Gatun Lake is an artificial freshwater lake (part of the Panama Canal) in which empties Chagres River. The closest cruise port is Colon. The waterway has total area 425 km2 (164 mi2) and volume ~5,2 km3 (~1,2 mi3). Cruise ships and cargo carriers (mainly container ships) navigate the lake for approx 33 km (21 mi) before the actual transit of the Panama Canal.
Some larger-sized cruise ships operating Caribbean itineraries (usually roundtrips from Florida USA) offer "Panama Canal" themed voyages that don't transit the Canal but only navigate in the Gatun Lake. "Partial" Panama Canal cruises are offered by companies like Princess and HAL-Holland America Line. Most partial transits depart from Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale and their "Panama Canal" segment features passing through the Gatun Locks and sailing in the Gatun Lake.
Next table shows Holland America's "Panama Canal Sunfarer" itinerary (11-day roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale). Prices vary between USD 750-1200 per person with double occupancy.
|Date / Time||Port|
|DAY1 (4 pm)||Departing from Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale|
|DAY2 (8 am - 3 pm)||Half Moon Cay, Bahamas|
|DAY4 (1-11 pm)||Oranjestad, Aruba Netherlands Antilles|
|DAY5 (8 am - 11 pm)||Willemstad, Curacao Netherlands Antilles|
|DAY7 (7 am - 1 pm)||Cartagena, Colombia|
|DAY8 (5 am)||Entering Panama Canal for docking at Port Colon (Cristobal Pier)|
|DAY8 (9-10 am)||Cruising the Gatun Lake with land access (limited only to organized shore excursions)|
|DAY8||Cruising the Gatun Lake (no land access)|
|DAY (1 pm)||Exiting Panama Canal for docking at Port Colon (Cristobal Pier)|
|DAY8 (3-8 pm)||Colon, Panama|
|DAY9 (5:30 am - 3 pm)||Puerto Limon/San Jose, Costa Rica|
|DAY11 (7 am)||Arriving in Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale|
Being dammed twice, Chagres River forms two man-made reservoirs (the lakes Gatun and Alajuela) both part of the Panama Canal's system. Gatun Lake also provides all the water for the Canal's lock system (which needs daily millions of gallons daily) as well as drinking water for Colon and Panama City.
The 1913-opened Gatun Dam (that creates the lake) is approx 3 km / 2 mi from Chagres River's mouth and approx 10 km / 6 mi from the Caribbean Sea. The Dam has a hydroelectric station that generates all the electricity (capacity 6 MW / 8000 hp) needed for the Panama Canal's operations (locks, spillway machinery, lighting), as well as for the canal villages.
Gatun Lake's recreational activities (via boat tours) include fishing, swimming, wildlife viewing (monkeys, anteaters, tropical birds, insects).
Barro Colorado Island
Barro Colorado Island, like Gatun Lake, was formed in 1913 (when Chagres River was dammed), since 1923 is designated as a Nature Reserve, and since 1946 is administered by the Smithsonian Institution (US Government-created agency that manages museums, libraries, research centers and zoos worldwide, as well as American architectural landmarks).
Barro Colorado Island has total area 15,6 km2 (6 mi2) and is accessible to visitors/tourists. However, the access is regulated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and reservations and tour arrangements are required.
Barro Colorado tours are inclusive of roundtrip boat transportation, guided 2-3-hour hiking trip (wildlife-themed), lunch, and a museum visit. Most Barro Colorado Island tours depart from Gamboa - a small town built for the Panama Canal's employees and their dependents.
In Gamboa are the headquarters of Panama Canal Authority's Dredging Division, which docks are used by ferryboats to reach STRI's facilities at Barro Colorado. Gamboa itself is a tourist destination popular for its lush rainforest, wildlife (crocodiles, caymans, iguanas, numerous bird species), and the "Pipeline Road" (the old pipeline hiking trail) which is Panama's best for bird watching.
Port Gatun Lake Panama Canal cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Gatun Lake Panama Canal. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
|6 November, 2022|
|National Geographic Quest|
|13 November, 2022|
|National Geographic Quest|
- Cruise Industry
Travelers who wish to transit the lakes and locks of Panama Canal will have 8 Holland America Line cruise ships and 19 voyages to choose from between...August 3, 2017
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