Welcome to the second post in a series of four posts which will look at the ports of call for the 28-day Panama Canal cruise which I was onboard earlier this year. In this post, I will cover the next three ports in a little more detail than the summary post here “28 Day Panama Canal Cruise Summary.”
Departing Puerto Chiapas left just two more port calls before transiting the Panama Canal. The first was in Guatemala and was a little disappointing, with the second port in Panama. These are two countries that are great to experience for the first time as part of a cruise. Both ports also provided a different experience to what I was expecting.
Puerto Quetzal – Guatemala
Puerto Quetzal was a perfect example of how expectations can at times be spoiled. Although this was as much due to circumstances as anything else. The day we docked in Puerto Quetzal was Good Friday and all tours were cancelled. The only option available was a transfer to the city of Antigua. However, I left it too late to partake in this option. Instead, I spent the day between the small port area and onboard the ship.
It did not turn out to be a completely wasted day with some things around the port area. A small pop-up market with local crafts and jewellery was my first stop. I found a couple of small souvenirs to buy for family and friends here. I also spent a little time at the bar/cafe to check emails and update people on my travels. While I did not get to see a lot of the country, the part I did see was very nice.
Fuerte Amador – Panama
The port call in Fuerte Amador was quite late in the day, arriving as the sun was setting. A couple of tours were available. However, due to the time of day and cost I opted to stay near to the ship. Especially consider it was night time and there is not much to see in the dark. An added difficulty here was the need to tender from the ship to shore. It is not quite as flexible as other ports where you can just walk ashore.
In the end, I decided to just to go off for a short while and look around the area where the tenders dropped passengers off. There were a few restaurants and some small souvenir shops here. So just chose to stop at one of the restaurants and have a light snack and a local Panama beer. Being the only night port, this was the only opportunity to see the ship lit up at night.
Panama Canal – Panama
The Panama Canal transit is an all day event taking around 8-10 hours. The ship started the approach to the locks on the Western side of the canal quite early in the morning. Both ends of the canal have three locks to raise and lower ships. The Eastern side all three locks are in series, while on the Western side they are separated. The first locks are the Miraflores Locks with two locks together. The third lock is named Pedro Miguel locks and is a single lock. Each lock is a pair of locks side by side, which can operate in the same or opposite directions.
The actual transit is a great thing to watch from just about anywhere on the ship. You get to see a lot of rainforests, and there are a number lighthouses along the way. There are a reasonable number of ships going the other direction as well. The only problem I found the climate rather hot and humid. It can make it a little uncomfortable at times, however, not too different from Brisbane. Combined with the rain we had around lunch time wasn’t the greatest.
The final step of the transit through the Panama Canal is the transit of the locks on the Eastern side. These locks are named Gatun Locks and are a series of 3 locks together. After around an hour moving between the three locks we were now in the Caribbean Sea.
Still To Come
Transiting the Panama Canal is one of those experiences that is worth every moment and one that very few people do get to experience. There is another sea day before we arrive into Columbia, followed by two more sea days and the half way point. There are two more parts to come which will cover the port visits in Columbia, Fort Lauderdale, Aruba, Costa Rica, Mexico and returning to San Diego.
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