Written by 2:35 pm Ports, Princess

Princess to offer an expanded Panama Canal experience

Built specifically to sail the Panama Canal, Coral Princess offers regular round-trip sailings through this engineering marvel. She and the Island Princess will offer expanded Panama Canal sailings in the next two years. Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

By Jackie Roseboom

The Panama Canal has been delighting cruisers for nearly a century. This man-made masterpiece is composed of 51 passageways between the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, saving travelers more than 7,000 transit miles around the South American continent. Princess Cruises has been going there for years on short trips in and out in a day. Now there’s an offer that will give cruisers more.

Princess has 38 cruises scheduled to this famous destination for 2011 and 2012. The Coral Princess and the Island Princess, built specifically for traveling through the Canal, have the honor of taking these journeys. Theses large ships will make their way through the massive locks, barely clearing the sides. The locks lower and raise the ships about 170 feet with an average of 52 million gallons of water per chamber. The complete trip from one side to the other takes about nine hours.

“Our ships have been transiting the Panama Canal for more than 40 years and, in fact, we even christened Coral Princess as it moved through the Canal,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “There really is no better way to watch the fascinating process as the ship transits each lock than from the decks of our ships — it’s an exceptional way to experience this wonder of engineering.”

Princess has unique offers that combine the transit of the Panama Canal one day, including the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks, with a second day at the Fuerte Amador in Panama. This extra time will give cruisers the chance to experience some fun and unique tours in Panama. Visitors will be able to take a trip on the Panama Canal Railway, journey through the rainforest, visit the local Embera Indian village and of course go on a shopping tour.

The single most expensive construction project in United States history at the time, the “big ditch” took more than 30 years to build at a cost of about $375 million. The Canal’s lengthy history included construction efforts by two different nations and the creation of an independent Panama. In total, Canal construction involved as many as 80,000 workers and the excavation of around 268,000,000 cubic yards of earth. Today the Canal offers passage to approximately 14,000 ships a year.

One-way Panama Canal Transit Sailings include a 14- and 15-day itineraries between Los Angeles and Ft. Lauderdale. Besides the two-day Panama Canal transit, the cruises may also offer visits to Cabo San Lucas, San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua), Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Cartagena, Puerto Quetzal (Guatemala) and Aruba. There’s also a 15-day option from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale.

Roundtrip Panama Canal cruises aboard the Island Princess will offer a 10-day itinerary from Ft. Lauderdale, which offers a partial Panama Canal transit to Gatun Lake, followed by a call in Colon, plus calls in the Caribbean ports of Aruba, Cartagena, Limon (Costa Rica) and Grand Cayman or Ocho Rios. This itinerary is available 20 times between Oct. 10, 2011 and April 17, 2012.

On the Web: princess.com.

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