Aboard the Amsterdam: The Panama Canal

TWcrossroads Managing Editor Michael Nassaur and his wife Heather are cruising the Panama Canal aboard Holland America's Amsterdam. He will be filing reports from the recently launched ship over the next several days.

ABOARD THE AMSTERDAM -- Trivia question: What do $128,584 and tolls have in common? No, it's not the proposed price for bridge and tunnel crossings to Manhattan (though that's not too far off the mark).

According to Willie Friar, the former director of the Panama Canal Commission Office of Public Affairs, that's the toll price for each trip of the Amsterdam through the Canal.

It's a steep price, but not the record. She said that is held by the cargo ship Charlton, which recently threw $184,420.63 into the toll basket.

But enough about tolls. I'm on vacation (sort of) and I'll be back supporting the New Jersey Turnpike all to soon. Instead, here's a few more facts about "The Big Ditch" from Friar:

  • It generally takes eight to nine hours to transit. (Our Pacific to Atlantic crossing clocked in at eight hours, 45 minutes, but we ran into a little traffic at the Gatun Locks.)
  • Each lock is 1,000 feet long and 110 feet wide, setting the maximum allowed ship dimensions (aka PANAMAX)at 950 feet long, 106 feet wide.
  • Canal authorities are in the process of widening the eight-mile long Galliard Cut to enable two PANAMAX ships to pass in the night (or day) without needing to wait for traffic to clear.
  • The Canal opened Aug. 15, 1914 -- six months ahead of schedule -- and cost the U.S. $387 million ($3 billion in today's dollars) to build... $23 million under budget.
  • The cost in human lives, however, was tremendous. About 25,000 workers perished from disease and mishaps during the Canal's construction, or 500 for each of the waterway's 50 miles.
  • On Dec. 31, 1999, the U.S. officially handed over the keys to the locks to Panama as required by the Panama Canal Treaty signed by President Jimmy Carter on Oct. 1, 1979. If you or your clients want to take a peek at ships entering the Miraflores locks on the Pacific side, visit www.pancanal.com for live Web cam views.
  • By the way, Capt. Edward van Zaane summed up the weather for our Panama Canal crossing in eight words: "That's why they call it a rain forest."

    Tomorrow, I'll talk about some of the service I've received since boarding the Amsterdam.

    Meanwhile, click below to read my earlier Amsterdam entries:

  • Lounging about
  • San Juan del Sur
  • The Internet Cafe
  • Comments

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