The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel that almost wasn’t. The French actually started the project in the late 1800s but gave up because their workers were dying and their engineering plan wasn’t really working. Recognizing how critical a waterway through Central America was, the Americans stepped in and re-started the project in 1904, completing it 10 years later. Cut through dense jungle and rain forest, the Panama Canal is a key shipping route that permits ships to go from the Atlantic to the Pacific without having to go all the way down around the southern-most tip of South America.
Today the Panama Canal is run by the country of Panama and continues to be critical to shipping, as well as to tourism in the country. To see the Panama Canal and to understand the history of how it came to be and the work required to complete it enables you to truly appreciate how incredible this canal is. There are a couple of different ways to see the Panama Canal. No matter how you do it, you’ll get a first-hand view of the locks, enabling you to recognize why this is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
One way to view the Panama Canal is to take an escorted tour. These tours stop at the Miraflores Visitor Center, giving you an opportunity to see museum exhibits about the Panama Canal and to watch large ships go through the locks from the observation deck of the building. Generally, the Panama Canal is a one-day stop on a larger tour of Panama and/or Central America, giving you the opportunity for more of a cultural experience in Panama.
The second way to view the Panama Canal—and the way I would suggest—is to go on a cruise ship. This gives you a unique experience as you actually transit the locks and make your way from the Caribbean to the Pacific in about 8 hours. You will be able to see the locks operate, hear the rushing water as it raises or lowers your ship, and be close enough to reach out and touch the walls of the locks from your cabin balcony as the ship goes up and down. It is the only way to get a perspective from the middle of the locks.
There are basically two kinds of cruises that go through the Panama Canal: a full transit and a partial transit. The full transit generally goes from California to Florida (or vice versa) twice a year as cruise lines move their ships between Alaska and the Caribbean. These take all day, usually starting early in the morning. You won’t get to disembark in Panama, but you will experience the entire Canal. A partial transit is more common, and generally leaves Florida, going through locks into the large Gatun Lake, where it turns around, goes back out the locks, and returns to the Caribbean. Cruise lines do these itineraries regularly. Partial transits also sometimes offer the opportunity to get out of the ship at Gatun Lake to go to the Miraflores Visitor Center. If you do this, you will get both the cruise and land perspective, but you will only go half-way through the Canal, and you will only do it once.
Details and Recommendations
Getting there: If you are primarily interested in the engineering aspect of the Panama Canal, try the full transit. If it’s more of a bucket list item and you want to experience it as part of your vacation, try a partial transit. If you are primarily interested in a cultural experience of Central America and the Panama Canal is one of the sights you want to see while you are in the region, then try an escorted tour. All three options provide a unique experience to see this engineering marvel.
How long: A full transit cruise generally takes 2-3 weeks and includes fewer ports and more days at sea. A partial transit cruise is often about 10 days and includes more ports in the Caribbean. An escorted tour is often about 1-2 weeks and includes much more of the country than just the Canal.
Don’t miss: the “mules,” small locomotives that help guide the ships through the locks
Contact: Globe Travel at 434-296-0171 or firstname.lastname@example.org to help you find the right trip that lets you experience the Panama Canal your way!
Are you the type who likes to make the most of your time and your money? Here’s a travel tip you need: back-to-back trips! Taking back-to-back cruises or tours gets you two trips in one vacation, saving you money on airfare and time traveling from home to destination and back again.
A popular back-to-back trip is with cruises. If your cruise ship is doing a different itinerary after your cruise ends, then stay on the ship and enjoy the next itinerary. In most cases, you stay in the same cabin and don’t even need to pack your bags between cruises.
Many escorted tours can also arrange back-to-back trips. In fact, some even include travel from the end point of one tour to the beginning point of another tour. This is ideal for destinations that are geographically near each other, such as a tour of England followed by a tour of Ireland.
Maybe you want to maximize your time on an international vacation but don’t have enough time to do two full trips? Try adding a pre- or post-trip experience. This could be as simple as booking a hotel for a few nights and some excursions to extend your stay before or after your trip. I’ve done a lot of European cruising, and I’ve had a chance to explore many of Europe’s best cities by doing this.
Back-to-backs also work if there is a day or two between trips. That gives you a little bit of downtime in a local hotel before your next organized trip. As long as you’re spending the money on airfare to travel internationally, you might as well spend as much time as you can and see all that you can while you’re there. Your Globe Travel consultant can help you find back-to-back trips that maximum your time and save you money on airfare.
The Beauty of Fall Travel
Sometimes fall is overlooked as a popular time to travel. But seasoned travelers know that fall can be one of the best times of the year to take a vacation.
Depending on where you go, the fall foliage can be stunning. You can make leaf-peeping a primary objective of your trip, or it can be an amazing bonus for a planned vacation.
Another advantage to fall travel is fewer crowds. Those top sites are often less crowded in the fall, after the busy summer travel season, and you get a little more breathing room to enjoy the wonders of your destination. You’ll have a better opportunity to soak up local flavor and spend time at those prime attractions.
For some locations, fall travel can cost less. Cruises, tours, and airfare are all generally priced lower in the fall.
So where do you want to go this fall? Consultants at Globe Travel want to help you get there. Give us a call to plan your fall getaway!
Happy Mother's Day
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, it seems appropriate to write about traveling with moms. My mom and I have been taking mother-daughter trips for almost 15 years now. We generally go to a place where neither of us has been before, so one of us isn’t having to play the host role. I find that it’s an incredible opportunity to enjoy shared experiences, have adventures, and make memories that become more precious with each passing year.
I basically learned how to travel from my mom and dad. When I was a kid, every summer we would load up the station wagon and take an annual road trip along the East Coast that always included at least one theme park and one visit to distant relatives. My mother was the navigator extraordinaire and coordinator of everything on these trips. She kept a travel journal, a practice that I thought was required for traveling. Now, I know better, but I continue to keep a travel journal, not because it’s required but because it’s tradition. I treasure each one because reading it brings back all of the memories of the trip.
While I have taken on more of the coordination tasks in our current travels, my mom is still the navigator extraordinaire, whether I’m driving or we’re just trying to get to our airport gate or train platform. We’ve had plenty of adventures together and have stories to keep ourselves entertained for hours as we reminisce about places we’ve been and things we’ve done together on our travels.
Whether you are a mom, or whether you love a mom, consider some mom travel this holiday. It’s a great way to honor a mom and to spend time—the most precious of all gifts—with those who are most dear to you.
Globe Travel’s Safari Guide
We’ve had a lot of clients inquiring about safaris lately, so we thought it might be helpful to share a few questions to ask yourself as you begin to think about choosing a safari.
What animals do you want to see on your safari? Uganda and Rwanda are good for gorillas. The Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino) are found throughout Southern and East Africa. Botswana is good for hippos, crocodiles, birds, and elephants. The Great Migration, where herds of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles migrate to find good grazing lands, occurs in the Serengeti, in northern Tanzania and southeastern Kenya.
Any special features of a safari that you have in mind, or any specific activity you want to do? Traditionally, game drives occur in 4x4 vehicles. But safaris are becoming more specialized these days. For example, there are horseback and walking safaris, even balloon safaris, that provide unique access for wildlife viewing. There are canoe safaris and river cruises along rivers and the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Maybe you want to take a plane to Namibia to explore the Skeleton Coast where ship wrecks litter the treacherous and desolate desert shoreline. Or maybe a camel safari in North Africa. If there’s a specific activity that you want to do, keep that in mind so you can choose an experience where that is included.
In addition to animals, what else do you want to see? While you’re in Africa, you want to do more than just view wildlife. Perhaps you want to see some of the natural beauty of Africa, such as Mount Kilimanjaro, Table Mountain, Victoria Falls, or the Garden Route along South Africa’s coastline. Or maybe you want to have more of a cultural experience, going to Masai villages or meeting local people. Or perhaps you want to experience the luxury side of Africa by visiting the wineries of South Africa or having a spa day in a luxury resort. A visit to Africa can and should include more than just a wildlife safari.
What kind of accommodations are you looking for? You can find almost any kind of accommodations, from luxurious spa resorts to smaller private lodges to glamping to rustic bush camps.
If you are interested in a safari and not sure where to start, begin by thinking through these questions. Then talk to one of our travel advisors who can help you further refine your interests in a safari and then recommend something that will be the perfect experience tailored to you.
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