For any true seafaring explorer, the Panama Canal is a must-see destination. Dubbed “one of the seven wonders of the modern world” by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this 48-mile waterway divides two continents and connects two mighty oceans. On a Holland America Line Panama Canal cruise, you can experience first-hand this amazing feat of engineering.
Whether you’re sipping Champagne on your private verandah as you cruise the Panama Canal, savoring the diverse tropical scenery from the Panorama deck, or horseback riding on Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas Beach, a Holland America Line Panama Canal cruise is the most delightful and relaxing way to experience this diverse and beautiful region.
- Onboard accommodations
- All meals onboard ship
- Entertainment onboard ship
Embarkation – San Diego, CA
Board the lovely ms Maasdam and get settled in for your departure from San Diego.
Beautiful, brilliant San Diego has the sun, the beaches, and the climate to die for. But don’t let that fool you – the city is a power. It’s the sixth-largest city in the U.S. and a center for military industry, trade, and biotechnology. Of course, it’s a great place for cruise visitors. The San Diego Zoo is one of the world’s best. Balboa Park is both a natural space and a collection of wonderful museums. Old Town is a colorful gaggle of shops and restaurants. Oh, and the beaches: Coronado, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, La Jolla. The forecast is for a high of about 75 degrees, every day.
Enjoy your first full day at sea, and take time to explore your new home for the next two weeks. At the Culinary Arts Center, you can explore Caribbean classics, such as conch croquettes, in a cooking class. Dine on the freshest seafood and tropical fruits. Enrich your adventures with talks by local experts. Learn pro tips for editing your travel photos and videos at a Digital Workshop powered by Windows. Plus you can rejuvenate with a luxurious hot stone massage. After a memorable day of exploring your ship and meeting other guests, you can unwind in the elegant comfort of your stateroom, or choose from a wide selection of entertainment options this evening.
There’s so much to see and do onboard. Hone your video-editing skills, rejuvenate at our Greenhouse Spa, attend an engaging lecture, take a cooking class from a master chef, go to a wine tasting or simply relax and unwind.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Arrive in Puerto Vallarta early this morning. Puerto Vallarta is squeezed into the thin space between Banderas Bay and the verdant folds of the Sierra Madre. It’s no longer the well-kept secret of the artists, writers and Hollywood stars who first “discovered” it in the 1960s, but “PV” (as it is affectionately known) still retains the essence of the fishing village it once was. Viejo Vallarta, the old town, is a mix of red-tiled buildings, cobbled streets, chic shops and busy open markets and cafes. Other highlights include Mismaloya Beach, Gringo Gulch, and Conchas Chinas, the Beverly Hills of Vallarta. Head inland for more adventure, up into the rugged canyons and luxuriant jungles of the mountains.
Huatulco, situated on Mexico’s Pacific Coast in the state of Oaxaca, has nine bays and 36 beaches, offering more than enough opportunities for fun in the sun. The most popular beach is La Entrega, with clean white sand and calm waters, perfect for snorkeling and swimming, or just relaxing. But Huatulco’s attractions aren’t limited to sand and surf; there are also archaeological sites to explore, rivers to raft, and waterfalls whose pools invite childlike splashing. Bird lovers, in particular, will find Huatulco to be especially captivating. The region is home to more than 225 bird species, including many rare ones and a number that are endemic to Mexico, like the Colima pygmy owl and the wildly colorful orange-breasted bunting and citreoline trogon. Bring your bird list, because you’re sure to add new species to your “sighted” column. And the food in Huatulco will give you plenty to write home about. The state of Oaxaca has some of the most iconic dishes in Mexico’s culinary repertoire.
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
Puerto Quetzal is Guatemala’s largest port on the Pacific Ocean side of this Central American country, important for both cargo and cruise ships. Puerto Quetzal is an ideal point of departure for exploring several corners of the country. Choose your mode of transportation—plane, bus, car or boat—and decide whether you want to take in Guatemala’s stunning, volcano-studded landscape, one or more of the country’s Maya sites, the UNESCO–recognized colonial city of Antigua (the former capital), a coffee plantation, or one of the many beguiling bodies of water. In addition to the gleaming Pacific, there’s Lake Atitlán, which 19th-century German explorer Alexander von Humboldt described as the most beautiful lake in the world. All of these attractions are accessible as day trips, and getting to them is all part of your Guatemalan adventure.
One of the region’s most politically and socially stable nations, Nicaragua has been billed as the next great spot for eco-, cultural and culinary tourism. Adventurous guests keen to experience its charms are rewarded richly for their efforts. The country’s most visited cities are Managua (the capital), Granada, and León. Corinto is the nearest port town, just northwest of León and along the route to the Panama Canal Zone. It offers many of the charms of the larger cities, including their colonial-era architecture, as well as a number of cultural and ecological attractions in surrounding areas. Given the port’s proximity to León, it’s easy for cruise passengers to take a day trip to this beautiful city established by Spanish conquistadores in 1524. While there, be sure to sample the traditional dish called vigorón, a hearty plate heaped with pork, boiled yuca and cabbage salad. Though residents of Granada claim to have invented it, vigorón is popular around the entire country and is a true taste of Nicaragua.
Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica
Puerto Caldera on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast isn’t your ordinary port of call, positioned as it is within easy day-trip distance of the country’s multiple national parks. The town itself is small, but makes for an ideal base from which travelers can venture out to explore the variety of this Central American country’s outdoor attractions and activities. These include snapping photos of gushing waterfalls (and swimming at the base of one, if you bring your swimsuit!), sightseeing near active volcanoes, bird-watching in nature reserves and sanctuaries, and horseback riding on Pacific beaches. And that’s just for starters. Visitors to Puerto Caldera and the surrounding region also enjoy shopping for handicrafts that local artists sell at their cooperatives, as well as sampling traditional Tico cuisine, especially gallo pinto—a combination of rice and beans eaten at any time of the day or night. Puerto Caldera is the perfect reminder that adventure often awaits just around the bend.
Cruising Panama Canal
Enter the Panama Canal at Balboa this morning and spend the day cruising the canal, passing through the 12 locks. During your journey from the Pacific Ocean to Gatún Lake, your cruise ship will rise through the locks of Miraflores and Pedro Miguel. Near the town of Gatún, you’ll feel her descend to the Atlantic. As you make your eight-hour transit, an onboard expert will guide you through the Canal’s tumultuous history, ingenious design, and profound effect on geopolitics and the world economy. Bring your questions, because your guide is there to enrich your experience of this engineering marvel. You will exit the Panama Canal at Cristobal.
In Cartagena, Columbia, you can explore the 16th-century Castillo San Felipe de Barajas fortress, built to protect the port once besieged by Sir Francis Drake.
Its official name is Cartagena de Indias—or “Cartagena of the Indies”—but call it Cartagena for short. The formal name hints at this Colombian city’s colonial relationship with Spain; it was founded in 1533 and named after the mother country’s Cartagena. Colombia declared independence in 1810, but there’s plenty about its fifth-largest city that evokes old Spain, including the impressive fort of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, and the wall that encloses the old town, one of the few intact structures of its kind in the Americas. Both were considered important enough to inscribe on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1984. Along with history, there’s cultural and culinary intrigue here, too. This colorful city was a muse of the late Nobel Prize–winning writer Gabriel García Márquez, and is increasingly being recognized outside Colombia for its cuisine, which takes many cues from Caribbean ingredients. (Don’t leave without trying the coconut rice.)
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
If you’ve ever dreamed of the castaway experience or having a private island of your own—and who hasn’t, at least once—Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas offers the opportunity to fulfill that fantasy. Spend a on Holland’s award-winning private island where you can swim, snorkel, kayak, or just relax and dine on delectable barbecue as a live band plays your favorite reggae tunes. Also known as Little San Salvador Island, Half Moon Cay is located about 10 miles southeast of Nassau. In 1996, Holland America Line purchased the island and decided to set aside most of it as a protected wildlife sanctuary—only two percent of the island has been developed. This is especially appreciated by photographers and bird-watching enthusiasts as they explore the preserve and its variety of species. At the island’s Straw Market, you can shop for crafts made in the Bahamas, while the waterfront bars and Tropics Restaurant are ready to serve you a meal or drink when you’ve finished surveying your private paradise.
Disembarkation – Fort Lauderdale, FL
* Fares shown are per person, cruise only, based on double occupancy, and are subject to availability. Taxes, fees, and port expenses are an additional $110 per person and are subject to change. Airfare and transfers are additional.
^ AAA Member Benefit is $150 per person (maximum $300 per suite) and applies to select voyages. Certain restrictions apply. Ship’s Registry: Bahamas.