Holland America ms Zuiderdam: Panama Canal Experience

Entering the first lock of the Panama Canal.

This morning was another early morning because we the Panama Canal pilots boarded the ship at 5:30a as we were entering the breakwater of the canal. Since the day started so early we ordered room service. There was a sign on the door before we went to bed last night saying that if we plan on ordering room service we may want to order it at least 15-30 minutes earlier because of high volume  (I take it we weren’t the only ones who had that idea). The breakfast actually came right on-time.

The opened up Deck four on the bow of the ship so everyone could stand there and watch us going through the locks. Notice I said everyone. The whole ship was there and I wasn’t about to stand in the middle of all that. I remembered last night when I was in the gym there was a catwalk on the outside and a door on the side of the gym, so I eased up that way. Low and behold when I got up there only 20 people were standing there, if that. I was in heaven. I set my little tripod up in the center of the ship and started recording as the ship went through the locks. We had to go through three locks and the process of going through each lock took 25-minutes each. The canal has two lanes that raise the ships 85’ above sea level. It was neat to watch us go into the set of locks, get raised up, and enter the other set of locks. We made our way through all three locks by 9am and the ship dropped anchor in Lake Gatun for the excursion people to disembark.

If you didn’t have an excursion you had to stay on the ship and go back out of the locks and dock at Colon, Panama. We opted for the tour of operations of the locks and kayaking in Lake Gatun. We were able to get off of the ship around 9:30 and take the tender boat to an old yacht club that acted as a landing pad for the tenders. From the landing pad we boarded a motor coach and went up to Lake Gatun, where we were able to basically stand on top of the locks and look down. From down the way we got to see the Coral Princess come through the locks, it was cool to see the ships come through from being on land instead of being on the ship. Two for the price of one Id say! When going through the locks vessels use their own propulsion and are assisted by locomotives called mules.

Entrance to operations of Panama Canal locks.

Kayaking was cool, in fact 32 of us in total were kayaking. If you’re going to kayak Lake Gutan, you will get wet. There’s no doubt about it. In fact, just to be safe, before we left I went and got a baggie from our cabin steward to put my camera in and thank god I did. With the wind blowing on the lake and waves coming over the front of the kayak, it would have been disastrous. The kayak excursion lasted for an hour and then we went back to the resort to change before being bused back to Colon, Panama (just outside the Panama Canal on the Caribbean side).

Colon was okay. There really wasn’t much there, it actually reminded me a lot of Freeport, Bahamas. There was a lot of shopping, some places to eat with free wifi, and a lady holding a monkey where for two dollars you could take a picture with it. That’s about all. We beat the ship back to the pier. We arrived at the pier about 2:30 and the ship didn’t get there until 4:30, so the people who didn’t do an excursion only had two hours before all-aboard.

We did the main dining room for dinner and sat with a couple from England. After dinner I went and checked out the Crow’s Nest where a live acoustic guitar player was rocking out. He sang a lot of classic country songs (right up my alley), along with some oldies. He was excellent on the guitar. 

Before bed I went up for a late night snack AKA to “carb up” before the big white water rafting adventure tomorrow. Lots of pasta! We have to meet in the Vista Theater at 8:20 in the morning to board our bus to go white water rafting. This is my first time so I can’t wait!

Panama Canal experience on ms Zuiderdam rocked!!

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