The idea of creating a passage that allows ships to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific without braving the icy waters of Cape Horn has been alive and kicking since Charles V of Spain ordered a survey of the best options in 1534. From conception to the first completed passage of a single vessel, it took 380 years, 27,000 lives, and the excavation of 170,000,000 cu yards (129,974,326 m3) of earth to accomplish. It’s a modern world wonder, and for most people, seeing it for themselves is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are lots of options for visiting the Panama Canal, but booking a cruise is one of the best, and here is why:
Who doesn’t love trying new cuisine when they travel? For many, food is a primary reason to travel. Unfortunately, the human digestive system isn’t set up to handle the introduction of new foods without a little indigestion. Add in foreign bacteria, unpurified water, and new eating schedules, and your gut might be in for an unpleasant shock. The plus side? Travelers who book cruises have access to plenty of familiar cuisine on-board, included in the price of passage. Keeping more familiar foods in your diet can help your stomach handle new foods more easily, and cruise ships help keep that in balance. I would never recommend ignoring local cuisine completely for the tried and true staples found on-board a cruise ship, but I don’t advise indigestion and food poisoning either. Enjoy the local fare, but when you need a break, cruise cuisine is there.
Wrapping your mind around just how the locks in the canal work can be tough if you haven’t experienced them for yourself. There are three sets of locks: 1 on the Atlantic side, 1 on the Pacific side, and 1 connecting Gatun and Mira Flores Lakes. The purpose of the locks is to raise and lower the water level in each chamber using water from the lakes, and thereby allow ships to pass through what used to be solid earth. The sheer amount of water it takes to get just one ship through the canal – 26,700,000 US gal (101,000 m3) times 12 lock chambers – is staggering. All of the water comes from natural runoff into the lake and empties out into the ocean through the process. In wet, winter months, there’s plenty of water to go around. In the dry season, however, Gatun Lake may experience a shortfall.
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