Panama Cruise Terminal Cruise Ship Season Kicks Off

The cruise season is about to start in Panama City - which cruise lines are visiting and how busy will the season be?

Commencing September 1, Panama Cruise Terminal will begin its 2023-2024 cruise season, marking the terminal’s third consecutive year in business. The upcoming season promises to be a busy – and profitable — one for the terminal and Panama, with plenty of opportunities for eager cruise travelers.

Panama Cruise Terminal’s Third Season

Panama Cruise Terminal’s third season in operation, beginning September 1, 2023, has the potential to be a significant financial boon for the local economy.

This year, and into 2024, the Panama Cruise Terminal, which opened on May 20, 2019, will set the stage for its third consecutive season in operation for passenger ships, facilitating both transit and port base operations.

Port base operations refer to activities and services related to cruise ships that are based or anchored to a specific port for a set period, such as day visits or homeporting, but without passing through the famed canal. 

During the 2023-2024 season, Panama Cruise Terminal will see various cruise lines visiting its facility. The terminal, also known as Fuerte Amador, is situated near the southern entrance of the Panama Canal, next to Panama City, on the Pacific side of the canal.

It is important to note that on occasion, cruise lines or specific ships do alter or cancel their Panama Canal crossings, especially dependent on local water levels, cargo operations, or port schedule changes.

Panama Cruise Terminal
Panama Cruise Terminal (Photo Credit: Panama Maritime Authority)

Currently, 49 calls are booked for the upcoming season. There are 31 reservations for transit and 18 for base port activities. Approximately 69,600 passengers will participate in transit operations, while nearly 13,000 passengers are expected to engage in base port events, which should increase twofold during embarkation and disembarkation.

While this may seem like a great season, it must be noted that during the 2022-2023 season, more that 200 transits were planned. Numbers have been drastically reduced in recent months due to lower water levels in the canal and prioritizing cargo, rather than tourist, traffic.

Read Also: Entire Panama Canal Season Cancelled for Royal Caribbean Ship

An Economic Boom

For many travelers, the Panama Canal is a bucket list destination they are excited about visiting during a once-in-a-lifetime cruise. These are just two of the reasons why cruise ships — and their many guests — are big businesses in Panama, especially in the tourist and transport sectors.

Passengers in transit are expected to spend at least $100 on dining experiences, local excursions, and shopping for gifts and souvenirs.

Panama Cruise Terminal
Panama Cruise Terminal (Photo Credit: Panama Maritime Authority)

In contrast, the estimated outlay for base port operations increases significantly, up to $350 per head, due to the fact that travelers spend money on local hotels, dining, and other activities before or after their cruises. In total, this can contribute an estimated $11.5 million to the local economy. 

Cruise lines scheduled to stop by Fuerte Amador during the 2023-2024 season include Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Princess Cruises, Swan Hellenic, Viking Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, and many more.

Cruise ship traffic, base port activities, and guest spending create substantial revenue and employment opportunities in this part of Panama, which is why Panama Cruise Terminal’s third season running is such a vital part of the economy.

Panama Canal Itineraries

Many voyagers have dreamt of visiting the Panama Canal and sailing through the engineering marvel for many years.

Apart from ship-related port activities, such as embarkation and disembarkation, refueling, restocking of supplies, general maintenance, crew changes, and more, cruise ship guests have the opportunity to head out for some local fun while spending time in Panama.

Coral Princess, Panama Canal
Coral Princess, Panama Canal (Photo Credit: ackats / Shutterstock)

Nearby excursions on offer include exploring historic Panama City, with guided tours to sites like Casco Viejo, the historic quarter, where travelers can enjoy colonial architecture, museums, and homegrown cuisine.

People can also opt for an eco-tour of the Panama Canal to check out the canal’s impressive engineering, as well as tour Gatun Lake while learning more about the local wildlife and the canal’s environmental effects on the region.

Guided hikes through Panama’s lush rainforests are available too, complete with local flora, fauna, waterfalls, and time spent with indigenous communities. Cruise ship guests can also learn more about the Emberá culture by visiting one of their villages.

The Panama Cruise Terminal offers cruise ship passengers the chance to relax by the Pacific Ocean and enjoy beach and water activities, as well as indulge in tasty seafood, explore the region’s rich culture, plus so much more throughout the season.


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