Panama Canal Cruise: Day 6: Panamal Canal & Cristobal

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cartagena Columbia to Panama Canal = 383 nautical miles
Entered inbound canal lock at 06:08am, tethered in Gatun Lake at 7:48am
Re-entered outbound canal lock at 11:34am, secured in Cristobal at 13:56pm
Temperature 82F degrees

The big day arrived....the one that Stu had been waiting for. We were going into the Panama Canal, through the first two locks to Gatun Lake where the ship would reposition and transfer back out through the locks to port in Cristobal. Unfortunately we didn't realize that the transition would happen while we were off on our excursion. Next time we want to cruise all the way from the east to the west. Princess has a Ft. Lauderdale to Acapulco that does exactly that!

The alarm woke us early enough to watch our approach to the first lock and the transitions through it. In addition the web cam from the front of the ship was showing that view on our television. The front of the ship on the upper decks was packed so we did most of our watching from our balcony. You can see all the photos in our SmugMug album.

The process was fascinating and time consuming. We eventually headed to the buffet for breakfast. Then it was time to head off for our excursion, the Panama Canal Railway Journey in an Executive Railway Car. We boarded tender boats for the ride to the shore where we then got into tour buses for the ride to the railroad.

According to the write-up, the railroad was originally built in 1855 and was restored in 2001. We would travel on the train for about an hour till we reached the westernmost lock, Miraflores. As we had already learned, everything is written in sand (perfectly understandable for RVers) and our tour guide informed us that the train was delayed. So we would do some local touring in the interim, seeing the sights and hopefully some wildlife.

Finally the train arrived and we set off on our tour. The guide continued to keep us informed with what we were seeing. When we arrived at the Miraflores lock, we got out to tour the visitors center. The heat got to me quickly and I waited for Stu in the air-conditioning. He took some photos from the top of the visitors center and then we went to a short movie about the canal. We hopped back into our bus for the ride back to the train for our return trip. Lots more scenery as we ran along side Gatun Lake. We even passed the original Titan crane used in the construction of the canal. (I am lousy at remembering facts so if you want to learn more about the construction and operation of the canal either ask Stu or check out this page.)

When we finally arrived at the port of Cristobal, after most of us dozed on the bus ride back, we had a huge warehouse type building full of vendors as well as some great native musicians. Quite a treat!

The Panama City is thriving area, much more urbanized than we anticipated. The canal brings in a huge amount of income that the government is rolling back out into the economy. LONG day but wonderful...we look forward to eventually doing the whole canal!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

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