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Cruise through the Panana Canal vs an excursion to the Canal in Colon.


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We are going to be on a 14 day cruise and one of the stops is Colon and we can take a Canal tour.   I am also retiring in a few weeks so we can cruise more.  Instead of taking the tour should we just book a Panal Canal cruise instead?

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Definitely, I can remember visiting the locks on an excursion and saying dreamily that I wanted to return on a cruise ship. A few years later we did so and it was a great experience, depending on your ship size you might go through the new locks.

If you do go I suggest that you read some of the history of building the Canal first, it was an incredible feat of engineering and a terrible time for the workers.

Happy planning and consider this your retirement treat.

Rosalyn

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A cruise through the Panama Canal is certainly one of the best ways to see and experience the Canal.  The "problem" is deciding what type of Canal cruise you want... there are several types.  One is a partial transit cruise, this cruise is often a round trip cruise often from Florida.  In addition to other ports of call on your itinerary, this ship will enter the Canal from the Atlantic side, lock up to Gatun Lake.  Once in Gatun Lake you will have the opportunity to disembark and take a ship's tour,  While you are on your tour the ship will lock back through Gatun Locks and proceed to Colon where you will rejoin the ship.  

 

The second Canal cruise is the full transit cruise, this cruise will usually start in a east or west coast US port and completely transit the Canal.  On this type of cruise I recommend choosing a  cruise that in addition to the Canal transit that the cruise offers a port call in Panama either the day before or the day after your transit.  While many cruises offer the Panama port call, there are a number of cruises that don't.

 

One last "type" of Canal cruise is you will have to choose which locks you will wish to experience on your Canal transit.  Depending on the size of your ship it will either use the original locks or the new larger locks opened in 2016.  I think most people would advise transiting the original locks on your first Canal cruise if you can make that happen.

 

Regarding your cruise that stops in Panama and taking a Canal tour, I think that is a great idea.  The Canal itself is something that can be experienced more than once.  Your Canal tour will only take you through part of the Canal, however experiencing the locks on a smaller vessel is a completely different perspective that when you are on a large ship.

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A full cruise is always preferable, as commonly discussed here. But if all you can do is a partial, or a tour, do it! The Canal is certainly a bucket list must do. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

We just booked a PC cruise on Celebrity Edge, and it is definitely not full transit - but if it lists PC cruising, does that mean it will do the partial transit?  

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4 minutes ago, RSLeesburg said:

We just booked a PC cruise on Celebrity Edge, and it is definitely not full transit - but if it lists PC cruising, does that mean it will do the partial transit?  

Where does it start and end? Same port?...then its a partial transit. "PC cruising" just means you go into Gatun Lake, linger for a while while you drop pax who have shore excursions (only...you can't go ashore without a ship's excursion), then it sails back through the same locks.

 

If the start and end points are in two different oceans (Pacific and Atlantic, for example) its a full transit.

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Yes.  We begin and end in Ft Lauderdale.  I assumed it was partial transit, but it did not specifically say that.  But Colon is next stop so figured I could do tour from there.  

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2 hours ago, RSLeesburg said:

Yes.  We begin and end in Ft Lauderdale.  I assumed it was partial transit, but it did not specifically say that.  But Colon is next stop so figured I could do tour from there.  

Colon is where the ship picks up pax who got off in Gatun Lake for excursions. I can't speak for NCL's excursions, but typically the stay in Colon is 2 or 3 hours, starting mid afternoon, and many cruise lines don't offer excursions there. And Colon is not somewhere you want to wonder off on your own. There is shopping in the dock area, that is about it.

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4 hours ago, CruiserBruce said:

Colon is where the ship picks up pax who got off in Gatun Lake for excursions. I can't speak for NCL's excursions, but typically the stay in Colon is 2 or 3 hours, starting mid afternoon, and many cruise lines don't offer excursions there. And Colon is not somewhere you want to wonder off on your own. There is shopping in the dock area, that is about it.

They are on Celebrity, not NCL. EM

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, RSLeesburg said:

Yes.  We begin and end in Ft Lauderdale.  I assumed it was partial transit, but it did not specifically say that.  But Colon is next stop so figured I could do tour from there.  

 

While their website doesn't specifically mention just what "Panama Canal Cruising" includes, it is a partial transit.  Their website also doesn't mention that the cruise will utilize the new locks.  Once the ship reaches Gatun Lake you can elect to take a ship's tour or remain on the ship for the short sail to Colon.

 

The stop in Colon is short primarily to pick up the passengers who are on shore excursions as CruiserBruce mentioned with no time for you to take a tour.

Edited by BillB48
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8 hours ago, BillB48 said:

 

While their website doesn't specifically mention just what "Panama Canal Cruising" includes, it is a partial transit.  Their website also doesn't mention that the cruise will utilize the new locks.  Once the ship reaches Gatun Lake you can elect to take a ship's tour or remain on the ship for the short sail to Colon.

 

The stop in Colon is short primarily to pick up the passengers who are on shore excursions as CruiserBruce mentioned with no time for you to take a tour.

Thanks!  I noticed that Panama Canal Cruising is one day, and Colon is next.  Does this mean you go into locks one day, and out the next - with the shore excursion on same day as Colon stop?  
 

Either way, sounds amazing.  I know I want to do tour but my wife and son may not…lol

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1 hour ago, RSLeesburg said:

Thanks!  I noticed that Panama Canal Cruising is one day, and Colon is next.  Does this mean you go into locks one day, and out the next - with the shore excursion on same day as Colon stop?  
 

Either way, sounds amazing.  I know I want to do tour but my wife and son may not…lol

 

Actually the Canal cruising and Colon stop are both on day 8 of the itinerary I looked at (Nov. 21 '22), they are located on different panels of the itinerary page that makes the Colon stop appear to be the following day.  The ship will lock back down at some point after the shore excursion passengers have left and sail to Colon with a scheduled arrival of 5PM.

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3 minutes ago, BillB48 said:

 

Actually the Canal cruising and Colon stop are both on day 8 of the itinerary I looked at (Nov. 21 '22), they are located on different panels of the itinerary page that makes the Colon stop appear to be the following day.  The ship will lock back down at some point after the shore excursion passengers have left and sail to Colon with a scheduled arrival of 5PM.

Ah!  I did not notice that.  They are on different panels, so just assumed they were on different days…lol.   Thanks for pointing that out!  

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We are on the Ocean Princess in November. One of the tours has the below description. I guess I do not understand what the ship is doing while you are on the tour and what would you see if you stayed on the ship? Thanks for the suggestions

 Cruise Gatun Lake Panama Canal & Locks Transit By Boat7 hours | Panama Canal Partial Transit New Locks |

Experience the Panama Canal with a crossing of the canal by tour boat. Travel by ship's tender and embark on your ferry tour boat for a partial transit of the canal. Cruise through the Gaillard Cut, which is  an artificial valley that cuts through the continental divide in Panama. The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Gatun Lake

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5 hours ago, Slyfox16 said:

We are on the Ocean Princess in November. One of the tours has the below description. I guess I do not understand what the ship is doing while you are on the tour and what would you see if you stayed on the ship? Thanks for the suggestions

 Cruise Gatun Lake Panama Canal & Locks Transit By Boat7 hours | Panama Canal Partial Transit New Locks |

Experience the Panama Canal with a crossing of the canal by tour boat. Travel by ship's tender and embark on your ferry tour boat for a partial transit of the canal. Cruise through the Gaillard Cut, which is  an artificial valley that cuts through the continental divide in Panama. The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Gatun Lake

 

After a brief search I could not find anything on the Ocean Princess, so what I can tell you here is based on some assumptions.  The main assumption is that your cruise is a partial transit of the Canal which will enter the Canal from the Atlantic entrance.  That in mind here goes...

 

Your ship will enter the Canal from the Atlantic entrance and be locked up to Gatun Lake.  The ship will use Gatun Locks (original) or the new Agua Clara Locks to reach Gatun Lake.  Can't be sure which locks will be used as I am uncertain of the size of the ship and the reference of "New Locks" in the excursion title.  After reaching Gatun Lake the ship will travel a very short distance to anchor in order to disembark passengers who are on shore excursions.  Some time after the touring passengers have disembarked the ship will then lock down whichever locks they locked up and sail to Colon where the touring passengers will rejoin the ship.

 

Staying on the ship will provide you with what will mostly be returning over the same territory you covered in locking up to Gatun Lake.  You will see the same thing twice.  While it can be very interesting to see the operation again from a different perspective, the bottom line is you are only getting to see about 5 miles of a 50 mile waterway.  IMO sailing through Gaillard Cut and the Pacific Locks will give you a much better appreciation of the Canal and a chance to see more of Panama.

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Greatly appreciate the help. We are on the Crown Princess in November, and your comments made it much easier to decide to take the ship's tour/

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On 6/14/2021 at 8:22 PM, Slyfox16 said:

We are on the Ocean Princess in November. One of the tours has the below description. I guess I do not understand what the ship is doing while you are on the tour and what would you see if you stayed on the ship? Thanks for the suggestions

 Cruise Gatun Lake Panama Canal & Locks Transit By Boat7 hours | Panama Canal Partial Transit New Locks |

Experience the Panama Canal with a crossing of the canal by tour boat. Travel by ship's tender and embark on your ferry tour boat for a partial transit of the canal. Cruise through the Gaillard Cut, which is  an artificial valley that cuts through the continental divide in Panama. The cut forms part of the Panama Canal, linking Gatun Lake

 

Ocean Princess ??

 

Not aware that Princess has had an Ocean Princess since about 2016, when the sold it to Oceania.

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  • 1 month later...

IMO, the excursion will be a more exciting experience.

 

I did a partial transit tour when visiting Panama City.  In the smaller ship, you enter the lock and you are IN the lock.  All you can see are the sides of the lock.  Then you rise up out of the ground.  And repeat.  

 

Then a cruise through the cut to the lake and back.

 

Then, you float into the lock.  And descend into the ground.

 

When I did it, a cruise ship was going the other way.  It started up high, got a bit lower and moved one.  Maybe if you were in a lower deck OV you would see the ship descend into the looks so you only see the side of the lock.

 

This was an all day trip.  The full transit takes about the same amount of time, but you are at the Colon end, and have to get back to Panama City. 😄

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1 hour ago, SRF said:

IMO, the excursion will be a more exciting experience.

 

I did a partial transit tour when visiting Panama City.  In the smaller ship, you enter the lock and you are IN the lock.  All you can see are the sides of the lock.  Then you rise up out of the ground.  And repeat.  

 

Then a cruise through the cut to the lake and back.

 

Then, you float into the lock.  And descend into the ground.

 

When I did it, a cruise ship was going the other way.  It started up high, got a bit lower and moved one.  Maybe if you were in a lower deck OV you would see the ship descend into the looks so you only see the side of the lock.

 

This was an all day trip.  The full transit takes about the same amount of time, but you are at the Colon end, and have to get back to Panama City. 😄

Yes.  We will do the excursion, and unfortunately, we will be very high up.  We will get great aerial  view of the locks.  

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