Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: Transiting the Panama Canal on the Coral Princess

OK…let’s get the complaints out of the way first. This ship is not meant for photographing a canal transit. Around all of deck 16 and a good portion of deck 15, the topmost decks, is glass which we suspect acts as wind protection. The glass is slanted inwards towards the deck and, although transparent, is tinted blue. Definitely not for shooting photography through and my husband (and others) had a fit. (You can see the blue glass at the bottom of this picture as we are waiting to enter the first lock.)

After much searching, my husband did find a decent vantage-point and, to ‘claim’ it, we were out at 5:30 a.m. for the transit. Even at that hour we were not the first people on deck. Many people had brought up chairs from tables at the Grill and on the Lido Deck and had positioned themselves right up front, behind the slanted, blue glass. They had a great vantage point and it was perfect for anyone as long as they didn't want to take any pictures.

But for those that wanted to photograph from the front of the ship, many resorted to standing on hand rails to get up above the glass and some, like myself, eventually ended up claiming a spot, literally, on the deck, under the angle of the glass rising from the deck. With 3-4 inch spaces between the glass and its metal support, I was able to get my camera through and get some good ‘down the canal’ photographs. Still, the situation could have been more photographer-friendly.

That out of the way, the transit was fantastic. We had beautiful weather. A very nice breeze kept us comfortable. Previous to the sailing there had been a lecture about the canal which we attended (could have been better) and it helped to refresh my memory from reading Path Between the Seas by David McCullough…well worth reading before the transit.

The Panama Canal really is an engineering marvel and it was neat watching the ships go through and how smoothly the operation ran. Our ship was Panamax size meaning it is of the maximum size that can go through the canal. There were a lot of large ships going through at the same time and we learned that is what is done during the day…..large ships transit during daylight hours. During the night is when the smaller ships go through.

The sailing through Gatun Lake was beautiful. We went under the Centennial Bridge, through the Gaillard Cut (still quite narrow and only one Panamax ship can pass at a time) and we saw construction for the new larger locks. At 5:00 p.m. we passed under the Bridge of the Americas, completing our transit.

Overall it was a great experience and I would certainly not have any problem repeating it.


Erin said...

Tip: Unless the design has undergone changes since 2007, when we were on the Coral, several of the lower decks have rather large public verandas facing the bow and aft. We used the bow veranda on Baja Deck for our canal transit. Had the place mostly to ourselves, and even when others showed up, there was plenty of room with no need to guard a spot.

diane said...

Thanks for the information. I just checked the deck plan for the Coral Princess and found no public deck forward on the Baja deck. Guess things have changed.