Our visit to the Panama Canal and passage through the Gatun Locks was the main feature of our recent cruise. As an engineer, I’ve long been intrigued by the canal and it lived up to my expectations. It’s amazing that something built over 100 years ago in such difficult conditions is still operating and remains an import part of global commerce.
The ship’s Captain planned well. We arrived near the entrance just in time to view the day’s sunrise.
Panamanian Sunrise – a pilot-boat paces us as we head toward the canal entrance
The crew opened up normally closed areas at the bow for viewing and many folks crowded there to watch the activity.
Entering the Panama Canal
At the evening meal the night before we arrived, Nino (the maître d’) promised us the “best seat in the house” if we came to breakfast at 7:30 that morning. We thought we had a nice view up on the bow, but decided to follow his recommendation and go down to breakfast. It was surprising how few people were in the dining room. He fulfilled his promise and we sat at a table at the very stern of the ship right next to the large windows on deck 2 – and it did have the best view!! Watching the locks filling and the canal walls go by from that vantage point was captivating. It took longer than normal for us to finish our meal!
In the Panama Canal Gatun Locks – view from the Main dining room on deck 2
The MS Zuiderdam is 106 feet wide and the canal is only 110 feet, so there’s very little clearance.
View from our balcony on the 6th deck – 2 foot clearance!
The operation, control, and precision while in the canal is very skilful. The photo above shows the 2 foot clearance between the ship and the canal. One of the “mules” (center left) is helping to position us and move us safely through.
Once past the locks, we anchored in Gatun Lake so people taking excursions could disembark. Then we sailed back out through the canal and tied up for a port visit in Colon Harbor, where the excursions re-joined us that night.
Colon Harbor at night
Colon wasn’t our favorite stop, although I was able to buy a genuine Panama Hat there. Interesting fact: Panama Hats are made in Ecuador!
I’ve posted a short video that we made in the canal here on YouTube. It shows our entrance followed by a time-lapse as we descend into the Gatun Locks on our return. Take a look if you get a chance.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.