Cruising Through the Panama Canal Locks

View of Holland America Line cruise ship sailing through Panama Canal.

As you embark on a voyage with Holland America Line, one of the most captivating experiences is navigating the locks of the Panama Canal. These locks are a testament to human ingenuity, serving as water elevators that lift and lower ships to enable them to traverse the 50-mile canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.   

This engineering marvel saves ships from having to navigate the treacherous Cape Horn route at the southernmost tip of South America. The locks’ operation, which some have called “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” is a fascinating spectacle offering passengers an unforgettable chance to witness the water level’s transformation, enabling the ship’s smooth passage.   

On average, it takes ships 8 to 10 hours to pass through the Panama Canal. Here’s what you’ll get to experience if you travel the Panama Canal onboard a Holland America Line cruise ship.  

View of Miraflores Locks in Panama Canal.
Experience the Miraflores Locks on a Panama Canal cruise.

The Miraflores Locks  

As you enter the canal through the Pacific Ocean Entrance by way of the Gulf of Panama, the first set of locks you’ll encounter are the Miraflores Locks. This two-chambered lock system lifts ships a stunning 54 feet in two stages. From the deck of your Holland America Line cruise ship, you’ll witness the water level rise, lifting the ship with incredible smoothness. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, watching as the vast volumes of water are controlled with precision to guide the ship safely through the locks. This spectacle, combined with the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, makes the journey through the Miraflores Locks an unforgettable experience. 

Pedro Miguel Lock  

After the Miraflores Locks, your ship will sail into the Pedro Miguel Lock. As the only one-chambered lock in the Canal, it provides a one-of-a-kind experience. This lock raises the ship another 31 feet, aligning it with the level of the Miraflores Lake. As you transition from the Pacific Ocean to Miraflores Lake, you’ll witness Pedro Miguel Lock’s unique operation, offering fascinating insight into the complexity and precision of this century-old engineering marvel.  

View of Gatun Locks in Panama Canal.
Marvel at the Gatun Locks as you cruise along the Panama Canal.

Gatun Locks 

The final set of locks, the Gatun Locks, is a three-chambered system that lowers ships a staggering 85 feet to the level of the Atlantic Ocean. This descent is just as breathtaking as the ascent, providing a thrilling climax to your journey through the locks. The Gatun Locks are the original locks of the Panama Canal, and their impressive operation is a testament to the enduring quality of their early 20th-century construction. As your ship makes its descent, you’ll feel the sheer power and size of the locks, making the journey through the Gatun Locks a truly humbling experience. 

Beyond the Cruise Ship 

After your cruise ship completes the journey through the Panama Canal, you may dock at a port such as Colon, Panama for a pre-determined length of time. From there, you may opt to dive a little deeper into the history and mechanics of the Panama Canal on one of our many shore excursions.   

Visit the Miraflores Locks Observation Center to witness the engineering marvel from a different angle, or traverse through part of the canal a second time on a smaller vessel with a commentator there to narrate the process and provide even more fascinating details.  

Navigating the Panama Canal locks with Holland America Line is undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s a journey through history, a testament to human innovation, and an adventure that offers a special perspective on global connectivity. As you plan your voyage, look forward to the thrill of the Miraflores ascent, the singular experience of the Pedro Miguel Lock, and the grand descent of the Gatun Locks.   

This trip is more than just a cruise; it’s an unforgettable journey that connects you to the maritime world in a way that few other experiences can. Witnessing the operation of these locks is like watching a symphony of engineering, a ballet of water and steel that is sure to leave you in awe. So, head to the deck of your Holland America Line cruise ship and relax while you enjoy the journey!  


Join the Discussion

One Comment

  1. cam Nowik MSW May 1, 2024 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    I remember how impressive it was going thru the canal on
    11-11-21 (Veterans Day)on the Emerald Princess. What an amazing feat of structural engineering!
    Camille H Nowik MSW Chicago

Leave A Comment

Sign up for special offers and announcements