|Luxury cruisers are making the
exciting 50-mile crossing from the Caribbean to the Pacific in true style. Here
are our tips for a most enjoyable voyage.
A Panama Canal cruise is a must-do voyage, just as it was nearly a century ago.
While some cruises are only a partial transit, all major luxury cruise lines
offer the full 50-mile crossing from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean through
three sets of locks.
How does it work? Simply put, a ship sails from
the Caribbean westward into the Gatun Locks, which raise the ship about 85 feet
to Gatun Lake. Then it’s a journey through the narrow, scenic Gaillard or
Culebra Cut to the Pedro Miguel Locks, where the ship is lowered 30 feet.
Continuing westward to the Miraflores Locks, the ship is lowered another 52 feet
before exiting to the Pacific. The entire process, which is also operated in
reverse, takes from eight to 16 hours.
Some lines, including Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.
corn) and Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com), stop at Gatun Lake. There,
guests relax at the Gatun Yacht Club or head out on an eco cruise or a locks or
rain forest tour. Regent’s 20-minute Gatun locks by Air helicopter adventure
gives travelers a chance to take in dramatic views of the Panama Canal, Gatun
and Colon towns, the Chagres River from just above the treetops and the ruins of
San Lorenzo, an old Spanish fort.
Back on the ship, cruisers eagerly peer out to
both the jungle rainforest and the man-made lock chambers (110 feet wide by
1,000 feet long ) and the machinery that operates them. You should move around
the ship for different vantage points. You will get the big picture from the top
deck on both starboard and port sides. It takes eight minutes for each lock
chamber to fill with water, and a whopping 52,000 gallons are used for each ship
As water is pumped from the lock, guests might
head for their suite or a lower-level lounge with windows to starboard or port,
such as The Bar on the Silver Shadow's Deck 5. Why? As the water level drops in
the lock chamber, the walls of the lock seemingly envelop the ship, at times
with only inches to spare.
Suites with windows or balconies facing forward
also have a bird’s-eye view of lock gates as they open. Seabourn’s Owners Suites
03 and 04 on Deck 6 of the Seabourn Legend and the Queen Mary or Queen Anne
Suites on Deck 10 of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 are examples.
WHO GOES THERE:
It was an ocean connection that changed the world. The result? An engineering
marvel bordered by beautiful, lush, tropical rain forests.
Check on available Dates and Rates
and read the Reviews.
Crystal Symphony on Nov. 12 and
24, Dec. 6 2006. Jan. 4, 20 and
31, Feb. 11, Nov.4 and 14 and
Dec. 8 2007
Crystal Serenity on Jan.12 and
Nov. 19 and 30 2007
Queen Elizabeth 2 Jan. 10 2007
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Seven Seas Mariner on Dec. 26
2006; April 27 and Dec. 21 2007
Seabourn Cruise line
Seabourn Legend on Nov.21 and
Dec. 5 2006; Jan. 2, Feb. 5, Nov.
21 and Dec. 5 2007
Silver Shadow on Sept. 26 2006 and Jan. 15 2007
Wind Star on March 31 and