We were having lunch with our friend and colleague Phil Reimer, author of Ports and Bows, yesterday. Somewhere between the breakfast burrito (yes, some people do have breakfast burritos for lunch but she doesn’t want to advertise it) and the Caesar salad, the subject of the Panama Canal came up (better the Canal than the burrito).
Not so much the Canal, but cruise ships sailing through it after the expansion (enlargement) is complete in 2014, exactly 100 years after the completion of the original Canal. Both we and Phil have a special interest in cruising the Canal — for us it was one of our most historic, unforgettable and enjoyable cruises we’ve ever had.
Ironically, our one trip through the Panama Canal was only a couple of days before his one trip. We were on the Celebrity’s Millennium, Phil on Holland America’s Zuiderdam. Both ships were “small” enough to fit…unlike many of today’s cruising monsters…or even mini-monsters.
In yesterday’s blog, we told you about the Carnival Splendor and how it will be sent from California to its new home in New York — via Antarctica. Built in 2008, the Splendor is too large to fit through the Panama Canal, a journey that’s 8,000 miles longer because the Splendor is a “Post Panamax” ship.
So the questions we were mulling over yesterday were about which New Panamax cruise ships would use the Canal in 2014, and which one would be first. The biggest is, of course, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and there is some question whether the Allure (and the Oasis) could use the Canal even though they match New Panamax dimensions…because they may be too tall to fit under the Bridge of the Americas, even at low tide.
So far, none of the cruise lines is saying anything about pushing big ships through the new Canal, even though announcing their 2014 schedules is a year away.