See Panama Canal without long cruise

Q&A

April 15, 2007|By Mercury News

I'm interested in seeing the Panama Canal, but don't want to do a lengthy cruise. Are there any cruise lines that offer a segment of a cruise through the canal?

Many cruise ships sail through the Panama Canal on repositioning cruises. They're typically headed from their Caribbean itineraries to Alaska, or vice versa. Some lines also offer 10-day Panama Canal sailings that start, for example, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and end up in Acapulco, Mexico, then return. You might find a cruise line that would allow you to pick up a portion of such a cruise, but it would have to have available cabin space and would have to determine pricing before you left.

A better, cheaper alternative: Take a Panama Canal tour. We found several that offer trips through one or more canal locks or will take you through the length of the canal and then deliver you back to your hotel.

Check out centralamerica.com, which offers full canal transit tours one day a month for $173 or partial trips that sail through two locks before returning for $117.

On my coming flight to Athens, Greece, I will probably have to change planes in London; Frankfurt, Germany; or Paris. Will I have to pass through customs and/or immigration and security while in transit?

It depends on which city you pass through. In London, for instance, in-transit passengers must clear security but do not have to pass through customs/immigration (unless you leave the terminal).

If you're going through Frankfurt, you'll have to clear customs and show your passport, which could take 10 to 15 minutes. But there's no additional security. However, coming home from Europe, you will have a second security check but no customs inspection.

In Paris, you can expect to be stopped for customs (to check passports) and security, in both directions.

Rules regarding security constantly change, so don't be surprised if you're required to undergo additional security checks when flying internationally. If in doubt, call your airline.

San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News

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