Panama Canal Delay Not Bad For Everybody

In the midst of a long drive this week, the subject of cruises came up, as it does every…oh, few hours. Specifically, we were thinking about the Panama Canal, because we've only done it once and that was four years ago, which means it's time to see it again.

What we discovered is that prices seem to be generally high and availability generally low for Panama Canal cruises, two things that generally go hand-in-hand.

For example, if you want to go east-west from Florida, the Island Princess is leaving Fort Lauderdale for Los Angeles at the start of the month with the price of an inside stateroom $1,599 (15 days) and an ocean view stateroom for $1,899. Balconies and and suites? Sold out.

If you want to go west-east from San Diego, Royal Caribbean can take you to Fort Lauderdale on the Legend of the Seas on a 15-day journey but you can't get an Canalinside, ocean view or suite because none is available. Only balconies are, at $3,819.

And if you want to make a month of it and cross the ocean at the same time, Cunard has a cruise from San Francisco to Southampton…or had a cruise. At $4,690 for an inside stateroom, the Queen Victoria is completely sold out.

Guess why Panama Canal cruises are more popular than ever?

Because this is the year the Canal was supposed to celebrate its 100th anniversary — next month — by opening the new locks. For one reason or another, or perhaps for many reasons, the renovation to accompany the celebration is delayed. Expansion of the Canal, to accommodate larger ships, is behind schedule.

People who wanted to see the "new" Panama Canal would have booked cruises many months ago. They committed, thinking they would be traversing the bigger, better link between the Atlantic and Pacific.

They're out of luck.

So people will be booking to do the same thing next year, assuming the construction will be completed by then. The prices, presumably, will stay high.

All of which means cruise lines with ships going through the Canal will be getting a chance for two years in a row to charge premium fares if you want to be among the first to see this engineering marvel's new look.

Today at portsandbows.com: Breaking cruise records in Avignon, France

Celebrity Century
7 nights
April 26, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Santa BarbaraSan FranciscoMontereyCatalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78
www.celebritycruises.com

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