This summer, the incredible Panama Canal will celebrate 100 years of history, having opened to shipping traffic for the first time on August 15th 1914. The local tourist authorities cannot be said to be milking the milestone, though, having been commemorating it for only the past year with a variety of events. They’re even planning a bit of a bash on the night as well – if you’re lucky enough to be in the country, it’s sure to be a smashing – if low-key – event.

Sarcasm aside, the Panama Canal genuinely has a lot to be proud of. Considered the epicentre for world trade, it still sees a phenomenal amount of traffic. Roberto Roy, president of the Panama Canal Authority’s (ACP) board of directors, is among those celebrating its uniqueness.

“The Panama Canal has been connecting the world since Aug. 15, 1914,” he told Inside Costa Rica. “The fact that 14,000 vessels make use of the waterway every year in order to serve 1,700 ports in 160 countries is sufficient proof of this statement.”

But what exactly is so special about this spectacular waterway? And why should you make it the focus of your cruise holiday?

Trade history

The Panama Canal is an 80-kilometre stretch of water that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Initially opened for trade purposes, it has since become something of a cruise favourite thanks to the hive of activity that can be seen on an everyday basis. The waterway proved to be a catalyst for world trade, reducing distances, costs and shipping times for the movement of merchandise between production and consumption centers.

Initial construction of the canal proved tricky. Started by the French who later abandoned the project thanks to various difficulties, it was eventually completed by the US after 23 years of work and a ten-year hiatus. But the history doesn’t stop there, and the waterway has seen its fair share of controversy since, including a territorial issue in the 1960s that threatened to close it.

On a cruise

As well as experiencing all this history as close to first hand as it is possible to get, there are a number of other advantages to cruising the Panama Canal. Spectacular places to experience along the way include Panama City and the various locks ships have to traverse in order to pass, at which stringent checks are in place. Then there are the various sights and sounds of Panama to experience – Pacific and Atlantic beaches, volcanoes and jungles are just some of the many landmarks to be visited.

It is important to bear in mind that there are size restrictions in place on the waterway, which means that many Obviously for the mega yacht Variety Voyager, this is certainly not a problem, but more importantly, as a smaller vessel it can access some of the smaller bays and coves beyond the reach of the big ships, allowing guests to experience some of the national parks and tropical natural wonders of the region up close.

What the future holds

Travelling the Panama Canal also represents a great opportunity to find out what the future holds for this iconic waterway. Current projects are on track that will allow the trade route to accept trade vessels twice the size as the ones that currently float along it by next year, so a visit in 2014 could be your last chance to witness the Panama Canal in its current state.

If all this has got you itching to experience a cruise on this incredible stretch of water, consider checking out our Costa Rica and Panama Canal cruise. You will not be disappointed by the sights, history and culture that is on offer here.