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Visiting Panama and the Panama Canal - Ten Day Cruise through the Panama Canal

If you're wondering why you should visit the Panama Canal and Panama City, this recap of our trip through the locks and cruise excursions will make you want to book a trip today!
Visiting Panama and the Panama Canal - Ten Day Cruise through the Panama Canal
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The third stop on our ten day cruise through the Caribbean (and arguably the pinnacle!) was the Panama Canal and Panama City.  (First stop was Aruba, and second stop was Colombia).  Unlike many of the Panama Canal cruises, ours was not a one way ride.  We took the Coral Princess (which was built specifically to travel through the Panama Canal!) through the first set of locks and into Lake Gatun.  

We then disembarked, while the ship turned around, so we could finish our tour of the Caribbean and return eventually to Fort Lauderdale.  While the cruise ship did not go all the way through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean there were tours available for those who wanted the full experience.  

View of the Panama Canal From Balcony

Small ships in the Panama Canal

I am not a morning person. I repeat.  I am NOT a morning person.  So when I learned that we really should be up and about by 6AM to see the ship go through the Panama Canal locks system, it may have flitted through my brain to skip it and sleep a little longer.  

You guys.  I'm so glad I didn't do that.  

First of all, it was a stunningly gorgeous morning.  Panama is so lush and green, it's almost surreal looking.  But second of all, OH EM GEE!  We went through the Panama Canal! And it was SO FREAKING COOL!

Morning sky pulling into Panama

Going through the Panama Canal lock system

If you travel through the locks on the Coral Princess (which by the way, THANK YOU Princess Cruises for hosting us and giving us this incredible experience!), there's a secret way to enjoy the journey.  Go to level 11 and go all the way forward.  You'll come to an unlabeled wooden door.  Go through it.  (Trust me on this).  It will take you out to a secret deck where you can enjoy an incredibly up close and personal view of the lock system with the handful of others who are in the know. 

On the secret deck of the Coral Princes

panama canal narrator

After we made it most of the way through the first set of locks, we realized we were starving and headed up to grab some breakfast.  We were able to snag a window seat and continue the view of our journey through the canal.  We also spied the gentleman who was narrating our trip!

last lock of panama canal before entering lake gatun

view from the rear of the ship going through the panama canal lock system

While there were tour options to go through the full lock system and into the Pacific Ocean, Wesley and I chose to do a tour of Panama City instead.  We hustled back to our cabin and got dressed - all the while peeking from the balcony to see as much as we could see!  

Kerrie, our next door neighbor and fellow traveler was doing the same.  It was truly incredible how exactly the ship fit through the canal.  There was no room for error!

watching the panama canal passing from cruise ship balcony

Visiting Panama and the Panama Canal - Ten Day Cruise through the Panama Canal

Early morning watching the panama canal from our balcony on the princess coral

When we coasted into Gatun Lake, I was awe struck.  Lake Gatun is a massive man made lake  to the south of Colón, Panama.  It was the biggest man made lake at the time it was created. It forms a major part of the Panama Canal, carrying ships for 33 km of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama. (Wikipedia)  Gatun Lake is so much more expansive and beautiful than I ever could have imagined.  Wesley had to call me off the balcony several times to remind me that we needed to get ready for our excursion!

lake gatun largest man made lake for panama canal

gatun lake for the panama canal lock system

The excursion we chose took us south about an hour to Panama City, which is on the Pacific Ocean.  Would you believe this was my first time seeing the Pacific!  We did a bus tour through New Panama City which reminded me a lot of Miami, Florida.  Then we parked in the heart of Old Panama for a scenic walking tour.  

view of new panama skyline

view of historic panama

flowering tree in panama city

Old Panama City, called locally Panama Viejo, was beautiful and had a very mature vibe to it.  Like, people weren't coming their for spring break, they were coming to enjoy the culture and ambiance.  Panamá Viejo is the remaining part of the old Panama City and former capital of the country. It is located in the suburbs of the modern city. Together with the historical district of Panamá, it has been a World Heritage Site since 1997. (Wikipedia)

beautiful building ruins in old panama city

beautiful red brick building ruins in old panama city

hawk on ruins old panama city

Wesley spied a hawk hanging out on one of the ruins.  So of course I had to grab my zoom lens out and get a picture.  I would have sworn he was looking right at me.  Such a beautiful creature!

street view of panama cuty

traffic in panama city panama

Central America's historic and cultural roots are celebrated and displayed in Panama's oldest settlements, where exceptional museums, archeological ruins, and Colonial streets, churches, and monuments tell the story of the city's tragic past. - Princess Cruise website

interesting architacture in panama city, panama

bright turquoise doors in panama city, panama

I couldn't decide what pictures to include, so I'm pretty much showing you all. the. things.  You're welcome.  To me the feeling of the town was an inspired mix of Miami meets Spain.  According to the Princess Cruise website, Casco Antiguo displays a mix of architectural styles, which in turn reflect the cultural diversity of the country. Caribbean, Republican, Art Deco, French and Colonial architecture mix in this historic area. Most of Panama City´s main monuments are located in Casco Antiguo. During your walking tour you will see the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Theater among other buildings. 

catholic church in old panama city

church services are in abundance in panama city

massive wooden door in panama city

Church is a huge part of the culture in Panama, and the ones we visited were truly splendid.  I couldn't keep my eyes off this incredible wood door at the entrance to one of them.  It was massive and had beautiful carving and iron work detail. 

art deco style building in so call

grammar school in panama city panama

collection of statues

At the end of our tour we had time to shop (and drink!).  I enjoyed a super refreshing local beer that was so cold it made me forget I was practically sitting on the surfaces of the sun.  I picked up a couple of coordinating pearl necklaces for Josie and me, as well as hand woven decorative baskets for my mom and sister who watched the kids while we were gone.  

local beer called panama

shopping for beautiful treasures in old panama

necklaces for sale colon panama city

woven bowls for sale in panama city fl

Wesley, who is decidedly not a shopper, was super patient with my hemming and hawing over all the pretty things for sale, and even helped pick out the jewelry.  We found the vendors in Panama to be very nice and willing to bargain, but not pushy like some of the other places we've visited.  

Honeymoon on the Princess Coral

colorful buildings in colon panama

Curious about other things to do in Panama?  Check out Katrina's journey through the entire lock system, and Lynne's visit to the Embera Indian Village!  And when you're ready to book your own passage to see the Panama Canal, be sure to check out all the amazing opportunities Princess Cruises has to offer!


Visiting Aruba - Ten Day Cruise through the Panama Canal

Visiting Colombia - Ten Day Cruise through the Panama Canal

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