PHOTO: A Holland America ship cruises through the Panama Canal (Courtesy Holland America Line)
Few would argue that the Panama Canal is one of the most outstanding feats of modern engineering—not to mention, a great example of creative problem solving. That is especially awe-inspiring when you keep in mind that it was completed more than a hundred years ago.
Built as the result of a remarkable combination of imagination, ingenuity and mechanical design knowhow, the Panama Canal employs a strategically-arranged system of locks and gates that slowly raise a ship above sea level, lifting and lowering it gradually until it has crossed over to the waterway on the other side.
The idea for a canal that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans percolated in the minds of inventors and explorers for centuries, but none managed to come up with a practical plan to make it a reality until the early 1900s. The construction process was long and arduous, spanning more than a decade, but when it was finally completed, it marked a new era in transportation for this part of the world.
The 50-mile long canal provided an important passageway that was the answer to many challenges faced by travelers and transportation companies. Prior to that point, making a journey by sea from one coast of the United States to the other was an incredibly long and time-consuming process that required going completely below and around South America. The Canal served as a valuable shortcut that eliminated thousands of miles from this trip, providing a significantly shorter route that enabled vessels to save not only time but considerable amounts of fuel.
Identified as one of the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers—putting the Canal in a group that also includes the Golden Gate Bridge and Empire State Building—this engineering and construction marvel is truly impressive. You might say it is like a portal between two worlds. It serves as the divider (or connector, depending on how you look at it) between two continents and two oceans.
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The Canal (and the region surrounding it) has also become a popular draw for tourists and travelers eager to get a close-up look at this unique creation. This is an especially appealing destination for anyone who is interested in naval history or oceanic transportation.
Holland America Line offers Panama Canal cruises on an ongoing basis throughout the year, so you can pick the one that works best for your schedule or time it for when the climate in that region best aligns with your preferences. Their Panama Canal voyages are available in a choice of nine itineraries, with timelines that range from 10 to 24 days. Ports and destinations featured in these trips include Costa Rica, Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, the Colombian city of Cartagena, and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. Whichever one you choose, you can count on having a relaxing and exciting trip that moves at a leisurely pace.
Of course, every one of these cruises is guaranteed to provide the top-notch service, luxurious comfort, and exciting onboard activities and entertainment you would expect from any Holland America Line voyage.