April 16, 2023 – Sunday – Nieuw Amsterdam transiting the Panama Canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific
This is the day most passengers are on this cruise for: transiting the Panama Canal. I’m up before sunrise as the ship waits offshore from Colon in Limon Bay to enter the canal at the Gatun Locks from the Caribbean Sea. Although we enter the locks on time at Gatun, by the time we emerge from the last lock at Miraflores on the Pacific side, we are an hour late. The Sun is set by the time we sail under the Bridge of the Americas and into Panama Bay, emerging into the Pacific Ocean.
Although this is my fifth canal transit, I’m always fascinated by the process of lifting ships up to the level of Gatun Lake, and then lowering them back to sea level. This is the first time I’ve observed the new locks in operation: Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side, and Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side. Since our ship uses the old locks, we don’t get great views of the new lock system, however I can see the massive ships beside and above us as we go through the old locks. In addition to bigger container ships, the new locks also enable LNG and PNG tankers to now use the canal, which apparently is a big revenue stream for Panama.
Our cruise director Kimberly is on the bridge all day narrating as our ship transits the canal. She shares that the captain has confirmed that today’s toll for the Nieuw Amsterdam is US$444,000, or just over US$300 per passenger!
I watch the ship transit the canal from three main areas of the ship. My own stateroom’s verandah is on Deck 7 Forward, so it offers great views from the right side of the ship and happens to be on the shady side since it faces west. I also pop out to the Deck 7 Forward deck, which is very close to my stateroom and is open today, since it offers great views from the front of the ship. Finally, once in awhile I go up to Panorama Deck 10, where I can get views from both sides of the ship and be higher up.
While I take photos of the transit from various locations on the ship, I also setup my GoPro action camera on the rail of my balcony this morning to shoot a time lapse video, capturing all the interesting parts of the process of moving through the canal and locks. This 3-minute video captures the 12-hour process quite well!
It is Sunday, so there is a big crowd of Panamanians at the Miraflores Visitor Centre, who are waving at us as we move through the locks. On the other side, there is a big Alligator on the canal shoreline. Panama Bay and Panama City are beautiful in the darkness with the city lights shining.