Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Coral Princess Cruise, April 2007 -- Day 3

Wednesday, Panama

Pilot boat beside the long-abandoned French canal attempt.If you are a night person and you want to see the whole passage through the Gatun Locks, just stay up. And have breakfast delivered to your balcony.

The canal transit begins early. At about 5:00 A.M. I looked out and saw we were slowly moving through a cluster of a dozen or two other ships all waiting their turns to go through the canal.

Soon we picked up our pilot (and it turns out, a narrator). Then we got in the lane marked by red lights on the right. And slowly headed for the first lock which we entered at 6:55 A.M. We left the third and final lock at 8:39 -- in Gatun Lake 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level.

We were surprised at how wild and undeveloped the approach to the locks was. Rather than the container docks and oil refineries I expected it was beautiful jungle foliage right down to the water.

The narrator, from the ACP -- Autoridad del Canal Panama -- was in the bridge and you could hear him over the ship's loud speakers and on the TV's channel 38. He had lots of facts and figures about the history of the canal, its construction and its use today. He said the wild foliage was to help conserve water in the lake above us -- Gatun Lake.

Gatun Lake top lock, facing Atlantic OceanThere are more of our Panama Canal photos at Flickr.

Once we got to the lake we anchored and passengers who had booked shore excursions were tendered off. From there they went on tours via boats, buses and trains.

For those of us who stayed on board, the lucky ones in my opinion, we got to go back through the locks again starting just before noon. It was perhaps more interesting going down from the lake than it was going up. There were several huge container ships right next to us. They were fully loaded and it was amazing to see them in the locks with only a few inches to spare on the sides.

Then we headed for port in Cristobal where there was shopping at the terminal. This was where the passengers who had taken tours rejoined the ship.

The terminal is a long, bright yellow building with an oceanside restaurant and a large patio with a beer garden shaded by palm trees. Native singers and dancers were welcoming us.

We were already to debark for a while and check it all out. But the lines to get off the ship were as long as the ship itself. After two days at sea and a whole day on board watching the locks work, everybody who had stayed on board wanted off. We decided to wait until later.

At 6:55 P.M. the ship was under way for Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. The sea was calm. We had not set foot on Panamanian soil or bought any trinkets.

From Fort Lauderdale to Panama Canal
1273 nautical miles, 1464 statute miles, 2355 kilometers
average speed 21.0 knots


HawaiiVacationGifts said...

Aloha Ken,
Your blog is wonderful. I have read many posts but am commenting on this one. Did you know Hawaii will have a superferry later this summer? It is being built in Mobile, Alabama and will get to us via the Panama Canal. You can find out all about it at

Kenyo said...

I read about the ferry several weeks ago. Our local newspaper had an article about the construction and the delivery through the Panama Canal. It is a very good idea. I would love to get from island to island without going to airports!