It had been on my ‘to do’ list for as long as I can rememeber, so when an email arrived informing me a speaker was required for a cruise through this architectual master piece I jumped at the opportunity. The disadvatage – there was only two days notice – but sometimes things undertaken in the spur of the moment prove to be the most rewarding.
We entered the canal at 6.30am from the Pacific Ocean. The Coral Princess Cruise Ship was in a ‘holding’ position for a couple of hours along with a multitude of container ships and smaller vessles in various states of repair parked in an ocean littered with plastic debris and assorted garbage. The unanticipated refuse starkly contrasting with the glistening silver highrise skyline of Panama City in the distance.
Described by an international group of architects as one of the seven wonders of the modern world The Panama Canal was completed in 1914 and since 2007 has witnessed heavy construction in its expansion program to accommodate larger vessels. Entering as the dawn was coming up, we first passed under the Bridge of the America’s – the first bridge constructed to cross the canal. There are three sets of locks through the course of the canal and it takes about an hour to navigate each. After passing through the first two, Miraflores and Pedro Miguel the waterway winds through dense tropical rain forest cover, replete with white birds resting in an inpenetrable canopy of green. From here it cuts through a deep trench and then expands outwards into Gatun Lake. There are few communities, but there is a prison, whose residents shout and wave provides destraction to what is, for the most part, a highly serene and tranquil cruising experience.
Buoys are placed in the expansive lake waterway to ensure an orderly disciplined transit of the 40 ships per day who make the journey (14,000 per year). The canal operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The final lock, Gatun, grants access into the Atlantic Ocean where there is heavy construction along the shoreline.
Th entire trip took just under ten hours at a cost of approximately $150,000.00 for the Coral Princess Cruise ship. I was fortunate enough to have perfect weather for this October excursion and spent my entire time on the deck of the ship. I did not want to miss a minute. Another tick off the bucket list…except that I would love to repeat the experience.