Panama Canal, newly expanded and linking the Atlantic and Pacific, will be officially inaugurated on Sunday, June 26, following the completion of a 9-year US$5.2 billion project.
Originally scheduled for completion October 2014, a hundred years after it first opened, the expansion of the canal will provide an additional lane of traffic through construction of new locks, this way doubling the capacity of the waterway.
Although many cruise lines already feature Panama Canal on their itineraries, such as Holland America, Disney, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, among others, they are restricted to using their smaller ships.
The expansion will allow for larger cruise ships to traverse canal's 49-mile stretch, though height restrictions because of the Bridge of the Americas still limit the size of the vessels.
Princess Cruises currently offers sailings on the 2,214-passenger Island Princess and 1,970-passenger Coral Princess on the Panama Canal. The expansion will allow the line to sail the 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess, launched in 2004, on the canal. A spokesperson for Princess said:
"As a result of the expansion, 2017 will see Caribbean Princess sail her maiden Panama Canal season through the new locks on 10-night voyages, while the smaller Coral Princess and Island Princess return to transit the traditional locks."