If you are a mechanical junkie like me, the Panama Canal is your super drug of choice. The logistics of the entire process is an incredible display of engineering feats. To think it was originally designed and built in the early 1900s and has continued to operate unchanged for more than 100 years is awe inspiring. July 2016 saw the first big change with new, much larger locks and channels to handle the massive tankers and container ships previously unable to fit.
At Miraflores Locks Visitor Center, there is a 10-minute orientation video and four-floor museum (with a ship-steering simulator where you can test your mettle in navigating a lock). The museum is a must-see before viewing the ships making their way through the canal. The canal system has a direction change every 12 hours and when we arrived at noon the change was underway. The next scheduled ship movement (north to south) was planned for 2:00 (thank you to Panama for Beginners for the tips!). We were finished with the museum and movie in time to get comfortable in stadium-style bleachers to watch the first ship through.
We were not disappointed. We watched some of the largest ships in the world float slowly past us, stepping up or down 3 levels, moving a total of approximately 85 vertical feet from start to finish. The marvel is unparalleled and truly a not-to-be-missed activity while visiting Panama City.
- Entry fee is $15USD, which gets you into the 10-minute film (English or Spanish), the museum, and the viewing platform.
- Uber there from the El Congrejo neighborhood was $4.95USD; Uber Black on the return, with a driver who wasn’t too sure where he was going, was $12.95. Taxi would likely be $15USD each way.
I went through the Panama Canal from east to west on a cruise ship. It took about 12 hours. Amazing!
Yes, we were thinking that it would be a totally different experience going through it in a ship (which is probably the more typical way people see the canal) than it was standing on the shore. Maybe we’ll get to do both!