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Best time to cruise Panama Canal


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We have been there 5 times, 3 in January, 1 in December and 1 in March. No weather issues, but be prepared for hot and humid anytime. The March trip was a full transit with very strong sun almost directly overhead and very hot. Had to stay in the shade where it was more comfortable. See the site below and others with similar information.

https://seasonsyear.com/Panama

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We went in late October, LA to FLL.  Weather along the west coast of Mexico was really nice.  Warmer once we got to Costa Rica.  Only rainy day was an at sea day before  going thru the canal.  Weather in the canal was overcast with sprinkles.  Saved us from the sun or it would have been hot.  Hot and humid in Colombia and Aruba

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After much research, we went in early January 2018. It was still hot and humid.

My camera lens would fog up when I went outside of the cabin. 

I see you are from Canada, so you would be hot weather wimps like us. 

January was supposed to be the "coolest". 

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2 hours ago, Set to go said:

Would love to hear from experienced cruisers.  We have ours booked in March due to the dates working for us. 
 

Diane

We were there this February and weather was perfect.  We watched the sailing from our balcony and it was not humid at all.

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We've done the full transit 4 times - Always in late September from San Francisco to FLL.  Had pretty good weather every time but did miss ports on 3 of the cruises due to avoiding hurricanes.  As other above noted it is always hot and humid.

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We went early April and loved our cruise. We did a 10 day and it was a bit windy heading out the first sea day and the last sea day coming back.  Too windy for us to want to enjoy the pool those days, but the weather was great!! It was very warm, lots of sunscreen. It sprinkled a bit when we went through the Panama Canal, but it was still nice, we had rain jackets. I would go again during that time! If I wanted it to be less warm I'd probably try going in January. 

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We went FLL to SF in late February 2018.  One of our favorite trips, on the Coral Princess.  In Cartagena we were  dripping wet, NOT from rain.  A few days later we were in a dugout canoe in Panama and it was pouring rain.  My advice - take quick-dry clothes,

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My research led us to book in January.  I learned that the Fall (Oct-Dec) can be the rainy season...and by mid-Feb - certainly March, you can have HIGH humidity rates.  However, I've also learned that weather is very unpredictable.  You can travel to destinations during rainy season and have dry...and during dry season and have rain....so we went in with an open mind. 

Our reality taking the cruise mid-January was the weather was absolutely DELIGHTFUL.  Warm but never extremely hot or humid.  We enjoyed afternoons on the pool deck on sea days and were never miserably hot as I was actually expecting.    Some ports were hot (90 degrees) and we were glad to get back to the ship and a/c but they weren't 'un-survive-able'.  🙂 🙂

The downside to our cruise was the choppy seas.  I don't know if that was related to time of year or just our 'luck' but it was SIGNIFICANT...the entire time...  There was NEVER a calm day the entire cruise.  We were never without our sea sickness remedies...sometimes using more than one.   I rarely wore my heels to dinner because it was actually dangerous to try to walk around the ship in them.  and finally...we missed a port due to winds making it impossible to approach/dock.   Again, I don't know if that's related to the time of year or just a random thing...  but our experience.  

Edited by rgmacm
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We've been through the canal three times, twice in January and once in April (2013, most recent one).  Went from Caribbean to Pacific twice and reverse the last time.  It's always hot and humid there, as noted above, as you're quite close to the equator.  Always had good weather, but short rains not unusual in the tropics.

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Our transit through the OLD locks was fabulous. The narrator on board did

a fantastic job- he was speaking almost constantly for ten hours that day.

I have short arms, so I was not quite able to touch the walls. We had a few light

sprinkles (January) during our transit.

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February is the driest month with an average of less than 2 inches for the month. The rainiest months are in the summer with the peak in July with an average of 30 inches. I went in December last year and had great weather. The cruise before mine had lousy weather. It was my third cruise to the canal, so it wasn't quite as important to aim for perfect weather. If I had to do that, I'd go in February or March.

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On 3/18/2020 at 4:18 PM, rgmacm said:

My research led us to book in January.  I learned that the Fall (Oct-Dec) can be the rainy season...and by mid-Feb - certainly March, you can have HIGH humidity rates.  However, I've also learned that weather is very unpredictable.  You can travel to destinations during rainy season and have dry...and during dry season and have rain....so we went in with an open mind. 

Our reality taking the cruise mid-January was the weather was absolutely DELIGHTFUL.  Warm but never extremely hot or humid.  We enjoyed afternoons on the pool deck on sea days and were never miserably hot as I was actually expecting.    Some ports were hot (90 degrees) and we were glad to get back to the ship and a/c but they weren't 'un-survive-able'.  🙂 🙂

The downside to our cruise was the choppy seas.  I don't know if that was related to time of year or just our 'luck' but it was SIGNIFICANT...the entire time...  There was NEVER a calm day the entire cruise.  We were never without our sea sickness remedies...sometimes using more than one.   I rarely wore my heels to dinner because it was actually dangerous to try to walk around the ship in them.  and finally...we missed a port due to winds making it impossible to approach/dock.   Again, I don't know if that's related to the time of year or just a random thing...  but our experience.  

I agree with your assessment of January weather. We went just after the first of the year last year. Only Cartegena was in the 90's.  Other ports were mid 80's and not as humid as I expected. We had very calm seas; no need for sea sickness remedies.

I recommend a Caribbean to Pacific itinerary due to time changes. We had one early a.m. excursion planned, which became very early with the loss of an hour.

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  • 3 weeks later...

We did the Holland America Panama Canal cruise from FLL in February 2009 so long time ago. Weather was fine. It was quite windy and overcast when we left FLL but you can never guarantee the weather these days.

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We did Panama this past January and the weather was warm and muggy but not unbearable.   Sure it was hot while sunning at the pool deck but it felt good.    After Panama we stopped at Cartagena and our excursion met at 7:00 am.   We were both wondering why so early, but found out real quick why.     It was super hot and muggy in January.   I think it was 88% humidity that day.   by the time we got back from old walled city, exploring cruise port - which is gorgeous with the flamingos, exotic birds, etc. it was around 2 pm and we were dripped wet from the humidity.    but I would love to explore cartagena some more some day soon.

Personally, I thought January was a good time for Panama.

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On 3/18/2020 at 10:16 AM, Set to go said:

Would love to hear from experienced cruisers.  We have ours booked in March due to the dates working for us. 
 

Diane

We like to cruise the Panama Canal in late Nov or Early Dec.  We have cruise from San Juan, Ft Lauderdale and LA through the canal all were great cruises.  Only one did we hit some high seas and that was due to Hurricane Kenny.

Hope this helps you.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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