Cristobal, Panama has a worldwide mystique.

Cristobal, Panama has a worldwide mystique.

Many of my fellow passengers, heeding the call to visit the Panama Canal’s Gatun Locks climbed off MSC Poesia early this morning to get up close and personal with the Canal. I personally spoke to at least a dozen guests who purposely booked this MSC Poesia cruise in order to see the Canal.

Cristobal and Colon were named for Christopher Columbus. Cristobal was created in 1914 as a port of entry for supplies used in building the Panama Canal. Until 1979 – when the Canal was handed over to the Panamanians – it was under the jurisdiction of the U.S. and remains a major port in the Caribbean.

A full transit is not offered, but Gatun, one of the most impressive of the locks, provides a look at the process. As a four-time visitor to the Canal, I think it’s one of the most impressive shore excursions offered anywhere.

I chose to walk to a nearby shopping area. I saw some beautiful, colorful molas – the appliqué art form unique to Panama’s Cuna Indians – priced at least  three times what I paid for them some years ago. Security is tight and the portside shopping area seemed to be doing a brisk business.

We were late leaving Panama. One of the tours got caught in traffic, but last night at dinner the ship was abuzz with happy tourists who had seen something they’d heard of all their lives. Whether from Australia or Germany, Poland or the United Kingdom, the Panama Canal was the place to be on Saturday – and it lived up to expectations!

Other tourists saw the monkeys at Gamboa and yet others enjoyed city tours of Panama City.

Tonight we are off to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, a distance of 188 nautical miles.

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