Nearly 300 of the roughly 14,000+ ships that pass through its three sets of locks annually are now Panama Canal cruises that cater to tourists from around the globe.

The Panama Canal is approximately 48 miles long. Rather than vacationing on a cruise liner that passes through the Panama Canal in about 9 – 15 hours, many vacationers are opting for our 8-day Caravan Panama cruise package.

After viewing Panama’s lock system work from the solid ground, Caravan guests have the opportunity to see the gates function from the water level on our chartered passenger vessel. While seated on the small Caravan Panama cruise boat, guests often get to experience the steel gates open and close, depending on the schedule of the Canal that day.

View of a mountaintop island on Panama river cruise

Mountaintop island in Panama

Prior to the building of the Panama Canal, ships from North and Central America that wanted to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans had to endure the long and arduous journey around the southern tip of South America.

The distance a ship takes from the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean) to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal is less than 50 miles; considerably less than the 5000+ mile journey around South America. What used to take weeks can now be travelled in a matter of hours.

The Panama Canal is one of man’s largest and most sophisticated engineering feats.

Canal Route

Since its completion in 1914, more than 1,150,000 ships have passed through the Panama Canal and to this day it remains one of man’s most incredible engineering marvels.

The Panama Canal operates year round and in recent years Panama Canal cruises have become increasingly popular. Our Caravan tour features day trip cruise expeditions in addition to rainforest adventures, beach excursions, and a visit to an authentic Embera Tribal village.

On Panama’s naturally beautiful sun drenched coasts, vacationers can enjoy Panama’s rich culture and bewitching natural beauty.

There are three locks along the Panama Canal route:

Miraflores Locks – Panama Canal cruise ships entering from the Gulf of Panama on the Pacific side, travel approximately eight miles inland to reach the first set of locks, the two-stage Miraflores locks.

Petro Miguel Lock – After cruise ships traverse the mile long Miraflores Lake they must pass through the single stage Pedro Miguel lock before entering the eight mile, manmade Culebra Cut, which crosses the Continental Divide.

Gatun Locks – The next leg of the journey is along the five mile Chagres River into Lake Gatun, a 20 mile wide (33 mile long) artificial lake created when the Gatun Dam was built across the Chagres River. Panama Canal cruise ships then make the last leg of the journey through the three stage Gatun locks which leads them back down to sea level on the Caribbean side at Limon Bay.

Gatun Lake is spotted with hilltop islands that were once mountain peaks. Day cruises along Gatun Lake take guests to some of these islands, including the very popular Monkey Island. It is here that glimpses of Panama’s diverse wildlife and in particular, monkey population, can be seen in a close-up setting.

Types of Panama Canal Cruises

There are many tour operators that offer a variety of Panama cruise deals. The itinerary and shore excursions for Panama Canal cruises will vary but may include such popular ports of call as Aruba, Belize City, Cabo San Lucas, Cartagena Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Zihuatanejo, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Puerto Vallarta, Puntarenas and St. Thomas.

Themed excursions are also available that allow tourists to discover a world of ancient wonders such as Mayan ruins and world of the Inca bathed in the soul stirring beauty of the Caribbean.

Some Panama Canal cruises last for the entire vacation where vacationers remain with the ship except for various shore excursions.

Other Panama cruises are much shorter and may be part of an all inclusive vacation package tour. Our Caravan Panama Canal cruises are all inclusive and fully escorted.

All Inclusive Tours

Caravan’s Panama Canal fully guided tour also includes a jungle cruise along the Chagres River to visit an authentic Embera Indian village. From Panama City, our tour guests will also explore places like Panama Viejo (Old Panama), Bridge of Americas, Gamboa Rainforest, Colon, and Playa Bonita.

A Panama Canal cruise is included as part of Caravan Tours’ All Inclusive Panama Package Tour. This is a fully escorted 8-day package tour exceptionally priced, starting at just $1,295.

See what others have said about the Panama on the Panama Canal Tour Reviews page.

Caravan Vacation Packages include trips throughout Central America, the United States, and Canada.

Request a Caravan Tours brochure.

Be sure to check out Panama Canal Tour Availability.

Call toll free, 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) to make a reservation or for more tour information.