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Panama Canal - what month and why?

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We did the Panama Canal cruise on the Oosterdam in March 2018, San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. Now I am looking forward to a future cruise in the other direction, and would like to hear from those who have done the cruise (in either direction) and learn your opinions about other months and their advantages and/or disadvantages. In the back of my mind I am thinking December or January - a lot of places were rather warm and humid (we are from Reno, NV) on our cruise and so I want to learn what others have found. Also any tips about ports are welcome.

Thanks,

rfp

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Temperature and humidity do not vary much at that latitude.  I think the fall is a little wetter than the winter/spring, but you can plan on showers at any time.  There is a board here under Port of Call for the Panama Canal, and you might do some reading there:  https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/54-panama-canal/

 

My transits have been in March, April, and Jan & Feb.. and I don't recall any difference.  EM

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We've done the full Panama Canal cruise in January twice, once on the Veendam and once on the Island Princess, and had no complaints about the weather or temperatures. I will say, though, if you can book an aft-facing cabin as we were able to both times, you will not be disappointed!

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8 minutes ago, Ken the cruiser said:

We've done the full Panama Canal cruise in January twice, once on the Veendam and once on the Island Princess, and had no complaints about the weather or temperatures. I will say, though, if you can book an aft-facing cabin as we were able to both times, you will not be disappointed!

That's interesting! I hear a lot about aft-facing cabins being very desirable. For our PC cruise we had an aft-wrap Neptune. It was pretty nice I must admit, but it just seemed so far from everything! Also, going west to east, we had the afternoon/evening sun full on the veranda which made it uncomfortably hot at times. Of course, there are other times and lots of other things to do elsewhere so it was not really a problem for us - but if you can share your reasons for the aft-facing preference I am willing to learn! And, going the other direction we would not have that "problem." 😉

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, Essiesmom said:

Temperature and humidity do not vary much at that latitude.  I think the fall is a little wetter than the winter/spring, but you can plan on showers at any time.  There is a board here under Port of Call for the Panama Canal, and you might do some reading there:  https://boards.cruisecritic.com/forum/54-panama-canal/

 

My transits have been in March, April, and Jan & Feb.. and I don't recall any difference.  EM

That is very interesting. I will have to bookmark that forum so I can learn more about the PC. I have cruises planned until May 2022 so I probably have time to get to it!

And your comment about the four months you mention is encouraging - I have been tracking HAL PC cruise fares and it just seems like the prices are lowest at the beginning of the "season" and highest at the end. So if I decide to go for the lower fare, we will probably have a good time too. Of course, we have a good time whatever happens, regardless of the weather!

Cheers,

rfp

Edited by What was that?
Corrected spelling of HAL

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2 minutes ago, What was that? said:

but if you can share your reasons for the aft-facing preference I am willing to learn! And, going the other direction we would not have that "problem." 😉

On the Veendam where our aft-facing balcony was covered went from LA to Ft Lauderdale. In the locks behind us was a car mover ship on the left and a Tall ship on the right. Definitely a cool experience. On the second cruise on the Island Princess we were in an aft-facing vista suite which wasn't covered. But really wasn't a big issue as we were going from east to west. But watching the locks open and close behind us was pretty cool. There is just something about having that 180 degree view on both sides of the ship as well as when we leave a port that makes an aft-facing balcony our favorite!

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I went in April, right on the brink between wet/dry season. Perfect weather (very little rain, and they were the refreshing sprinklers and not downpours); and only two days that were "uncomfortably hot" as compared to "comfy but hot but not TOO humid", that during our day in Cartagena, Colombia; and the Canal Transit Day. (The morning was perfect, it was when the sun came over to the front side when it got somewhat hot in the sun - that's when I retreated to the Crow's Nest for a good portion of the afternoon to cool off and still not miss any of the action). 

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I've done the Panama Canal in late November and early February, and didn't notice a difference.  Cartagena, along with Curacao, are probably the hottest, most humid ports I've visited.  

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Posted (edited)

I did it 2x...first was part of QE2 World Cruise(13 days)...NYC to LA in January. The second time was onboard Azamara Journey .(16 days)..San Diego to Miami in February.

It was wonderful both times as far as weather..hot but not very humid.

One thing I would suggest is getting  out & about while going through the canal/locks...both times found us on the outside decks so we could see all of the experience..on Azamara Journey it was the only day we really didn't use our balcony.

Edited by Rotterdam

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My first transit was a repo on Oosterdam in 2009, in March when she was going from San Diego to Rome for drydock in Italy.  I had an OV cabin.  Second was in 2013 on Infinity in April in a balcony cabin.  Third was a partial transit on Carnival Pride (2016) in a balcony.  Last transit was in Jan. 2018 on Carnival Splendor through the new locks in an OV cabin.  We had rain on the last one.  A brief shower on the partial.  EM

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Definitely keep moving around the ship.  I've done 8 transits, 7 on Crystal and one on Prinsendam.  I think if I did it again on HAL I would want an oceanview room on the lowest deck.  One of my favorite spots on Crystal is the lobby outside the dining room (one deck above the tender dock).  At one of the locks I'll sit there and as we enter the lock (going upwards) you go from daylight into pretty much darkness passing within inches of the lock wall, getting a detailed look at the gates, the hinges, and every detail of the inside of the chamber.  Then we rise and there's an artificial dawn as we start to see some light at the top of the wall and then emerge into daylight.  I think the effect would be even better in a cabin at that level where the cabin can be really dark in the depth of the lock.  I would go to other places for other locks, the bow, the crow's nest, the deck behind the lido, and you name it.  One other thing, it's really coll in the cut between the Miraflores and Miguel locks where you can look up at ships coming out of the new locks.

 

Roy

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12 hours ago, rafinmd said:

One other thing, it's really coll in the cut between the Miraflores and Miguel locks where you can look up at ships coming out of the new locks.

 

Roy

I noticed that - definitely a strange and wonderful experience!

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I have done full transits in October, March and April and a partial transit in January.  Weather was pretty much the same for each.  The biggest difference was quite a bit of rain in October, the least amount of rain in April.  I enjoy having a balcony on transit day because I like to see the lights on the vessels waiting to transit the Canal prior to sunrise.  (I keep running out on the balcony to see what ship has moved.)

 

Whatever you decide, do not stay on your balcony as you go through the canal.  The activity is fascinating to watch and varies from port to starboard, fore to aft. 

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3 hours ago, lcand1923 said:

Whatever you decide, do not stay on your balcony as you go through the canal.  The activity is fascinating to watch and varies from port to starboard, fore to aft. 

 

We did that - front to back, side to side - too much to see, but we saw it all. Especially cool was to be on the Promenade Deck at the railing in the locks. But we even found time to be on our veranda in the Gatun Locks because my brother was watching on a webcam for our ship - and he sent me a photo of the Oosterdam in the lock as we were finishing off the special champagne I had brought along for the occasion - I know it's blurry and pixelated, but trust me, that blur on the veranda of 7151 is a bunch of us celebrating! By that time we were all a little blurry....

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We did a partial transit on Carnival's old Jubilee in January, 1999 and that just made us want to book a full transit. 😊 

 

We finally got our chance when HAL sent us an unbelievably good deal on the Statendam 6 weeks prior to departure... 14 nights from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego for $700 each in an outside stateroom for a December, 2011 sailing.  This was our first HAL cruise and we had an amazing time.  

 

It was HOT.  I think that anytime you do the Panama Canal it will be blazing hot.  It was 100 degrees in Huatulco, Mexico on that cruise.  And that was in mid December!  We are looking at the Eurodam 20 night sailing, Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle, in April, 2021 right now as a possibility.  (COVID is the only reason we haven't booked it yet.)  As an Alaskan, I'm afraid of the heat, but at this point we are ready to go again and that Eurodam itinerary is amazing!  No socks will be in our suitcases! 🤣🤣🤣

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Taters, 

My last Panama Canal transit was from Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle in the April/May time frame.  The Alaska season started right after, so I tacked a 7 night Alaska cruise on the end.  (Any time I can visit Alaska, I will.)

 

That particular transit of the Canal had the best weather.  I actually needed to do a couple of layers in the morning on deck and for a couple of the Shore Excursions.  (I would take one pair of socks, just in case!)

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7 hours ago, lcand1923 said:

Taters, 

My last Panama Canal transit was from Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle in the April/May time frame.  The Alaska season started right after, so I tacked a 7 night Alaska cruise on the end.  (Any time I can visit Alaska, I will.)

 

That particular transit of the Canal had the best weather.  I actually needed to do a couple of layers in the morning on deck and for a couple of the Shore Excursions.  (I would take one pair of socks, just in case!)

Okay - Maybe we'll pack 1 pair. 😁

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On 7/17/2020 at 3:15 PM, What was that? said:

We did the Panama Canal cruise on the Oosterdam in March 2018, San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. Now I am looking forward to a future cruise in the other direction, and would like to hear from those who have done the cruise (in either direction) and learn your opinions about other months and their advantages and/or disadvantages. In the back of my mind I am thinking December or January - a lot of places were rather warm and humid (we are from Reno, NV) on our cruise and so I want to learn what others have found. Also any tips about ports are welcome.

Thanks,

rfp

We done the Panama Canal twice.  Once in May, Port Canaveral to Los Angeles; and once in October Boston to San Diego.

 

May - PC was hot and humid, but not totally unbearable, since we could go inside to cool off.  

 

Oct - cooler, but still humid, and it rained almost every afternoon/evening giving us really cool light shows in the dining room for dinner.

 

I'd do either one again.  We prefer westbound cruises since you gain time.  

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11 hours ago, Shmoo here said:

I'd do either one again.  We prefer westbound cruises since you gain time.  

Right! I made the mistake of going eastbound and "lost" three hours. But I'll get even with HAL - I'll do the westbound and gain three hours. That's a swing of 6 hours (1/4 of a day for the mathematically-challenged) at no extra charge! I just have to figure out how to profitably spend that extra time...

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