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Cruising the Panama Canal LavishlyAugust 6, 2007 By: David Eisen Travel Agent
Navigating the picturesque Panama Canal is a breeze with ultra-luxe itineraries
For luxury cruise lines, the Panama Canal has always meant an expeditious method of crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, or vice versa, in only a matter of hours. Along the way, cruisers are treated to a number of engineering marvels, which includes a series of intricate locks and man-made lakes.
The journey through is half the fun of a Panama Canal adventure. A ship sailing from the east will enter the canal at the Gatun Locks, where it will be raised about 85 feet into Gatun Lake. From there, the ship cuts through the aptly named Culebra Cut (culebra is Spanish for "shake") on its way to the Pedro Miguel Locks. There, the ship is lowered 30 feet. The ship then meanders on until arriving at the Miraflores Locks, the final lock system, where the ship is lowered another 52 feet before pushing into the Pacific Ocean. The entire process takes around nine hours. Along the way, guests onboard will in some instances be so close to the canal walls that they can touch them from their stateroom balcony.
All of the luxury lines operate
passing through the canal, such as the many onboard enrichment programs. Luxe
Lines That Go There
Regent Seven Seas' Mariner entered the
along with a Food & Wine Spotlight Series.
Silversea is bringing Academy Award-caliber cinema on its Silver
Shadow Panama Canal cruise this fall, which will feature Rex Pickett, whose
novel, "Sideways," turned wine snobbery into a major hit film. For
golfers, Silversea offers its Silver Links program on two 15-day
to play renowned courses along the way in
Many of Crystal Cruises'
crossings are themed or special-interest cruises that include cooking courses,
body-wellness classes and wine and food festivals.
Several of the luxury lines, such as Regent, include a stop
drink and take in some sun at the Gatun Yacht Club, or choose from a host of
excursions. Of particular note: the Chagres River Eco Cruise and Rain Forest
Walk lets guests experience rainforest wildlife up close, such as monkeys and
an array of exotic birds. Tip: It's best to pack a pair of closed-toe,
Some luxury lines think of the
with the ports before and after negotiating the canal. The line's signature
offering is its Caviar in the Surf beach barbecue, which it offers at Hunting
That doesn't mean Seabourn sidesteps the canal experience itself; a guide from
the Canal Authority gives an onboard running commentary as the ship makes its
way through the varying canal mechanisms.