A fear of flying (that’s another story) forced me to look at alternatives to get me from London to Sydney. The alternative I chose was to spend 42 days at sea visiting places such as The Azores, The Caribbean, Panama City and Tahiti before reaching Sydney. I saw it as a means to an end, to get me from A to B without having to step on a plane, but I unexpectedly began to enjoy the P&O voyage.
One of my favourite parts of the voyage was the Panama Canal. I had learnt about it at school but to actually experience it was just fantastic and I consider it a highlight of my travels. After all, it is considered to be one of the seven modern wonders of the world – I think I would agree with that.
Panama Canal – a link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
The Panama Canal is a link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and many boats of all sizes transverse it. I was on an ocean liner and like all boats we had to congregate at the port and report in before the amazing pilots guided us through.
The canal is 83 kilometres or 51 miles long. It traverses the Isthmus of Panama and has a number of locks that lift and lower ships so they can pass through the canal. The original locks are only 34 metres (110 feet) wide but a third lane of locks to allow larger boats pass through opened in 2016. Thank goodness it was built cause otherwise ships would have to traverse the often dangerous route around the southernmost tip of South America – probably adding weeks on to a journey.
Like all cruise ships they provide loads of information on each destination and I learnt a lot. For instance, I didn’t know it would take all day to pass through the canal, but even though it took about 12 hours it was so interesting and there was always something to see.
Like most on the ship, I spent the day outside experiencing the locks. I should say it was a bit of a party zone as people on all sorts of water vessels were waving and saying hello to each other. And to see the surrounding landscape that many workers had to transform in to the locks is truly amazing. Many areas of the canal had to be widened and rock had to be cut through which is evident with some of the cliff faces you pass.
And yes, you could feel the ship going up and down but it was all so interesting. As I walked around the ship I was amazed at how the whole process of moving sea vessels is such a well organised process. Another note of interest was that we were outrunning a storm. Even though I enjoyed the day I alighted the boat at Panama City for a night of local entertainment, food and drink – it capped off a great day.
About the author:
Sharyn McCullum has travelled the world for many years. A fear of flying caused her to look at alternative travel options. She travelled on a P&O cruise from Southampton to Sydney. A highlight was cruising through the Panama Canal.