5/30/2023     by Justin Gibson

Marvel at a Feat of Engineering While Relaxing Deckside with Holland America Line

If you’re like us, at some point or another when you’ve received your online order of shoes (or books, or coffee beans or cute outfits for your cat), you became more than a little intrigued about supply chains. When were shipping containers invented? Are canals marvels of the modern world? Is there a way to experience one yourself? There are few places where this newfound interest intersects with the luxe world of travel, and that’s Panama.


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Cutting the Canal in Panama in the 1880s

The (Abridged) History of the Panama Canal

While the prospect of the Panama Canal was proposed several times throughout history — first in 1534 by the King of Spain, and then 1668 by an English philosopher, and then again in 1788 by most of America at large — construction on the canal as we know it did not begin until 1881, by the French. The project was headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, the one and same responsible for the successful construction of the Suez Canal (small world!). Unlike the Suez Canal, however, was the added complexity of the lush tropical rainforests, oppressively humid climate, the need for canal locks, the complete lack of any pre-established route to follow and of course — the eight-month-long rainy season.

The French flailed and faltered in construction for roughly two decades. Then, in 1903, the United States bought the project for $10 million (plus an annual payment), promptly backed the Panamanian separatists in their revolution from Colombia and helped secure the fledgling nation’s independence before finally beginning construction in 1904. A decade later, the canal was complete, forever changing the face of global trade and putting Panama on the map in a wholly unique way


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Panama City today is a gleaming modern metropolis.

Panama Today

Seeing the canal for yourself is a must — and luckily enough, nothing beats the experience of sailing through it. Those visiting the canal from land can hope to witness a lock in action, but from the ship? You’ll glide through the countryside, looking out on colonial towns, historic fortresses and manmade lakes along the way. The port of Colón (the Atlantic entrance) evokes the Panama of yesteryear, with its historic buildings providing a peek back in time to what sailors might’ve seen over a century ago. Imagine their wonder at having to skip circumnavigating all of South America! Traveling inland, from the comfort of the deck, you’ll be able to spy hundreds of different animal and plant species as you cross the countryside. And passing through Panama City (the Pacific entrance), the future of Panama is on full display — what with its glittering skyline of modern office towers and smart condominiums all humming with life.


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Neptune Suite on Rotterdam

Charting Your Course to (and Through) the Panama Canal

While just about any seaworthy vessel might provide you this unique view of the Panama Canal, an ideal way to see it for yourself is with Holland America Line on one of their luxury cruises. Not only will you have plenty of time to experience the sights and flavors listed above, but you’ll also enjoy all the joys Holland is known for far and wide — such as elegant staterooms, refined fine dining and a whole host of engaging activities onboard that are bound to delight and entertain. Our agents know Holland America Line well, so we can help you choose, plan and book your cruise vacation to perfection.

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