In April 2022, we made a partial transit in the Panama Canal aboard Carnival Pride. Here's an overview of our experience and some tips on partially transiting the Panama Canal on a Carnival cruise ship.
The Panama Canal is truly a unique experience in the world of cruising. It's a modern miracle that this 100-year-old piece of equipment still works. (Yes, it's an episode of that show.)
We booked this day cruise specifically for this before our experience began. We were sure we could and would enjoy the rest of the carnival cruise program, but it didn't matter. This is that day.
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This meant that we planned to spend most of the day at the Panama Canal and actively participate in the experience.
We booked a balcony facing the stern, where 90% of the photos in this post are from. There are many advantages to being able to experience the canal from your own room and balcony, but the Carnival Pride is a fantastic ship for the Panama Canal. Carnival Pride has a series of exterior lower decks that wrap, or mostly, around the ship. These boardwalk platforms are a great place to watch the canal pass and get up close to the people and machinery as you pass through the locks. The ship also has multiple decks in the front for your viewing pleasure and a large open deck in the back.
Many people on board were not as active in the experience as we were, but I hope you can use our experience on the Panama Canal Carnival Cruise to help you plan your day.
Our experience traveling through the Panama Canal aboard Carnival Pride:
07:00: Room service
We decided to start the day with room service to get us up and running. And coffee. Coffee is very important. After the food and coffee were served, we turned on the television and front camera and drew the curtains. In the murky fog of the early morning, we could immediately see the ships behind us.
7:20 It's a jungle outside!
We went out on the balcony and started enjoying coffee and cakes while admiring the sunrise over the rainforest. If we could do it all over again, one of us would run upstairs to get an omelet or burritos, but we're not sure when we'll get to the start of the canal.
Early in the morning the view of the jungle is absolutely beautiful. The sun came out and a thick fog hung over the jungle. We rarely see the sunrise on a cruise, but this time it was worth it!
8:00 Local comment
In the announcement (in the lobby, not in the room) a local guide told us a bit about the history of the channel and what we were watching. He wasn't always the most engaging tour guide, but when we heard his information, it was interesting. We couldn't hear them from the balcony so we missed most of it.
The first sign that we are actually somewhere is the bridge. As we went under the bridge, the waterway got smaller and smaller until we finally entered the canal.
9:10 a.m. First view of the walls and piers!
Before this trip, we read and watched a little about the history of the Panama Canal. This gave us a glimpse of what we were seeing, but I was also fascinated by the mechanical mules attached to each ship as it passed through the canal.
9:30 Well done Well done #1
On the way to Lake Gatun, we climbed to the height of Lake Yamanaka. As soon as the first lock closed, we started to feel the ship rising. The door behind us is getting lower and lower. We weren't sure if we could really feel the rise and fall of the ship, but it was clear that we were moving quickly to the level of the lock gate.
10:00 Close lock #2
After lock 2 was closed, I decided to run down and see what it was like from the third deck, which includes almost the entire Carnival Pride ship. I ran down the stern steps and found a few people hanging out by the side of the ship. We are approaching the watchtower. I could see the walls and the mules up close. Someone on the deck above me asked a question or two to the man standing on the lookout. I'm on deck three and they're right above me. The canal walls were so close that I could easily reach out and touch them. I watched for a few minutes and took a few pictures. On the way back I went to the other side of the promenade and found myself in the smoking room for the crew. I took a few quick pictures and then hurried back to the room.
When the stern passed the watch tower, I quickly returned to my room from where we were in the lake.
10:35 turning off lock #3
The last lock closed and we felt the water open up around us again. We slide into the lake and find a place to stop and rest before returning.
11:00 Jezero Katsu
What struck us most about Lake Gatun was how normal it looked. It looks like any other lake in America. There are several small islands with trees. Both sides of the lake are covered with trees. Unless a huge container ship sails by, you'll hardly notice that you're in an exotic location like a lake in the middle of an isthmus in the middle of a canal built 100 years ago to connect the world's two oceans.
11:30 Pizza is always open for lunch!
Since we never had a big breakfast, and we are big breakfast eaters, we were hungry until lunch. We went for lunch around 11:30, we thought the only thing open for lunch was pizza and deli, but it seemed they opened a few minutes earlier for main drinks. That's actually one thing we really liked about the buffet on this cruise - they seem to take the ship's itinerary into account and the buffet seems to be open outside of normal Carnival buffet hours when needed. We had it in our heads that we wanted pizza so we grabbed it, wandered around for a minute looking for a table with a view and finally sat down to eat.
12:00 Dæksalg shirt
It actually started around 9:00am when there was a snaking line around the pool for people to buy Panama Canal t-shirts instead of actually visiting the Panama Canal. But we bought a T-shirt when we anchored in the middle of the lake after lunch. We went around the bow of the boat to look at the lake, but it was noon and the boat was not moving. The Panama Canal is actually very close to the equator. We've sailed all over the Caribbean, but this is the most southerly place we've been. And it was hot. So we went back and got an air conditioner and just got up because we had been standing all morning looking at the canal.
12:30 When does everything start again?
The schedule for the day doesn't appear in the Hub app - our biggest gripe. The announcement in the restaurant the night before said that we would start the channel around 7:30. We asked the waiter and he said around 9:30. But we don't know when we can come back.
After sitting in the room for a few minutes, we figured it might take a few minutes, and we could see it coming anyway. That's the beauty of seeing everything from the back. You have time to prepare.
3:00 Hmm... I think we're moving!
We all relaxed in the cool air, and when I looked out the window, the scenery outside had changed, and we were moving too. We slowly packed up ourselves and our camera gear and retreated into the stifling heat of Panama. The still, warm air really conveys how challenging it can be to work there. When we're hot, at least we can turn on the air conditioner, but the workers can't.
3:30 Return to the walls of the lock
We slowly began to slide back to the right passage (there was an arrow pointing the right way) and back through the canal. Our mules are back, and we are on the open sea again!
3:45 Good good #1
Now we are thrown down instead of lifted up. Again, you could clearly feel the water level dropping and as we lowered the water level, the walls got closer and closer to us.
4:15 off lock #2
This time in the afternoon the stifling heat starts and sometimes we stand outside on the balcony with an umbrella (yes, like an umbrella, but the sun is poisonous) and sometimes we sit inside on the bed. Look at the air-conditioned room.
4:45 off lock #3
Finally, the last dam closed behind us. The two ships we saw in the channel were high above us. The distance each lock raises and lowers the ship is so dramatic. We watched as the ship behind us continued through the lock and descended as we sailed back into the gradually opening space around us.
5:15 outside the fence
Once outside the walls, we start talking about how long the day is and what we want to do in the hours leading up to our 8:15 meal. swimming pool? Hot bath? sleep?
5:30 return under the bridge
When we slide over the last bridge, we feel as if we are back in the sea, and the experience ends forever. This lasted all day and we were more tired than when we went to work. All day we are actively standing, watching and operating the cameras and it's hard work!
6:00 Does the pool get cold?
We could still see the land and the bridges disappearing into the distance as we boarded the Tranquility Deck. We soaked our tired feet in the hot water of the hot tub and watched it finally disappear into the distance.
Panama Canal Carnival Cruise Tips:
Turn on the camera channel on the TV.
Browse TV channels. Carnival has several channels for live cameras (generally not just Panama Canal sailings). One of them is the front camera. Turn it on first thing in the morning to make it easier to understand what's going on. This is great if you want to retreat to your room to rest or cool down at any time of the day. You can see the camera view to make sure you don't miss anything you think is important. (This has nothing to do with the Panama Canal, but there is also a camera in the main training pool 24/7. If you have strong feelings about a camera that everyone on board can see, check it out at the start of your cruise!)
Looking for general Panama Canal transportation tips? Look at theseTips for the Panama Canal!
Make a good choice of room.
This is not a guaranteed cabin cruise if you want to see anything in your room. The aft balcony was fantastic as we were able to stay on our own balcony with all our stuff, space, camera batteries, a cooler full of water and a bathroom. But aft balconies are always more expensive. If you have a normal balcony, make sure your balcony is on the right or right side. First, this is the side in the middle so you can see other ships sailing in the opposite direction. Second, the sun is on the left (left) side in both directions. Since we went one way in the morning and returned in the afternoon, the port side of the ship was hot and in the sun both times. Do not install balconies on the left side.
Make sure you know when it starts
There is no time of day information in the Hub app. The President announced this on the show during the dinner, and we also heard other information from the ship. ask people. Most of the crew had already done so. See what they have to say.
get up early
Your particular cruise may not start that early, but you won't miss out if you oversleep. Plan for an early morning – and maybe hope. It gets hot in the afternoon.
Be prepared to get hot.
We are ready for warm weather. I like it hot. But the weather was warmer than I expected. Wear appropriate clothing, drink plenty of water and apply plenty of sunscreen.
Plan your viewing spot
Different places on the ship will present completely different viewpoints. Find the best vantage points in advance. Keep in mind that crowds ebb and flow throughout the day.
make the most of it
Crossing the Panama Canal is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is one of the wonders of the modern world and it is amazing how many lives were lost in its construction, but it is still in good condition and continues to function in the century since it was built. Not a good day to go to the pool or bar. Instead of spending all day on the canal like we did, you can spend quality time admiring its mechanics.
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