The Panama Canal got bigger – New Panamax, new costs!

Less than half the length of the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal joins the Atlantic to the Pacific. Unlike the free flowing Suez, the Panama Canal is uses a system of locks. This is to save the huge amount of excavation work that would be required for it to be level. The work building these canals and the mortality rate (circa 25,000) should never be under estimated. The French started to build them between lakes in 1881 but could not over come engineering problems. The Americans re-started in 1904 and the canal opened ten years later when the initial annual traffic was about 1000 ships. That means it recently turned 100 years old even though it was envisaged as early as 1534 when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, ordered a survey of a route to ease traveling between Spain and Peru.

So important is this canal that ship building has been limited by the dimensions that can safely go through and these ships are known as Panamax. This class of ship shouldn’t exceed  294,13 m (965 ft) in length, 32,31 m (106 ft) in width and 12,04 m (39.5 ft) draught wise in order to easily and safely fit to the lock chambers and the height of the Bridge of Americas at Balboa. Now a third land of locks is in operation and the adventurous name of New Panamax has been given to a larger class of ship. 427 m (1400 ft) in length, 55m (180 ft) in width and 18.3 m (60 ft) in depth. The cost of transit alone makes such a journey special. The Panama Canal takes in about $2 billion a year in revenue. Of that approximately $800 million goes into Panama’s General Treasury. It has been swum and the toll was just 36 cents, but the average toll per ship is about $150,000. A small boat would be charged just under $1,000. With additional costs and overages the record toll is over $800,000 paid on July 6th, 2016, by cargo ship. The highest for a cruise ship is claimed to be the Norwegian Pearl at over $350,000. That seems very costly and it may be the cost that means so few cruise ships go through. When they do, the ships are pulled through the locks by trains. Take a look, nice film from Alex and Erika.

In short if you are in the Caribbean or Florida and the cruise is off to the west coast of the USA or across to the Pacific Islands, then you either have to go all the way round the whole of South America and the volatile Cape Horn or go through and pay the toll. The first time we went through was on the Black Watch. Panama City is a place where many stay in the ship as it is not the safest place but I seem to remember having my best Hard Rock Cafe veggie burger there. It is where book four of Solo Cruiser starts a new characters journey this December, see below.


The Aurora’s South America Circumnavigation 3rd January 2018 for 65 nights, from £6,499 pp has 23 Ports and goes through the Panama canal and takes in Rio de Janeiro just before the carnival period, but there will no doubt be rehearsals going on.

The Black Watch goes through again in 2018. Wonders of the World Cruise. Departs Southampton on 5th January 2018  •  108 nights  •  Black Watch  •  Prices from: £12,899(cruise only)  •  Cruise ID: W1801  Click here for availability and booking. This cruise goes all over, but it stops at the Azores on the way over the Atlantic, Cozumel before going through and Manta, Ecuador after. It crosses the Pacific to Tahiti and Bora Bora, then down to Mumbai, across to Aqaba and back via the Suez Canal, stopping at Civitavecchia for Rome and Malaga amongst so many more places. It really is living the dream!

The Celebrity Infinity goes through the Panama Canal and is a cruise we can offer. Click here. This is an eastbound transit after a flight with SAGA door to door to Los Angeles, join the ship on the 9th November. Sail to Mexico with two stops, then Guatemala and Costa Rica before the transit. It then stops at Colon in Panama and Cartagena in Columbia before the final destination of Fort Lauderdale to fly from Miami.

Another Panama Cruise we can offer is the Azamara Quest. Again with SAGA’s door to door service the transit is Eastbound. You fly to San Diego on the 19th Feb 2018, sail on the 21st with three stops in Mexico, one in Guatemala then Nicaragua and Costa Rica before the transit. After transit Cartagena in Columbia before the final destination of Miami. Click here for availability and to book.

Many new cruisers head for the Caribbean or USA coast first. We were keen to get blogs up on the ABC islands and Panama because although we have yet to see it, book 4 of Solo Cruiser is set in these. If you are now trying to decide ship and where to go, there are considerations big, small, lively, quite, adult only etc… take a look at our how to choose a cruise blog. Why not have a look at the LATE DEALS over a coffee. Doris Visits allows you to SEE THE CRUISE BEFORE YOU CRUISE THE SEA. We have videos of many of the cruise stops you might make from St Lucia to Barcelona, from Tallinn to St Maarten. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share.

Book 3, American Portrait, starts in Canaveral !!   SOLO CRUISER BOOK SERIES. Violet Becket has never cruised. In fact, she has been nowhere in a long time. Too long. Book 1, Virgin Voyage has been in the book charts for some weeks now. Violet has found and lost romance by book 3. Before she started cruising she had never had romance, never ever. As an older woman time is running out and she needs to make a change. This romantic read is based around cruises because once she cruises she loves it. That is her romance, well, there is a little more. Sally Katz used the films on Doris Visits to peg her books on! With permission. Each good read shows off a typical good cruise. But it is not about the places or the ships, you will know them back to front, if not you will get to know them. It is about Violet’s journey. Warning, there are two versions; HER VIRGIN VOYAGE is the lighter version, but VIRGIN VOYAGE is the full fat, raunchy version, like 50 Shades. Her Virgin Voyage has all the story just about 2500 words shorter. It is about a woman discovering life late in life, Violet’s story ranges three books. The second is a Baltic Cruise, again there are two versions, the third in the USA / Caribbean and there is only the lighter romance version as her story concludes for a while. Book four follows another character you have met and liked.  Follow author Sally Katz by clicking her name and then on the author page on Amazon, click follow. Then as she releases a new book your are informed.

External Links – Wikipedia