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CM1984

Starting Our Partial Transit Cruise Research

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I just love Cruise Critic! We just came off an Alaska cruise, and it was so much better because of Cruise Critic's members! So...we are seriously considering a Panama Canal Partial Transit, possibly March-April 2019. Here are my beginning questions:

1. Anyone familiar with an excursion from a ship that will go through the entire canal?

2. Books you would recommend on history of canal construction ..have already studied some internet history.

3. We've only done 7 day or less cruises, these 10-11 day..are they much different? (I don't even know what I'm asking here, sorry:confused:)

4. We are late 60's, so don't require a tremendous amount of onboard activities, we do enjoy meeting people, relaxing, a little casino time and a few excursions (not necessarily ship sponsored).

 

That's it for now! Thanks for any thoughts or recommendations.

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I just love Cruise Critic! We just came off an Alaska cruise, and it was so much better because of Cruise Critic's members! So...we are seriously considering a Panama Canal Partial Transit, possibly March-April 2019. Here are my beginning questions:

1. Anyone familiar with an excursion from a ship that will go through the entire canal?

2. Books you would recommend on history of canal construction ..have already studied some internet history.

3. We've only done 7 day or less cruises, these 10-11 day..are they much different? (I don't even know what I'm asking here, sorry:confused:)

4. We are late 60's, so don't require a tremendous amount of onboard activities, we do enjoy meeting people, relaxing, a little casino time and a few excursions (not necessarily ship sponsored).

 

That's it for now! Thanks for any thoughts or recommendations.

 

1. The excursion you are referring to does not actually go through the remainder of the Canal. What is involved in this excursion is once you leave your ship in Gatun Lake you will be transported to the Pacific side to meet the excursion vessel or frequently referred to as the "ferry". (Only one of the vessels used in this excursion actually looks like a ferry) Once you board the ferry you will pass through Gaillard (Culebra) Cut and the two locks on the Pacific side. This excursion may start in the Pacific anchorage and terminate in Gamboa or may run from Gamboa to the Pacific anchorage... either direction is just as enjoyable. What is missing from this to be called going through the rest of the Canal is the Gatun Lake portion of the Canal, a little over 20 miles, which which runs from Gatun Locks (or the new locks of Agua Clara) to Gamboa. While this trip across Gatun Lake is great, the excursion as constructed does give you a great opportunity to see a large part of the Canal. IMO if you can't take a full transit cruise, the combination of the partial transit cruise and the excursion that goes through the Cut and Pacific Locks is a great alternative.

 

 

2. Just about everyone would agree on McCullough's Path Between the Seas as the book of record for the Canal. Another book I liked is Panama Fever by Mathew Parker. In the world of video, McCullough narrated A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama a while back. While some of the "current" footage of the Canal is a bit dated, there is some great archival footage that is worth the look. Another more current video offering is from PBS's American Experience on the Panama Canal.

 

3. I don't find there is a lot of difference between a 7 day cruise and the 10/11 day cruises. The demographics might skew a little more toward a few more retirees... but nothing drastic. Normally there are very few teens on these cruises, however all bets are off if you are looking at a cruise over Christmas/New Years.

 

4. I think you will find the activities on the 10/11 day cruises very similar to what you would find on most 7 day cruises... some Bingo, trivia, afternoon movie perhaps and with any luck you can avoid the art auction;p:D! The evening entertainment is just like you find on the 7 day cruises. Also there is also a better chance, particularly on Canal cruises that they may offer some destination lectures featuring the Canal and possibly other ports of call. Just one little note about private excursions on a partial transit cruise... all shore excursions at the Canal must be taken through the ship. No private excursions once the ship reaches Gatun Lake. If you do not have a ship's excursion at this stop you are not allowed off the ship. You can use private excursions at any of the other ports of call.

 

Any other questions, feel free....

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My first recommendation is that you choose a ship that will go through the old locks. The new locks are interesting, but they are just not the same experience and don't carry the history. So your choices seem to be NCL Jade, Island Princess, and HAL Zuiderdam. Avoid the Carnival ships doing partials, because they do not offer any excursions from Gatun Lake. The regular ships doing partial transits drop off their passengers in Gatun Lake and pass back through the locks to Colon, where they retrieve those passengers after their excursions. Carnival does not make that stop in Colon, so no excursions. During your time frame, there is one other interesting partial transit: Coral Princess will make a 19 day cruise from Los Angeles which locks up through the Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel Locks, transits the rest of the canal and spends the night in Gatun Lake before retracing it's path the next afternoon. EM

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we are doing the Mar. 17 2019 19 day on the Coral. Looking forward to the new ports that we have not been to. Years ago we did the full transit but now looking forward to not flying

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Your posts are great, these are exactly the answers that will help with planning. Thank you! I'm really thinking about March 2019, simply because of what I have read re rainy season months. And living in Virginia, we don't want to risk flights being cancelled due to snow in the winter months, yes, we get snow sometimes.

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Well - we have decided maybe November would be better for us, since it is our anniversary month AND prices are a bit lower (I know, there is a reason for that!) What do you think, should we just not do November due to rainy season or go for it?

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Sure, November is still the Rainy season which runs through the third week in December. There is always a chance there could be abnormally wet weather (or dry), but there is no way to predict that. Generally November is not a time when you get a real toad choker, all over the Canal that is an all day washout affair. Most of the time you will find rain in the form of showers that might come down hard for 15-30 minutes, then it's over. Those showers just tend to crowd the eating venues and make all the prime viewing spots available.

 

 

I would only use the weather as a tie breaker in the decision, things like convenience to you, air fares/connections, ship's fares the primary consideration in selecting a date. In Panama, the Dry season doesn't mean no rain, just a lot less rain! My last 3 full transits have been in the late October to early November time frame, only once were we inconvenienced by a brief shower.

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our friends did the Coral half transit last fall and missed several ports because of hurricane.

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You'll totally enjoy taking a cruise longer than 7 days! (y)

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Posted (edited)

BillB48 - your description of the excursion through locks is just what we are looking for, I think. I'm trying to get my "spreadsheet" with all the costs listed for us to make our decision. Would you happen know the cost of this excursion? We are looking at HAL, and they have described this excursion with $$$$ as a cost!

 

Thanks so much.

 

Mimi

Edited by CM1984
I did not prepare properly

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While I don't exactly know what HAL is charging, I'm sure they are in the same neighborhood in price as the other cruise lines. The price of the excursion in usually around $170pp, for my cruise later this year on Royal Caribbean it is at the discounted rate of $169:D.

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In reading the post from Essiesmom- Carnival does not do excursions. We are already booked for our Panama Canal trip in January on the Carnival Freedom. Our day is listed from 7:30 am to 7 pm. Does anyone know what happens on a Carnival cruise during this time if there are no excursions? Seems like an awful long day if we're mostly just sitting on the lake.

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1. The excursion you are referring to does not actually go through the remainder of the Canal. What is involved in this excursion is once you leave your ship in Gatun Lake you will be transported to the Pacific side to meet the excursion vessel or frequently referred to as the "ferry". (Only one of the vessels used in this excursion actually looks like a ferry) Once you board the ferry you will pass through Gaillard (Culebra) Cut and the two locks on the Pacific side. This excursion may start in the Pacific anchorage and terminate in Gamboa or may run from Gamboa to the Pacific anchorage... either direction is just as enjoyable. What is missing from this to be called going through the rest of the Canal is the Gatun Lake portion of the Canal, a little over 20 miles, which which runs from Gatun Locks (or the new locks of Agua Clara) to Gamboa. While this trip across Gatun Lake is great, the excursion as constructed does give you a great opportunity to see a large part of the Canal. IMO if you can't take a full transit cruise, the combination of the partial transit cruise and the excursion that goes through the Cut and Pacific Locks is a great alternative.

 

 

2. Just about everyone would agree on McCullough's Path Between the Seas as the book of record for the Canal. Another book I liked is Panama Fever by Mathew Parker. In the world of video, McCullough narrated A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama a while back. While some of the "current" footage of the Canal is a bit dated, there is some great archival footage that is worth the look. Another more current video offering is from PBS's American Experience on the Panama Canal.

 

3. I don't find there is a lot of difference between a 7 day cruise and the 10/11 day cruises. The demographics might skew a little more toward a few more retirees... but nothing drastic. Normally there are very few teens on these cruises, however all bets are off if you are looking at a cruise over Christmas/New Years.

 

4. I think you will find the activities on the 10/11 day cruises very similar to what you would find on most 7 day cruises... some Bingo, trivia, afternoon movie perhaps and with any luck you can avoid the art auction;p:D! The evening entertainment is just like you find on the 7 day cruises. Also there is also a better chance, particularly on Canal cruises that they may offer some destination lectures featuring the Canal and possibly other ports of call. Just one little note about private excursions on a partial transit cruise... all shore excursions at the Canal must be taken through the ship. No private excursions once the ship reaches Gatun Lake. If you do not have a ship's excursion at this stop you are not allowed off the ship. You can use private excursions at any of the other ports of call.

 

Any other questions, feel free....

 

Hey Bill,

Having already read the McCullough book would there be enough new content for reading the Mathew Parker book? You wouldn't happen to know of any historical fiction books that involve the canal?

Thanks

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Regarding Parker's book... hard to say if there was a lot of "new" info or not, been a while since I read it and some of the of the two have no doubt been blended in my mind. I enjoyed it though, the history is told in a lot fewer pages. A lot of the actual construction is told through the eyes of a couple of construction workers and their families.

 

 

In the historical fiction department, I don't have any real recommendations, I have been trying to get through a book written by a classmate of my wife's and I am still struggling. Don't take that as a thumbs down on the book since I am not the world's most dedicated reader. It really isn't about the Canal, but the construction of the Panama Railroad. The book is Ahorca Lagarto-Hang the Lizard by Robert Hughes. It is available used on Amazon

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Well My CC Friends, my PT Research is done - partly. We are booking our cruise today - Holland America, Zuiderdam - 11/25-12/5/2018. Deck 5 - Forward Starboard (after much back and forth with our TA).

 

The Shore excursion is exactly what we wanted, to go through all of the original locks to the Pacific and on to Colon. Cost is $169.95 pp. The narrative says - "be patient" - it's a long day! But an experience of a lifetime.

 

Special thanks to BillB48 & Essiesmom for your insights, and of course, the tips from others. 149 Days!

 

Now port research and booking flights and hotel!

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Your welcome and hope you enjoy. :D

I am a bit confused about old part, new part, this lock that lock. Might you have a map that you can share that shows whats what?

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I am a bit confused about old part, new part, this lock that lock. Might you have a map that you can share that shows whats what?

 

 

Your best bet is to go to Google Earth and plug in Panama Canal. And zoom in. First is a photo, probably from The panama Canal people, an aerial view of the Miraflores (right, old) and Cocoli (left,new) locks on the Pacific side.

 

enhance

 

Next is a view of the same area from Google Earth:

 

enhance

 

And finally a Google Earth view of the Gatun (left, old) and Agua Clara (right, new) Locks on the Caribbean side"

 

enhance

 

EM

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holdon216, this is about the newest and most complete map I could find... there are insets that show how the new locks and old locks relate with each other. EM's google earth can fill in the rest.

 

 

2iqfw3p.jpg

 

 

Open up the following link and it will take you to a zoomable version of the map if you would like more detail.

 

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Panama_Canal_Map_EN.png

 

 

Don't the swirl of names distract you, the new set of locks are very near the old set on both sides of the Isthmus. The route of the Canal (aside from the new or old locks) is practically unchanged, it is only a matter of which staircase you will use.

 

 

Atlantic side:

Gatun Locks original

Agua Clara Locks new

 

 

Pacific side:

Pedro Miguel Locks original

Miraflores Locks original

Cocoli Locks new

 

 

I am sure the trip will be memorable regardless of which set of locks you will go through. For anyone making their first trip through the Canal I would suggest going through the original locks first.

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Are there still houses in Gatun? I've heard our's isn't there anymore, but would assume some of the old housing is used by the locks personnel? Just curious. We'll see for ourselves in November for sure!

Thanks for all the pictures and info.

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I think there are a few, but mostly they are gone. The bachelor apartments that faced Jadwin Road are still there (don't know if they are used), where we lived on Buena Vista Pl. along with the houses on Lighthouse Rd are gone as well. Of course where New Town was is mostly occupied by Agua Clara Locks and the water saving basins.

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Bill and Essiesmom, thanks so much. I'm starting to be able to visualize it a bit better. NCL's 7 hour tour starts with a drive to Gamboa. Approx how long of a ride it that? And it ends in Balboa. Looks like a long ride back to Colon from there. Any idea how long of a ride that would be? Seeing it ends in Baloboa and not actually in the Pacific would that make for not quite a complete transit? Sorry for all the questions, but i'm a planner! ;)

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Usually you can allow about 3 hours total for the bus portion of the excursion with the Colon to Gamboa segment around an hour. FYI, although they usually describe the ferry excursion operating from Gamboa to the Pacific entrance, the excursion can also run in reverse. Makes no difference whatsoever, great either way. While I can't speak directly to the excursion you are looking at, in the past the ferry ended or started at Ft. Amador. Not to worry if the excursion ends in Balboa for some reason, you will be in the Pacific in any event. Nice scenery and a great view of Panama City if you wind up in Ft. Amador.

 

 

 

I tried to look at NCL's tour descriptions, but they were not sufficiently detailed for me to tell exactly to expect on the excursion. Don't worry about questions... ask away:D!

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Usually you can allow about 3 hours total for the bus portion of the excursion with the Colon to Gamboa segment around an hour. FYI, although they usually describe the ferry excursion operating from Gamboa to the Pacific entrance, the excursion can also run in reverse. Makes no difference whatsoever, great either way. While I can't speak directly to the excursion you are looking at, in the past the ferry ended or started at Ft. Amador. Not to worry if the excursion ends in Balboa for some reason, you will be in the Pacific in any event. Nice scenery and a great view of Panama City if you wind up in Ft. Amador.

 

 

 

I tried to look at NCL's tour descriptions, but they were not sufficiently detailed for me to tell exactly to expect on the excursion. Don't worry about questions... ask away:D!

Again THANKS Bill!!! Did you live in Panama? You're a wealth of knowledge. And believe me on this cruise i need all the help i can get :) I hate the idea of all that riding. I'm not the best traveler in vans and buses. :(I'm now looking at shorter excursions. My guess is that if the ship is in Gatun Lake till 3pm then they would tender you back to the ship? Its not due in Colon till 5pm.

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Yes, lived there a loooong time! The bus ride is really not too much of an ordeal, it is largely over an interstate type toll road and part of that total time is for loading and unloading the buses.

 

 

What happens on this excursion (and the other excursions as well), you will tender off the ship shortly after clearing Gatun Locks. While you are on your excursion the ship will return through Gatun Locks and proceed to the dock in Colon. You will not return to the ship where you where you tendered off, you will rejoin the ship when it docks in Colon. The timing of the ship's arrival in Colon depends mainly on when it starts the return trip through Gatun Locks. Most of the time the return through the locks will start somewhere between noon and 2PM and it will take about 3 hours to get to Colon. Just bear in mind these times can be rather elastic, but most of the time the ship is at the dock by 5ish. Just a heads up, if you opt for one of the shorter tours at the Gatun Lake stop, there is a good chance you will arrive back at the dock before the ship arrives. That doesn't mean you will have to sit in a warehouse on a banana box, but there is a mall that you can peruse until you can re-board.

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2. Just about everyone would agree on McCullough's Path Between the Seas as the book of record for the Canal. Another book I liked is Panama Fever by Mathew Parker. In the world of video, McCullough narrated A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama a while back. While some of the "current" footage of the Canal is a bit dated, there is some great archival footage that is worth the look. Another more current video offering is from PBS's American Experience on the Panama Canal.

 

.....and with any luck you can avoid the art auction;p:D!

 

Any other questions, feel free....

 

McCullough's book came today, goodness, shall be a long read.

 

You are so right about the art auction 😬😬, although I've never been!

 

And thanks so much!

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BillB48

 

Desperately trying to contact you regarding photos of the old Panama Line ships you posted.

 

Please email me or message me back

 

 

my email is sstraveler at aol dot com

 

THANKS!

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McCullough's book came today, goodness, shall be a long read.

 

You are so right about the art auction 😬😬, although I've never been!

 

And thanks so much!

 

Yes, it is a formidable read... but it is straight forward and you certainly can do it in sections. Once you have finished it you will qualified to give the destination lectures!:D As long as you are interested in the Canal I think you will be glad you plowed your way through it.

 

Even when they offered "free" champagne... that wasn't enough to hook me:D.

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BillB48

 

Desperately trying to contact you regarding photos of the old Panama Line ships you posted.

 

Please email me or message me back

 

 

my email is sstraveler at aol dot com

 

THANKS!

 

You have mail... hopefully!

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PRICE INCREASE: HAL Zuiderdam EXC TOUR - "The Canal Experience from Gatun to Colon" has just increased from $169.95 to $184.95. I shoulda booked it a few weeks ago! I'll know now - if I book the cruise I better book excursions I really really want. I just never thought about a price increase on the excursions. Lesson learned, my friends.

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