Carnival Spirit Kicks Off Busy Panama Canal Season

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Carnival Cruise Line cruise ship Carnival Spirit became the first ship to transit the Panama Canal during the start of the 2022-2023 cruise season.

While the summer months are typically tranquil in the Panama Canal for cruise ships, the number of vessels passing through the iconic waterway will increase exponentially in the coming months. 

Over 200 cruise ships are expected to make the transit from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, or vice versa, between now and the middle of next year. The cruise through the Panama Canal is a bucket list item for many people and is one of the most popular destinations for cruise ships worldwide. 

Carnival Spirit Opens Panama Cruise Season

Carnival Spirit officially opened the Panama Canal 2022-2023 cruise season this week as it became the first cruise ship to pass through the iconic waterway.

The Carnival cruise line ship set sail from Seattle, Washington, on September 20 on a 16-day voyage, during which the ship sailed along the Pacific coastline to Mexico and Costa Rica. 

Carnival Spirit, Panama Canal
Photo Courtesy: Panama Canal Authority

On October 2, the vessel started its passage from the Pacific side of the Panama Canal and is now on her way to Miami. Carnival Spirit is expected to arrive tomorrow morning, October 6.

The passage of the 2,680 Carnival Spirit marks the start of a busy season for cruise ships in the area. More than 200 cruise ships are expected to make the passage in the coming months, 17 more than in 2019, with the season not slowing down until May next year.

“We anticipate a record number of Neopanamax vessel transits this year, which will help boost Panama’s tourism sector,” said Albano Aguilar, International Trade Specialist at the Panama Canal. “Given our role in international trade, we are thrilled to welcome visitors from around the world to experience the Panama Canal first-hand and to discover what our country has to offer.”

Carnival Spirit, Panama Canal
Photo Courtesy: Panama Canal Authority

Cruise ships that are expected to pass through the Canal this season include ships from most major cruise lines and include Norwegian Joy, Celebrity Edge, Caribbean Princess, Emerald Princess, Carnival Freedom, Ruby Princess, Carnival Glory, and Carnival Freedom. 

The largest cruise ship to pass through the Panama Canal will be the 169,116 gross ton Breakaway-Plus class Norwegian Encore, which will make the passage on two separate occasions. 

Panama Canal Remains a Cruise Classic

Although the Panama Canal has seen a huge amount of hurdles during its construction, the waterway has been a major attraction to millions of people since the first passenger ship passed through the canal in 1914. Its construction meant that ships would no longer need to take the dangerous and longer route around Cape Horn. 

Today, more than 13,000 ships pass through the Panama Canal on a yearly basis, the vast majority being cargo ships. But, many cruise ships make the passage each year, making it a popular cruise for thousands of cruise ship guests. 

Cruises start from either the Pacific Ocean, close to Panama City, or from the Atlantic side, in the Caribbean Sea. As the ship makes its way through the narrow waterway, guests can see up close how ships are pulled through the various locks. 

Cruises are often combined with visits to Panama City and Colon, home to the largest duty-free shopping area in the world. 

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