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Panama Canal - Full or Partial


toyotaford
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 We did a full transit of the Panama Canal with NCL a few years ago and loved it.  My parents had planned on going but my mother go sick and they couldn't travel.  My dad has always regretted not being able to have gone.  We want to take them in November but don't feel they are up to a 3 week trip.  Can someone who has done the shorter trip tell me what actually happens the day you are at the canal on the round trip out of Miami.  My dad will be 88 when we go and I wouldn't want to spend the money and him not get to have a good experience.  We have even considered booking the longer trip and flying home early which a couple with us on the last trip did but the dates don't work out for us.  Thank you for your help in advance.  I was wishing I could talk to my PCC tonight and then thought of all the awesome information I have gotten from CC over the years.

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Actually a three week cruise can be very relaxing - we are doing our first Panama Canal in Jan 20 and it is a 21 day with full transit west to east - we do not plan on doing very many excursions as we really don't like some of the ports. So we simply plan on being in our cabin (an SF Suite on the Gem) and watching the fantail. As things get closer we might change our minds on the excursions but so far Costa Rica is the only country we plan on exploring as well as the ABC islands. The cruise also has many sea days.

 

From what I have read on this and other boards - the partial transit offers an excursion that goes up to the Pacific Locks and back to Panama City

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We did this about 2 months ago.

We went through the Gatun Locks into Gatun Lake and debarked as we had taken a ship tour.  Firstly we went to overlook the new Gatun Locks for about an hour, there was a film first and then time to wander.   Then we were bused back into Colon where we joined a train for a ride to Panama City.  A pleasant journey.  Then time in Panama City before the drive back to Colon to re-board the Jade.

 

When we were looking at the new Gatun Locks it looked as if the Jade was maneuvering to go back through the old locks to dock at Colon but we didn't see what it actually did.

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We did a full Miami-Los Angeles transit earlier this year -- it was only 14 days.  Just saying, you might have options other than the 21 day cruise if you think that might be a little too long for your folks.  

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1 hour ago, casofilia said:

We did this about 2 months ago.

We went through the Gatun Locks into Gatun Lake and debarked as we had taken a ship tour.  Firstly we went to overlook the new Gatun Locks for about an hour, there was a film first and then time to wander.   Then we were bused back into Colon where we joined a train for a ride to Panama City.  A pleasant journey.  Then time in Panama City before the drive back to Colon to re-board the Jade.

 

When we were looking at the new Gatun Locks it looked as if the Jade was maneuvering to go back through the old locks to dock at Colon but we didn't see what it actually did.

 

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1 hour ago, trivimp said:

We did a full Miami-Los Angeles transit earlier this year -- it was only 14 days.  Just saying, you might have options other than the 21 day cruise if you think that might be a little too long for your folks.  

The time that we can go the full transit is 21 days.  I didn't know that they did a 14 day one though.  The one we did was 19 days.

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3 hours ago, toyotaford said:

 Can someone who has done the shorter trip tell me what actually happens the day you are at the canal on the round trip out of Miami.  My dad will be 88 when we go and I wouldn't want to spend the money and him not get to have a good experience.  

 

If the Canal is very important doing a round trip got of Miami might be a bad idea. The itinerary can change and you might miss the Canal.

Edited by sverigecruiser
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The partial transit cruise and excursion to the Pacific Locks and Gaillard cut does allow you to see a large portion of the Canal.  While it is not truly a complete transit it does give you very good look at many of the Canal's important features.  However if you are concerned about the effects of a 21 day cruise on your father, do consider that your day in the Canal going through Gatun Locks, disembarking to meet the tour, transportation to the Pacific side, the actual transit through the Pacific Lock and Gaillard Cut as well as the transportation back to Colon to rejoin the ship can be L O N G day!  While not everyone of these excursions run into snags, delays are not uncommon. 

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My DH & I were on the same cruise as Casofilia. Unless you have a forward cabin I wouldn't recommend fighting the crowd to get a great view. We were upstairs in Spinnaker lounge at 5am and had 2nd row seats for the transit. It also rained during some of the transit so our view was a little obscured. 

We also chose to do a tour which involved a 10min tender to the bus which took us to the newest lock Miraflores. Unfortunately I missed the movie (I'll just have to go back), this was followed by a tour of the wildlife of Gatun Lake.  

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8 hours ago, toyotaford said:

 We did a full transit of the Panama Canal with NCL a few years ago and loved it.  My parents had planned on going but my mother go sick and they couldn't travel.  My dad has always regretted not being able to have gone.  We want to take them in November but don't feel they are up to a 3 week trip.  Can someone who has done the shorter trip tell me what actually happens the day you are at the canal on the round trip out of Miami.  My dad will be 88 when we go and I wouldn't want to spend the money and him not get to have a good experience.  We have even considered booking the longer trip and flying home early which a couple with us on the last trip did but the dates don't work out for us.  Thank you for your help in advance.  I was wishing I could talk to my PCC tonight and then thought of all the awesome information I have gotten from CC over the years.

We did the partial about 10 years ago with good friends and it was wonderful, plus for us oldsters long enough. The rest of the full is mostly Mexico. The itinerary on the partial was to our liking. Just my opinion. 

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One thing not mentioned so far is the weather - HOT - HUMID - and the potential of rain storms.

If Panama did not have rain the canal would not have water to move the ships thru its system.

Rain you can handle perhaps but the humid hot weather maybe a problem to folks who just are not acclimated to it.

Stay on the ship in air conditioned areas - but shore excursions you are at the mercy of the elements.

Any cruise to Panama at any time of the year is going to have to pass into and thru a tropical zone.

 

To give you an idea of how humid it is take your camera or binoculars from your air conditioned cabin and

venture outside on deck to take pictures view whatever and the condensation may prevent doing just that.

Take a small hand towel to wipe you equipment of the condensation - those wearing eye glasses can be

affected also.

 

Now on the other hand thru the rain drops falling on your head - have the sun screen available for those

breaks in the overcast - sun burned in the rain - it happens !

 

With all that apprehension noted - DON"T LET IT CHANGE YOUR PLANS to visit the Canal either the partial

or full transit. You may have only one moment in life to do it - SEIZE THAT MOMENT !

 

It is truly one of the modern day -  Wonders of the World  - !

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@toyotaford NCL of course is not the only cruise line offering Panama Canal cruises.  If you have specific dates and/or trip lengths in mind, I would suggest also looking at other lines, including Celebrity, HAL, and Princess.   While some folks here are discussing three-week full transit cruises, those are the cruises NCL is doing from NY to San Francisco or vice versa.  You should be able to find full transits of the Canal from Florida to southern California that would probably be about 14 days or thereabouts.

 

In addition, there's a Ports of Call/Panama Canal forum in which the kinds of questions you have raised are discussed.

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/54-panama-canal/

 

Enjoy whatever you decide!

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10 hours ago, bonvoyagie said:

Actually a three week cruise can be very relaxing - we are doing our first Panama Canal in Jan 20 and it is a 21 day with full transit west to east - we do not plan on doing very many excursions as we really don't like some of the ports. So we simply plan on being in our cabin (an SF Suite on the Gem) and watching the fantail. As things get closer we might change our minds on the excursions but so far Costa Rica is the only country we plan on exploring as well as the ABC islands. The cruise also has many sea days.

 

 

Sounds like you might be embarking on the Gem in San Fran when we are getting off.  🙂

 

This will be our second full transit of the Canal, and we are very much looking forward to this longer cruise (our first Canal cruise was "only" 16 days).   Some of the ports on our earlier cruise were the same as on the 2020 itinerary, and I wanted to suggest that, besides Costa Rica (which was amazing, we had a great day with Gio Tours), you take a look at whale watching in Cabo (e.g., with a tour operator like Whale Watch Cabo) -- since you'll be there in the midst of the whale migration season -- as well as NCL's "Antigua on Your Own" tour out of Puerto Quetzal.

 

In case this is helpful to you or anyone else,  my detailed comments (with photos) on our first Canal cruise, as well as what we did in the various ports, is here:

 

 

 

Edited by Turtles06
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You are correct Turtles06 we will be getting on as you are getting off. We are considering doing the whale watch in Cabo. I still need to research more about our other two Central America stops. Again the main point of this cruise for us is the canal.

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3 minutes ago, bonvoyagie said:

I still need to research more about our other two Central America stops. Again the main point of this cruise for us is the canal.

 

Agreed, but while some of the ports will be "sea days" for us as well, I'm just suggesting that you not give up on all of them, especially given the length of the cruise.  🙂

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For the most part we are destination cruisers and usually find something to do in any port - however in this case we are going to err on the side of caution when it comes to that area of the world. Even our TA is recommending that we watch the state department alerts closely even to the point of registering with them about our trip. 

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I have done both multiple times.   I actually do very much like the round trip for the ability to take the add on ship excursion.     Taking the ferry is a great experience and nothing shows the skill and precision necessary,  for the transit better.    You just don't see this from the cruise ship.   

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13 hours ago, don't-use-real-name said:

One thing not mentioned so far is the weather - HOT - HUMID - and the potential of rain storms.

If Panama did not have rain the canal would not have water to move the ships thru its system.

Rain you can handle perhaps but the humid hot weather maybe a problem to folks who just are not acclimated to it.

Stay on the ship in air conditioned areas - but shore excursions you are at the mercy of the elements.

Any cruise to Panama at any time of the year is going to have to pass into and thru a tropical zone.

 

To give you an idea of how humid it is take your camera or binoculars from your air conditioned cabin and

venture outside on deck to take pictures view whatever and the condensation may prevent doing just that.

Take a small hand towel to wipe you equipment of the condensation - those wearing eye glasses can be

affected also.

 

Now on the other hand thru the rain drops falling on your head - have the sun screen available for those

breaks in the overcast - sun burned in the rain - it happens !

 

With all that apprehension noted - DON"T LET IT CHANGE YOUR PLANS to visit the Canal either the partial

or full transit. You may have only one moment in life to do it - SEIZE THAT MOMENT !

 

It is truly one of the modern day -  Wonders of the World  - !

 

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We are from South Louisiana.  30 miles from the gulf.  Hot humid and chance of rain storms is the story of our life.  We live with our glasses fogging up when we step out of our vehicles.  And my dad was so looking forward to this trip when we originally had it planned.  He had already gotten books and started reading and then my mom got very ill.  By the time the trip came she had recovered enough for us to be comfortable going but the doctors wouldn't release her to travel so we went without them.  They will be 80 and 88 if we go in November and still get around fairly well so I want to go ahead and plan it soon.

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10 hours ago, bonvoyagie said:

For the most part we are destination cruisers and usually find something to do in any port - however in this case we are going to err on the side of caution when it comes to that area of the world. Even our TA is recommending that we watch the state department alerts closely even to the point of registering with them about our trip. 

 

I was on the Gem for its west to east Panama Canal trip this January-February. Wonderful trip! We didn't feel unsafe at any of them (although I am used to travelling around less developed countries). I would really recommend visiting Cartagena - a fantastic city with well-developed tourist infrastructure.

https://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/topic/2648274-ncl-gem-panama-canal-cruise-long-review-dailies-la-nyc-jan-27-2019/

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1 hour ago, pomegranate22 said:

 

I was on the Gem for its west to east Panama Canal trip this January-February. Wonderful trip! We didn't feel unsafe at any of them (although I am used to travelling around less developed countries). I would really recommend visiting Cartagena - a fantastic city with well-developed tourist infrastructure.

https://boards.cruisecritic.co.uk/topic/2648274-ncl-gem-panama-canal-cruise-long-review-dailies-la-nyc-jan-27-2019/

 

I recall reading your excellent review at the time.... I have a quick question for you now about Santa Marta; you wrote that you struggled over finding something to do there.  I am having the same issue.   Do you recall whether there were taxis at the pier, and taxis in Santa Marta itself?  I've read that the port itself is a commercial dock, and am wondering whether we could get a taxi into town and one back.   Thanks for any help on that.  

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