Cruise ships to Panama City dock (anchor) either at Fuerte Amador or Balboa. Both ports are located at Panama Canal's Pacific Ocean entrance.
Port Fuerte Amador
Port Fuerte Amador is built on a man-made peninsula. The extending peninsula is a 1 ml (1,6 km) long causeway artificially created by connecting 4 small islands with rocks excavated from Panama Canal. The port is a tender dock (anchorage port), meaning cruise ships anchor and transfer their passengers ashore via ship's tender boats. On complete Panama Canal cruise transits, ships typically arrive in Fuerte Amador in the morning, offload passengers for land tours and spend a full day anchored.
Fuerte Amador cruise port has as infrastructure several shops, specialty stores and restaurants, all centered around a large boat marina area. Fuerte Amador also offers a panoramic view of Panama City's skyline.
Port Balboa has a drydock facility for repairs of Panamax-sized vessels. Drydock's gates are constructed similar to Panama Canal's locks. Balboa is among the largest cargo ports (especially for boxships / container carriers) in Latin America.
Port Balboa also has ship-to-train terminal ("Pacific Terminal") connected (via Panama Canal Railway) directly to Port Colon (Caribbean Sea). This allows container transportation by train across the isthmus. Panama Canal Railway also runs daily passenger service (once a day), each way between Panama City and Colon.
In August 2018, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) finished dredging works in Fuerte Amador's new terminal area and navigation canal. The project was part of new cruise port terminal project with scheduled completion by mid-2019. On Aug 15 were started works on preparing 7-acres land area by the new port development project, which also includes building new cruise terminal at Fuerte Amador.
Initially, the new cruise terminal will have berthing capacity 2 mega-liners simultaneously and max passengers 10,000. The facility will have large terminal building plus recreational centers, bars and restaurants. As long-term plan, the project will be expanded to docking capacity 5 mega-liners at once.
Panama City cruise terminal
Most cruise ships to Panama City dock (anchor) at port Fuerte Amador (Flamenco Island in Panama Bay). Some ships may also stop at Balboa port.
Isla Flamenco is one of the 4 "causeway Islands (officially Islas Calzada de Amador) located by the Panama Canal's Pacific Ocean entrance. They are artificially linked to mainland Panama via a causeway. This causeway was made from rock extracted during the canal's excavations. Partially, the causeway also serves as a breakwater.
The connecting causeway has a 1-lane road running along to each of the 4 islands, plus a bicycle/jogging lane. Along the causeway there are port facilities, yacht marinas, shops, restaurants. The 4 islands are named Naos, Culebra, Perico, and Flamenco. From all these isles local pilots board the marine vessels (including cruise ships) entering Panama Canal.
Panama City doesn't have its own (in-town) cruise terminal facility. The port authority considered building a small terminal (incorporated into city's master plan), but the research showed that such a project is not feasible. It would cost around USD 70 million and would need to be near an airport. Still, Bay County’s waterways can accommodate large cruise liners, so Panama City cruise terminal could be eventually constructed, but not sooner than 2030.
(NEW) Fuerte Amador cruise terminal
In October 2017, Panama City Port Authority started expanding its cruise shipping capacity by opening a second location on East Avenue. Earlier in 2017, Jan De Nul Group (family-owned company specializing in construction and maintenance of port facilities) together with China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) won the USD 165 million contract to design and build a new cruise terminal on the Fuerte Amador Causeway.
The newly-formed joint venture company "Cruceros del Pacifico" started works on the new terminal on October 18, 2017. The terminal was officially opened/inaugurated on May 20, 2019. Project's construction phase generated a total of 2800 jobs (1000 direct plus 1800 indirect), as well as permanent terminal employees. As part of the Cruceros del Pacifico consortium, Jan De Nul Panama company did all preliminary works before terminal's construction. These preliminary works included dredging (berth pocket, turning basin, access channel) and land reclamation (8,3 hectares land area needed the construction of terminal's land-based facilities).
Managed by Panama Maritime Authority, the new cruise terminal allows docking in Panama City of up to 5 of world's largest passenger vessels simultaneously. These are RCI's Oasis-Class liners with GT 225,000 tons and max capacity 6300 passengers plus 1200 crew.
The new facility has berthing capacity of 2 ships at a time (1 pier with 2 berths, total length 1200 ft / 366 m) and capacity to handle up to 10,000 passengers. The new terminal also has dedicated parking, surrounding green spaces, administrative buildings. Currently, Port Colon (on Panama's Atlantic coast) handles 180+ cruise ship calls annually.
By this project, to Panama City were supplied 18x Ocean Guard Fenders (custom-made by the US-based company ShibataFenderTeam) with adjusting hardware. These foam fenders are perfect for cruise ship docking operations as their urethane skin doesn't damage vessel's hull. Foam fenders are robust and unsinkable - even when damaged. The fenders for Fuerte Amador's Cruise Terminal were custom-designed for a wide range of tides.
Port Panama City 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 Panama City, Fuerte Amador, Balboa. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
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