  And the response from people viewing the ships when our DCL ship came through was priceless.  DCL is usually quite pricey, I'm sure you know.  But our PC cruise was actually a bargain, even compared to other cruise lines.  I vote Mickey.

Edited by Muushka
boo boo

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We love Windstar and their small ships. We cruised 5 years ago on Wind Star (188 passengers) and spent the day wandering all over the ship for the best views of the locks and all the things to see. We always had a spot on the bow, on the stern, wherever we wanted to be. We were right there in the thick of things and I can’t imagine doing it on a large ship. We loved this cruise and love Windstar!

 

 

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