We're heading on a cruise through the Panama Canal in September. This is a vacation that has been in the works for a long time because it's also a celebration: for our 10-year wedding anniversary and Mrs. In The Loop's 40th birthday.
We've worked out many of the details of our 17-day sailing on Celebrity Infinity, and we are super pumped to have friends and family join us. We'll have at least 10 in our group, including friends we made on a previous cruise in 2011.
One of the key items we'll need to tackle before making the trip is what to pack. We'll be cruising from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale during our two-plus week voyage, and when in the canal region, we'll be in some unique conditions that require a bit of extra thought.
So, I have compiled a packing list for a Panama Canal cruise to help you (and me) prepare:
Rain gear -- It rains frequently in Panama, so you need to be prepared for when you are ashore on your excursions. We will spend a day transiting the canal, a day at port in Colon, Panama, and one day each in Cartagena, Colombia, and Punta Arenas, Costa Rica. October is rainy season, so we will pack: collapsible umbrellas, travel rain ponchos and large plastic zip-top bags to separate wet and dry clothes in case we need to change (these are also great for bathing suits).
Sunscreen and sunglasses -- The sun can be intense, and we want to be able to spend a lot of time outside enjoying the scenery as we sail through Gatun Lake and the fascinating lock system of the canal.
Wide-brimmed hat -- This protects again the sun and helps keep you cooler. I'm a baldy, so I definitely love these hats, which I even wear while swimming (mine is collapsible and water safe).
Mosquito repellent/antibiotic cream/anti-itch spray -- Panama is rife with mosquitoes and other biting bugs. Use a spray/cream to keep them away. If you get bit, you'll need some relief from itching.
Wicking sport shirts -- Weather conditions get hot and humid (let's just call it sticky). Moisture wicking shirts help keep you cooler, drier and more comfortable. Ladies will want to pack a few lightweight sundresses, too.
Vented shirts/convertible pants -- Heading off for walks, hikes or other activities in the jungle in Panama or elsewhere on your Panama Cruise itinerary? You need versatile clothing for all conditions. Vented-back shirts give coverage but are cooler, and pants that become shorts with a quick roll or zip allow you to be ready for more types of the changeable weather you can encounter.
Backpack -- Always valuable for time ashore, a backpack is needed to carry all your extras, such as snacks, rain gear, sunscreen, sprays, hats, swimsuits and other essentials -- especially on hikes.
Tripod -- Transiting the Panama Canal is said to be a great opportunity for a wide range of unique pictures. You want a steady shot to capture possible pics of monkeys, birds, crocodiles and many other creatures, as well as the cargo ships and other vessels along the route. You can also use the tripod to set up a time-lapse shot as you go through a lock or two.
Binoculars -- There is so much to see!
Water safe shoes -- Footwear that is functional like Keens or waterproof hiking boots makes your outing more enjoyable if you are ashore in rugged conditions.
Games/books/magazines -- You have a batch of sea days during such a long cruise, and you might want to bring some form of entertainment to help pass the time in a fun or relaxing way. We like to pack playing cards, Phase 10, cribbage and dominoes, for examples. The ship library offers games and books, too.
This list is in addition to the items we would pack for every cruise, like bathing suits, passports, slacks, sport coat, shoes and ties (for dinners), currency (depending on what is needed in the countries we are visiting), etc.
Another must have: Get a balcony for your Panama Canal cruise!
Thanks for reading.
Always travel happy!