The Panama Canal is a 77 kilometre (48 mi) ship canal that joins the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and is a key conduit for international
maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels.
In total, over 815,000 vessels have passed through the canal. It has been named one of the seven modern wonders of the world by the
American Society of Civil Engineers. It takes approximately 10 hours for a ship to cross from one ocean to the other. Since 1999, the Canal
has been solely operated by Panama, and employs over 9,500 men and women. A third set of locks is being built to accommodate
the larger cruise ships (like the NCL Epic and RCL's Oasis of the Seas) as well as the larger cargo vessels that currently are
unable to fit in the locks.

We, along with Jay, decided to spend the day in our suite and observe the canal from our balcony.
The addition of a room service breakfast  made for a perfect trip.

Dawn in the Pacific, just outside the entrance to the Canal.
The ships pictured here are waiting for their respective companies to pay the
fee (which is required in advance) before they can enter the canal. The fee
is based on tonnage, whether the ship is loaded or not. A slightly different
criteria is applied to passenger ships. NCL's The Pearl set
the record for the
highest payment in the Canal's history, when it crossed the day before -
a whopping $419,000.

Panama City
Trump has built one of his signature buildings here (the one with the curved
top), and is in the process of building a tourist resort on one of the small
islands. Is anyone surprised?


I have no idea what this is, except it looks like it might be a tourist
'fun house'.

Pleasure boats moored at the mouth of the Canal.


A freighter following us through the Canal.

Leaving the Panama City area and approaching The Bridge of the Americas.

A closer look at the bridge.


Looking back.


A hawk flies over the inlet leading to the Miraflores locks.

Of course if you don't want to go through the Canal, you can always go
or send your cargo by train, as seen here.


Some scenes along the inlet.



The closer we got to the locks, the more communities we encountered.


The tugboat slips outside the Miraflores locks.


One of our escorts follows behind.


Approaching the first lock.


Jay on the balcony, getting his camera ready for taking pictures.


Izak looking over the balcony at the activity on shore to get us
into the lock. As the ship was so large, they were able to throw the
ropes to the crew which attached them to the rail cars that would
pull the ship though the lock. If the ship was smaller, a row boat
would have come out to catch the rope and row it to the edge.


Ships don't move through the locks under their own power. They are pulled
through by a railway system. The number of engines assigned to each side
depends on the size of the ship. In our case there were four on each side,
two each side at the front  and two each side at the back.


To help answer why, this picture is looking down from our balcony, and shows
how little distance is between the side of the ship and the side of the lock.
Tight, isn't it.


The front cars are attached, and now the back cars move into

I love this picture. Izak took it and what it shows is the scenery along the lock
reflected in the master ensuite window.


The community around the lock has been built for the workers
manning the locks and their families.


The building ahead is a tourist centre.


The Tourist Centre.


The balconies of the Tourist Centre are packed with 'land' tourists
there to watch the ships moving through the locks.


The ship's photography crew and Cruise Director (in the blue top) at the
side of the locks, waving and taking pictures of the passengers waving
back at them . . .


. . . like Izak and Dina.


When we entered the second level of the Miraflores locks, there were
emergency vehicles waiting for us.


The ambulance was standing by to take the first of three passengers
that had medical problems during the trip. In this case, the woman
waved to the other passengers to show that she was all right as
she was taken off the ship.


Leaving the second level of the lock to enter the Lago Miraflores. The ships
in the distance are waiting their turn to enter the locks.


Out of the locks, moving towards Lago Miraflores to get to the next lock.


Maintenance sheds for the lock.


A dredger, docked near the Miraflores locks.


One of the views along the small lake between locks.

Locals stopped to watch the ship passing through.


A small tour boat of Lago Miraflores.

Jay, Dina and Izak watching the world go by.


Heading toward the New Millennium Bridge.



The Bridge from a different view.


We've already gone through the Pedro Miguel Locks and have entered the
Culebra Cut, which will take us to Gatun Lake.

Izak relaxing as we pass through the Cut . . .

. . . while Jay continues to take pictures.


The major problem they have along the Culebra Cut is erosion. The path,
while seeming wide, actually only allows one large ship to pass at a time,
making it important to keep the erosion to a minium. To address the
problem, Panama has started a program to 'tier' and reinforce the sides.

A look at some of the eroded areas.

An example of tiering. The sides of the hill have been reinforced with
steel rods pushed into the earth to help keep it stable.

Along with jungle foliage, the Cut is peppered with small creeks . . .

. . . and waterfalls.

Just before entering Gatun Lake, there is a small inlet leading to Alhajuela Lake.

A pleasure boater, coming from the Alhajuela Lake area into the Cut.

A small lighthouse along the Cut.

One of the work stations along the Cut. The red and white crane seen in the
background was one of three confiscated from Germany at the end of WWII.

A tree naturally shaped like an umbrella.

One of the small inlets nearing the entrance to Gatun Lake.

A loaded freighter following us through the Cut.

The entrance to Gatun Lake.

A dredger being refuelled on the lake.

The "Barge Service Station".

The wind was up just when we were about to enter the Gatun Locks, so we
were assisted by the tugboats to make sure we were straight.
There was one at the front . . .

. . . and one at the back of the ship, pushing us to offset the wind.


Entering the Gatun Locks.

The tugboat waiting area.

The area to the side of the lock entrance.


One of the gears operating the locks.

A final look at the lock area before entering the Atlantic Ocean.


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