The Insider’s Guide to

Cruising the Panama Canal

Peak Season
Best Rates
September, April
Best Value

Why Cruise the Panama Canal

Cruising through the Panama Canal is the best way to experience this man-made engineering marvel that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. There's nothing quite like being a part of it, as your ship is lifted and lowered through the canal’s famous locks.

As you transit, take in the gorgeous scenery of Soberanía National Park and spy various monkeys, incredible bird species like toucans, along with crocs, sloths and more. Panama Canal cruises let you visit a variety of ports filled with culture and wildlife in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Now you just have to decide whether you'd prefer a full or partial transit. A full transit is a 15–16 night voyage that starts on one coast of the US and finishes on the other, taking the greatest shortcut of all time—through the three locks of the Panama Canal. A partial transit takes you through Gatún Lock as part of your 10–11 night cruise, usually leaving from South Florida.

Our Panama Canal Cruise Tips

A Panama Canal voyage is a bucket list experience for a lot of people. You may transit either the new or original Panama Canal locks depending on ship size and itinerary. There are also roundtrip options and one-way, repositioning cruises through the canal.


Even the new canal locks can’t accommodate the very largest cruise ships at sea. If you’re a fan of mega ships, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore and Norwegian Joy are your best big-ship bets through the Panama Canal. Search this Cruise Line.


A partial transit of the Panama Canal takes you through the locks and to the scenic Lake Gatún before retracing your route back to sea. Cruise lines, like Carnival, usually pair a partial transit with a full Caribbean itinerary. Search this Cruise Line.

Holland America

If you’re someone looking for an extended getaway, Holland America Line has cruises longer than 20 days that include a transit through the Panama Canal. Book early, though, because there are only a few of these repositioning cruises between Vancouver, Canada, and ports in Florida. Search this Cruise Line.

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Planning Your Panama Canal Cruise

When to Go

Prime Time

November to April is the best time to cruise the Panama Canal, however, not many cruise lines transit the canal in general, so your options are limited. Most voyages through the Panama Canal are "repositioning sailings," where the cruise line needs to get their ship from one coast to another, so they don't happen very often.

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The Off-Season

May–December is considered Panama’s rainy season. While temperatures in the summer are comparable to April, humidity definitely increases and peaks during these months. The Panama Canal is bustling with transiting cargo ships during the summer, too.

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Factor This In

Before You Book. Since not that many sailings take place each year, pricing is similar for all sailings that are offered. However, you might find the rates are slightly lower in September, October and April. A partial transit will cost less than a full transit.

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