This year in August, the engineering marvel connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans turns 100 years old. The Panama Canal shortcut, spearheaded by the French and completed by the United States in 1914, enabled ships to avoid the hazardous 9,000 mile journey around South America’s Cape Horn and quickly became one of the world’s most important maritime trade routes. Known as the Crossroads of the Americas, the canal remained under U.S. control under 1999 when the Panama Canal Authority took over.
In 2014, more than 200 cruise ships are expected to cross the canal. More than 20 of the best-known cruise lines promote full or partial passages through the 48-mile waterway. Holland America’s 10-night sailing, including partial transit, allows passengers to see the canal on an itinerary operating roundtrip from South Florida, rather than an open jaw travel plan. The third set of locks to widen the canal is scheduled for completion next year and will permit the passage of larger ships. Find Panama Canal cruise deals for this year on Travelzoo.
One of the greatest train rides on the planet takes passengers along the Isthmus of Panama, a narrow strip of land between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, between Colon on the Atlantic Coast and Panama on the Pacific. The picturesque trip through tropical rainforests and along the canal takes one hour and runs on weekdays via the Panama Canal Railway Company.
The Miraflores Visitor Center is in Panama City on the east side of its namesake, the Miraflores Locks. Three observation decks offer guests the opportunity to watch vessels enter the last section of the canal and see the locks lift and lower huge ocean liners before they enter the Pacific. The visitor center also includes a theater, museum, gift shop and a penthouse restaurant overlooking the canal.
Where to stay
Panama City is the country’s largest city and is on the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The multicultural metropolis is home to high-end shops, a thriving banking district, ancient ruins and historic colonial buildings. Tocumen International Airport, servicing the capital city, offers daily, direct flights from major United States airports. The city is an excellent jumping off point for visits to the country’s mountains, rainforest and two coasts.