Cruise ship in Panama Canal Gatun locksFor the last 100 years the Panama canal has served as a maritime shortcut. This 80 kilometer / 50 mile long waterway connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean without having to sail all the way around the southern tip of South America. The canal uses a system of locks that operates as water elevators to raise vessels 26 meters / 85 feet above sea level. Through the fresh waters of Panama ships can make their way to the other side where they will be lowered again back to sea level. Passing through all of these different stages makes any transit by cruise ship a special experience which should always be on your cruise bucket list. The original Panama Canal The current canal was officially opened on August 15th 1914. Since it’s opening more than one million ships from all over the world have sailed the canal. When the canal was build the maximum width of ships being able to go through was 33,5 meter thus officially establishing the “Panamax” for ships around the world. For over a century almost every ship in the world would not exceed the Panamax. Although the world was ready for bigger ships, the Panama canal was not. Therefore plans were made to create a new canal with a wider span: 55 meter. The new Panama Canal The new panama canal will open up in juni 2016. This $5.25 billion expansion project started in 2007.. For the last 9 years Panama has been working on a new canal where larger ships are able to go through. The new canal will be able to handle cargo ships carrying 14000 20 foot containers. This is nearly three times the size it can currently accommodate. With the opening of the new canal the new Panamax is being established changing the future of the cruise and maritime industry. The old and new canal will both be operational after the opening of the new canal. Cruise ships larger than the original Panamax obviously pass through the new canal whereas other cruiseship from now on have to confirm a preference with reservation on wether they want to pass through the old of new canal. The new locks have been build parallel to the old locks. The rest of the route remains the same.