Is there good time or bad time to go thru Panama Canal? Is it a good idea to take excusion while going thru canal? From options offered, it seems that they pick passengers up at one port and bring them back to next. Looks to me that you would miss the experience of going thru the locl chambers? Any input will be helpful. I am told that going completely thru the canal is the way to go, go from east coast to west coast?
If you stop on one end or another, before or after cruising the canal (ie Colon or Panama City) then doing an excursion is a very good idea. In my humble opinion, missing even one minute of the canal crossing experience, from beginning to end is a mistake.
All three sets of locks are a bit different and to miss one , would be a mistake. Cruising the canal and Gatun Lake are facinating and beautiful experiences. I wouldn't miss a
moment of it . Why go if you are not going to see it?? Would you go to Niagara Falls and not go see the falls?
My family did the Panam Canal New Years day, we sailed from Ft. Lauderdale. The ships start to line up very early in the morning and you go through the 3 locks into Gantun Lake then the ship anchors and sits there until afternoon and then goes back through the same 3 locks into the ocean and proceeds to port to dock (we docked in Colon. One of the best tours was the Emberia Indian Tribe Village it was magnificent. You can only get off the ship if you have a cruise ship tour booked once you go through the locks and the ship is anchored in Gantun Lake. Otherwise you stay on the ship until it goes back through the locks and docks then you can get off but I think its to late for a tour then.
On our RT from Ft lauderdale it was smart to get off for a tour...others who stayed on board did npt cruise Gatun lake due to heavy canal traffic. They just turned around & got in line to go thru same Gatun lock again...we got to see much of Panama--went to the Aerial TRam & returned via another route to the Colon pier for shopping & snacks!