Everything You Need to Know About Panama Canal Cruises

The Panama Canal is a 50-mile-long waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, located in the thinnest point between North and South America. It was completed in 1914 and is a popular destination for cruise ships. Depending on your starting point, it can take between five and nine days to reach the canal. The best time to cruise the Panama Canal is between September and April, during the dry season.

Cruises typically last nine to 15 nights, with partial canal transits lasting around 10 nights and full canal transits lasting two weeks. Passport requirements for US citizens vary depending on the itinerary of the cruise ship, but citizens don't need a visa to visit Panama. Spanish is the official language of the region, and Panama uses both the balboa and US dollar for currency. Tipping is common in Latin America, and visitors should dress in light clothing made from natural fibers.

Sunscreen, sunglasses, swimwear, protective hats, insect repellent, good walking shoes and a sturdy camera are all essential items to pack. Bottled water is recommended for drinking, and visitors should consult their health professional before boarding the cruise if they need to take medical precautions. Electrical outlets are usually 110 or 220 volts, and ships are usually equipped to US standards. Shopping in this region is great for home-made crafts like molas, wood carvings and intricately woven baskets.

Colón also has a large duty-free zone with imported products like electronics, jewelry and designer clothing. Tour guides offer bus, boat and helicopter tours, while larger cities offer taxis, bicycle rentals, public buses and trains. Most countries will allow you to rent a car if you are over 21 years old with a valid driver's license and credit card for insurance costs. During your cruise you can marvel at the technological advancements of the canal as your ship rises and falls with the flow of water through a series of locks and artificial lakes.

You can also explore the fascinating Caribbean or Pacific ports you'll visit along the way or take advantage of group transportation included in your shore excursions.