The Traveling Steve's

Cruising thru the Panama Canal

So I’m a bit tardy getting the Panama Canal post below ‘posted’, but I’ve been quite busy since we got back from vacation; mostly traveling for work.  I wrote the following post while aboard the ship but delayed posting it due to the slow internet speeds.  So here is our wonderful day sailing thru the Panama Canal in March 2015.  I have a link to a Panama Canal video I made at the end of the posts. Enjoy!

One of the highlights of our South American cruise was the full day transit thru the Panama Canal.   We had taken this same repositioning cruise on the Celebrity Infinity back in 2009, and enjoyed the cruise and Canal even more this time.

On our previous voyage I had read the book ‘The Path Between the Seas’, by David McCollough, which is a fantastic look at the building of the canal, highlighting the engineering, political, and social issues of the day.  While it’s a big read of several hundred pages, it truly brings the historic undertaking to life with the reader entrenched in all the drama – highly recommended if you’re planning a trip to the Panama Canal.  If you don’t have time to read the book before your trip, I recommend reading the book like I did, from the balcony of our stateroom on a few of those lazy sea days.

The Panama Canal is one of those special places where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific Ocean,DSC01981 and set on the Atlantic, coming north of course.  IMG_2995The canal actually runs north and south, even though the ships are going from an easterly or westerly direction to bypass sailing around South America.  An expansion of the Panama Canal is currently underway, which is due to be complete in December 2015.

We are sailing in the aft starboard Penthouse 6148, and had intentionally booked the starboard side as we are sailing on a northbound repositioning cruise from Chile to Ft Lauderdale, and wanted the ‘land’ side as well as the morning sun, and shade in the afternoon.  DSC02072The visitor centers at Miraflores and Gatun locks are also on the starboard side if sailing northbound, which is a fun place to wave at the onlookers.

As we sailed towards the Panama Canal, we passed the sky-rises of Panama City.  DSC01986There are so many high rise buildings, you would think you were sailing past Manhattan!  It was nearly 7am by now, and the sun was already shining out and hot.  Being in the aft of the ship, we had the best of both views:  by turning on the TV to the ship’s navigation channel, we could see the front view of the ship, with the passengers increasingly gathered on the helipad.  We walked up to the helipad on our last transit, but on this sailing we hosted an all day open-house for fellow passengers, so we remained in the cabin throughout the day.

Our Celebrity Infinity Penthouse 6147 has 1,400 square feet of cabin space, and a wonderful 1,000 square foot balcony – one of the biggest balconies at sea, and is made for entertaining. DSC02053DSC02182We enjoy sharing it as it’s just the two of us, and we’re happy to host our new-found ship friends.

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Our Butler Ram provided us a nice setup with fresh fruit, cheeses, crackers, hors d’ourves, mixers, and plenty of ice, buckets, and glasses.  IMG_2940IMG_2966

We had also brought along plastic cups and cocktail napkins as well before sailing, and had bought 4 bottles of Chilean wine at the wineries we visited pre-cruise near Santiago.  Coupled with the complimentary ship Champagne, 2 bottles of Vodka, beers and wine passengers brought to the cabin, we were ready to party thru the Panama Canal!

From Wikipedia, here is an interesting link on the Panama Canal:

The first set of Locks was the Miraflores Locks, which has a large visitor center with people watching and waving from the bleacher-like seats.  DSC02071We DSC02090already had a crowd of people on our aft balcony, and DOS and I were back there waving the Panama flag to the cheers of the onlookers and workers.  While the ship was being raised, we saw two different set of drones launched from the dock area, and these flew almost right at us, but slightly above the ship.  I assume they were taking photos of the ship. 

The aft cabins are the best place to be in my opinion, as they offer an unobstructed view, and you can see the locks close behind you.  IMG_2882 DSC02084DSC02008

Judging by the number of people in the aft balcony cabins also enjoying the view throughout the day, DSC02078I think they would tend to agree about this prime vantage point – everyone seemed to be hosting fellow passengers to enjoy the view.

The Panama Canal transit takes a full day; for us it was approximately 12 hours, going thru to the open Atlantic side of the canal.  We were followed throughout the day, and adjacently transited in the port-side locks by the Azamara Journey, also owned by Celebrity Cruise lines, but under the boutique title of Azamara Club Cruises.DSC00207 While a much smaller ship, it was quite fun for passengers and crew on both our ships to view each other, waving, taking photos, videos etc.

By the afternoon it was getting quite hot, and our Butler Ram DSC02249brought us trays of cold towels and walked around the balcony passing these out – a very classy touch to cool us off!  Ram also delivered Pizza and additional fruits and cheese plates throughout the afternoon.

On our transit, we sailed under spectacular bridges, and thru the beautiful Gatun Lake.  With the ever-changing scenery and our fellow cruise passengers, we truly had a wonderful day. 

By the time we got to the last locks – Gatun locks, people were quite ‘wined’ up DSC00222 IMG_2970

and made a game of trying to touch the side of the canal locks.   

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The ship is a Panamax -sized ship, meaning it is the maximum size that can fit through the current canal.  From our balcony on deck six, we would just barely touch the side of the wall if you stretched your arm out a bit.  It was quite fun trying to do this, and just about everybody who was on our balcony tried doing this.

 Even Dos! DSC02223

By six pm we were thru the last set of Gatun locks, and out to sea where we saw the sun set in the Atlantic.  IMG_2995We didn’t sail too far, however, as we were set to dock in Colon, Panama the next day, and the subject of a future  post.

My You Tube link on the Panama Canal sailing:

Panama Canal video

Twas a wonderful day for all, sailing thru the Panama Canal!

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