PANAMA CITY, Panama -- While the Panama Tourism Institute has based
advertising campaigns around the theme: "Panama, It's More Than a
Canal," getting a look at or a ride along the famous "Big Ditch"
remains an essential component of the destination experience.
There are several ways to see the 50-mile waterway that
traverses Panama at the narrowest point between the Atlantic and
For example, cruise ships make hundreds of sailings a year
through the Panama Canal on itineraries featuring Central American
and Caribbean ports of call.
For canal viewing up close, Panama City-based tour operator
Panama Jones operates complete canal transits one Saturday a month
(usually the latter half of each month) and partial transits on the
On the complete route, the vessel departs from Balboa at 7:30
a.m., making its way up to the Miraflores locks, the first of the
Panama Canal's three sets of locks.
Once through the locks, the boat cruises through the Gaillard
Cut, a nine-mile excavation channel that leads into Gatun Lake,
known for its jungle scenery and wildlife as well as the research
facility of the Smithsonian Institution, set on the lake's Barro
The vessel arrives at Cristobal on the Atlantic (Caribbean) side
of the canal at about 3:30 p.m., and passengers board an
air-conditioned bus for the return to Balboa and Panama City around
Partial Panama Canal transits take passengers into the Bay of
Panama, a bird sanctuary on Flamenco Island, then up the Balboa
Reach to pass through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks,
continuing into the Gaillard Cut and then on to Gamboa, if time
The canal transit, partial or full, is incorporated into a
three-night package called Panama at a Glance.
Operating each Thursday to Sunday, the package's other features
are transfers; a half-day morning city tour and an afternoon tour
of the Panama Canal Zone with lunch; buffet lunch during the canal
transit; and three nights' accommodations, with breakfast, in
Using superior hotels, the cost per person, double, is $721.
With standard accommodations, the rate is $607, and with economy
For additional information, contact Panama Jones at (888)
PANAMA-1; e-mail [email protected]; or visit www.panamacanal.com.
To contact reporter Carla Hunt, send e-mail to [email protected].