Cruising through the Panama Canal with Holland America Line
Is the Panama Canal on your bucket list? There are plenty of cruises that go to the Panama Canal, but not all of them actually go all the way through the canal. If you want to experience a complete journey around North America and through the Panama Canal, then read on. Let’s explore Panama Canal cruises on Holland America Line and check out some of the beautiful and exotic ports you’ll visit along the way.
Generally, Holland America Line Panama Canal cruises are between 2-3 weeks long and are typically from the east to west coast or visa versa. You’ll see the Mexican Riviera, Central America and the Caribbean all on one glorious vacation. Add to that the transit through the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal, and you have the ideal vacation.
One of the truly awesome once-in-a-lifetime experiences is watching the ship pass through the Canal outside from the front bow as the ship maneuvers through the tight squeezes of the locks. For those who enjoy the comfort of cool indoors (it can be HOT on deck), the floor-to-ceiling windows in the observation lounge provide equally fantastic views.
You’ll see many amazing and gorgeous tropical ports on a Panama Canal cruise:
At the tip of Baja, California in Mexico you’ll find this charming town called Cabo San Lucas filled with plenty of activities. On shore there’s plenty to explore like the tequila shops offering free samples, places to eat right on the sand, world-class golfing, zip lining, and ATV adventures. In the water you can try para sailing, wave runners, banana boats, and snorkeling.
Read more about Cabo on this blog What are the best things to do in CABO when on a cruise?
2. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (westbound only)
You’ll love the charming and friendly town of Puerto Vallarta not just because of its historical Spanish-style architecture and cobble-stoned streets, but because of its warm homemade tortillas, fresh salsa, and the kind of drinks you can really appreciate while on a cruise vacation (no one has to worry about driving!). And, because Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Flags) is one of the largest bays in the world, it’s the ideal place for water activities, and, especially, fishing.
Read more about Puerto Vallarta on this blog What are the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta when on a cruise?
3. Santa Cruz Huatulco, Mexico
There are many beaches in Santa Cruz Huatulco where you can enjoy the tropical temperatures, soothing waves, and crystal clear waters. This ecological reserve has one of the best coral reefs at and variety of colorful tropical fish.
Puerto Chiapas at the southern tip of Mexico is a new stop for cruise lines. While you may enjoy a tour of a banana plantation, a cacao bean factory, or a coffee farm and estate, the most popular excursion is to the Izapa Ruins. The Mayan archaeological site is at the base of the the Sierra Madre Mountains and believed to be the birthplace of the Mayan calendar.
5. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
You’ll want to head inland when you arrive in Puerto Quetzal. The lush jungles with Maya pyramids, marvel at the smoking volcanoes, capture the rain forest’s wildlife with your camera, and a must see is the perfectly preserved colonial town of Antigua.
6. Corinto, Nicaragua
The best way to enjoy the white sandy beaches on the tropical paradise of Corinto is to get a cold margarita and sit yourself down on the beach. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can take the steep hike up the volcano or spend the day fishing with a local fisherman.
7. Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica
While in Puerto Caldera you can embark on an excursion through the many wildlife preserves in the lush rain forests, visit Puntarenas and venture along the long peninsula lined with beautiful beaches and lively restaurants, or head south to energetic town of Jaco for the young and young-at-heart which is filled with budget-friendly lively bars and restaurants and beautiful beaches.
2014 is the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal. The highlight of this cruising is passing through the engineering wonder of passing through 50 miles of Panama from the Pacific to the Atlantic. This itinerary offers a full transit through the canal (be sure to check because some itineraries only offer a partial transit). The canal is getting an upgrade and two new sets of locks are being added to allow larger ships to pass. The renovation is expected to be finished mid-2015.
9. Cartagena, Colombia
Walk the streets of this charming colonial town of Cartagena. Take a tour of the massive battlements that guard the city mixed with the exotic scenery and soothing beaches. Be sure to try the intense flavors this region is known for, especially in their rice, soups, and dressings.
10. Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (eastbound only)
Half Moon Cay is Holland America’s privately-owned deserted island. Even with the cruise ship in port, it’s still easy enough to find a private spot along the beach where you can set up your chair and spend the day relaxing on the quiet beach.
11. Georgetown, Grand Caymen (westbound only)
There’s so much to do on this popular Caymen island. Golfing, horseback riding, a safari, tour a local brewery, kayaking, para-sailing, shopping, but everyone’s favorite, sitting on the white sand with a cold drink in your hand. Beware of ‘Cruise Line Recommended” signs on doors of shops. It’s a paid-for advertisement and doesn’t really represent the quality of what’s inside.
12. Key West, Florida (westbound only)
Key West is a botanical paradise filled with architectural treasures. Spend some time learning about the importance of the African culture, try your favorite water sport, or go check out Sloppy Joe’s Bar, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hangout.
Holland America Cruise Lines has these great itineraries still available for the Fall of 2014. We recommend any of these sailings as the ultimate Panama Canal cruise:
Sept 30, 2014: 17 Night Panama Canal from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale
Oct 10, 2014: 15 Night Panama Canal from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale
Oct 18, 2014: 21 Night Panama Canal from Boston to San Diego
Oct 22, 2014: 17 Night Panama Canal from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego
Check out these hot deals for sailing to the Panama Canal.
Let CruiseExperts.com plan your Panama Canal itinerary. We can take care of all the fine details so that you can focus on having a good time and enjoying your vacation! Visit our website today at CruiseExperts.com or give us a call at 1-888-804-CRUISE (2784)!
Linda Brandt joined the team at CruiseExperts.com in November 2011. She has been working with the marketing team in many capacities. Her new role is to pass on the expertise of the agency to help travelers understand the world of cruising through blogging. She studied journalism and writing in college and was a writer for The Campus newspaper for two years at the College of the Sequoias. She is also currently working on her Bachelor’s degree.