Panama Canal cruise



Panama Canal ships


More than 14,000 ships transit the Panama Canal each year. That works out to about 40 per day. More than 95% are cargo ships.

Ship dimensions

The maximum ship dimensions for using the Panama Canal are 32 meters (106 feet) wide and 294 meters (960 feet) in length. Near maximum-width ships, unless perfectly aligned, will bang or scrape the lock's cement side walls.


They are high and are based on ship tonnage. The full-transit record is $330,000, but most cruises pay in the $100,00 to $200,000 range. That's about $50 to $100 per passenger (which is factored in the cruise fare).

Panama Canal length

Transiting ships travel 80 kilometers (50 miles) through the Panama Canal system.

Transit time

If a cruise shows up in time for its reservation, it can expect to take 8 to 10 hours going from one coast to the other. Approximately three of those hours are spent in the locks.


If a cargo or cruise ship doesn't have a reservation, it may have to do a lot of waiting, either in a coastal bay or on fresh-water Gatun Lake. This could waste a full day or two. Ditto if a ship has a reservation but shows up early or late. This occurs more with cargo than cruise ships because they are not on ultra-tight cruise schedules.

Ship passengeer count

It ranges from 24 for a motorized catamaran yacht to nearly 2,000 for the largest Panama Canal cruise ship.

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Photo by Bruce Tuten - CC BY 2.0



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