Panama Canal's Cruise Season Opens
The Panama Canal expects to receive approximately 235 cruise ships through the Panamax and Neopanamax Locks during the 2017-2018 cruise season. Beginning on October 2, it will be the first full cruise season since the opening of the Expanded Canal.
The season begins with the partial transit of Princess Cruise Line’s Island Princess on a roundtrip voyage to and from Los Angeles with stops along the West Coast of North and Central America.
In April 2017, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder became the first cruise ship to ever transit the Expanded Canal. This season she will transit again along with the Caribbean Princess, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Splendor and Norwegian Bliss. Together, the five ships will make a total of 20 transits, and 11 new cruise ships will transit either the Canal’s Panamax or Neopanamax Locks for the first time from the following lines: Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises, Lindblad Special Expedition and CMA CGM, with each ship making multiple transits.
Perhaps the most visible sign of the Expanded Canal's impact on the cruise segment this season will be the Norwegian Bliss, when it makes her repositioning transit through the waterway en route to the U.S. West Coast to begin its cruise season in Alaska. Currently under construction, the ship will hold up to 4,200 passengers once complete, and will become the largest capacity cruise vessel to ever transit the Canal.
As in previous years, the main cruise lines, such as Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, will offer itineraries for complete and partial transits through the Panama Canal to add to their passengers’ experience. Smaller vessels, including the Wind Star and the expedition cruiser National Geographic Quest, will offer seven and eight-day itineraries, respectively, to the west coast of Central America.