This month we have two friends who will transit the Panama Canal. One from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, and one from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Yesterday was our first try at finding a friend on a ship as it cruises by us…

Want to learn how long it takes to get a ship through the canal? Track a friend on a ship-finder app (I use Vessel Finder and Marine Traffic).

Our day started at 6:47 a.m. when we got a text from our friend that her ship was entering the locks on the other side of the country. The Panamanian captain had boarded the ship and was guiding it into the canal.

Our first mistake was back when we volunteered to stand by the canal and wave at our friend (not really a mistake. We had a great time. And she was pleased! What are friends for?!). At the time, we had no idea she was going to be on the biggest cruise ship to ever use the canal. The Norwegian Bliss has a capacity for 5,000 passengers, and the fact that it was coming through the canal started hitting the news a week ago.


Panamañeos are rightly proud of the new bigger locks. So there was a lot of fanfare. Live feed from the new Agua Clara Locks, news reports, etc. That also means photo opportunities, dignitaries, ceremonial handshakes and plaques.

About 11 a.m., the Norwegian Bliss was clear of the first set of locks. Dean and I had scoped out viewing spots on Sunday. We figured our best shot was after the ship went under the Centennial Bridge and just about to enter the Pedro Miguel Locks. There is a parking and viewing area there. We would still be far away, but we weren’t sure how easy it was to see ships in the upper locks from the Miraflores Visitor Center (turns out, if there isn’t another ship in the way, it’s not too bad.)

About 1 p.m. we headed over to our spot. We had our neon yellowish sign. We had a brightly colored umbrella (because you know it was raining!). We stood at the chain-linked fence and waited. Others people started showing up. Everyone trading facts about the canal, Panama, the ship. The people we chatted with were excited that we knew someone on the ship.


We held up our sign. We waved are arms. We weren’t sure at the time if she saw us (found out later she did), but we couldn’t find her.

It was fun though to see the ship, to chat with others watching it go through. We even went over to the Miraflores Visitor Center and watched it go through the expansion locks. We were pretty far away but an afternoon at the locks is always a pleasant way to spend the day.

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