Saturday, May 10, 2014

Transit Panama Canal

Map of the Journey

Starting from Ft Lauderdale, Florida
Aruba, Cartagena, Panama Canal,
San Juan del Sur, Cabo.
Los Angeles, California

Approach Panama Canal - Atlantic Side

Early morning March 8, 2014, approaching
breakwater to enter Limon Bay
from the Atlantic Ocean.
We must pass through the Bay to enter
Gatun Locks


Gatun Locks

When you read about bridges across the Panama Canal this one,
in the center of the photo, below the lock gates, is rarely
mentioned.  It swings in and out of place to allow traffic
to pass on this Atlantic side of the canal.

Island Princess is designed to fit snugly.

The ship is close enough that you could touch the
wall of the canal.

Gatun Operation Office

Note passengers waving at canal workers
Yes, Customer Service Week!
"Committed to Customer Satisfaction"
Gates closed

Note water level difference

Locomotives guide the ship

Gatun Locks Lighthouse

No, the locks are not curved.  It just looks that way in this
panorama put together from several shots as we were
headed into Gatun Lake.

Maersk Cargo Freigher going the opposite

Of course, you are aware that the canal finances itself by charging a toll.

From Wikipedia we find this info on tolls:  The most expensive regular toll for canal passage to date was charged on April 14, 2010 to the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl, which paid US$375,600. The average toll is around US$54,000. The highest fee for priority passage charged through the Transit Slot Auction System was US$220,300, paid on August 24, 2006, by the Panamax tanker Erikoussa, bypassing a 90-ship queue waiting for the end of maintenance works on the Gatun locks, thus avoiding a seven-day delay. The normal fee would have been just US$13,430. The lowest toll paid was 36 cents by American Richard Halliburton who swam the Panama Canal in 1928.

We were told that the toll for the Island Princess on this voyage was nearly US$300,000.

This Maersk probably paid a lot less!

Ship moves under its own power
but is guided by locomotives
Yet another Freighter passes us.
This was a very warm day ... temps were in the 90s (F) and, of course, the humidity was up there. We are so close to the equator that daytime high temps don't vary that much. The climate only adds to the fascination with construction of the canal.

Canal work Tug

Looking back as we leave Gatun Locks and move into
Gatun Lake

Mid-Day Celebration

During the middle of the day there is time to relax (well, from all that photography work!) and enjoy a nice lunch followed by a celebratory cake.  What are we celebrating?  Well, just getting to pass through the canal would be enough, but this happens to be the 100th year of the canal's operation ... the Centennial celebration.

The Island Princess staff was friendly and
seemed as excited about this Centennial
passage as we were.

Typical views from the cabin during passage

Typical travel through the canal looking aft.

Looking fore.

Centennial Bridge and Bridge of the Americas

Centennial Bridge ... one of the two primary bridges
over the canal and opened in 2004

More locks. 
On the Atlantic side, the Gatun locks raise the ship to the level of Gatun Lake. The lake is about 85 feet above sea level and plays an important role in the operation of the canal. Then, on the Pacific side there are two sets of locks to lower the ship back to sea level.

How would you like to be launched in that
orange rescue raft?

Freighter passengers seem as interested in us as
we are in them.

Construction to expand the canal is now underway.
Bridge of the Americas in the distance.

Our cabin is on the bridge level. In the photo above, you can see three people on the bridge. The person on the left, in white uniform, is the Captain. Looks like he is enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. To the right is a person, dark silhouette, he is Dr. Dean.  Dr. Dean is an expert on canal history and used the ship's public address to provide commentary all day during the transit. He is quite interesting and knowledgeable about the area and also provided information on the ports in this area. Then, the person on the far right, leaning against the window, I believe is the Staff Captain, second-in-command, who seemed to be operationally in charge of the passage. He was frequently on the two-way radio with canal authorities.  The bridge level, on this ship, is, for cruisers, referred to as Aloha deck.

Swing-Aside Railroad bridge links the Americas
by rail.

Bridge of Americas ahead
After passing under Bridge of Americas
the Island Princess heads into the
Pacific Ocean and the
transit is done.

Thanks for stopping by John's Island.


  1. A great photo sequence! We've experenced this transit thru the Panama Canal on the NCL Norwegian Star three times; twice Miami-LA and once LA-Miami. A great Winter break for us from Ohio with the last one this past Dec. 2013. We're looking forward to the new & larger lock channel to be completed in 2015 for that experence with larger ships. Don & Dolly

  2. Hi Don & Dolly, Thanks for the kind comment. Yes, the expanded canal will give us a good reason to do this again and enjoy something a little different at the same time. Thanks for stopping by John's Island. John

  3. That was fascinating.Thanks for sharing this adventure.

  4. John, thank you so much for your comments on our Panama Canal posting. Amazing to see anothers view of the same experience we were having. I have added your blog to my favorites and look forward to exploring all your postings. Pam and I both use a Canon Power Shot SX230 HS with a 14X zoom. It meets our needs and is small compared to the big ones. I too would love to use a fancier camera but do not want to haul it around. If the camera can fit into my pocket or wear it on my belt that is good. I am real happy with the quality of the longer shots although at times I do wish I had something better. I also like the Dynamic view. I do enlarge all my photos to "extra large" in each postings. In my blog check out the options below the blog name on the left.........the options include Classic, Flipcard, Magazine (which I use), Mosaic, Sidebar, Snapshot, and can check out what each looks like...very cool! I now have around 550 postings with well over 11,000 photos and 250,000 page views. Between the blog and the Google world it looks like the photos have been looked at over 5 million times! Kind of surreal! I checked out your posting about Aruba and Cartagena...very nice! The Panama Canal crossing was my 6th posting for the trip.......I started with the end at LA followed by Ft. Lauderdale, Aruba and Cartagena. Check them out! Let me know if you would like to switch to the Dymanic view and need some help. I will post on Costa Rica next week!! Take care and thanks again for your comments! Bill

  5. John, forgot to mention that I have another blog about our work in Nicaragua. Check it out on .......Bill C

  6. Terrific photos of an area I will never likely get to see. I was most intrigued by the map of your route too as that is a mighty long journey. I bet you were quite comfortable though on the ship. How long did it take to make this trip?


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