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Cruising Article – 2011-05-26

Delve into the history and engineering marvels of Panama City

Panama Canal cruise destinations

Situated on the Pacific coast, Panama City is one of the crown jewels of Central America. This destination's blend of world-class culture, historical importance and natural beauty make it a must-see stop for those going on a Panama Canal cruise.

The cultural heart of Panama City is Panama Viejo, or the old town. This historic settlement is one of the oldest of its kind in all of Central America. Here, you can explore a wide array of museums, archaeological ruins, colonial churches and soaring monuments to the country's people.

Several area attractions will teach you about Panama's pre-Columbian history as well. At the Embera Indian Village, you can explore ancient rituals and native culture as you meet members of the region's indigenous tribes. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Anthropology holds a range of artifacts that shed light on how native peoples lived before the arrival of colonists.

The most popular attraction in Panama City is the Panama Canal, and you won't want to miss a trip to the Miraflores Locks. These monstrous marvels of engineering mark the Pacific gateway to the canal, and they raise ships by pumping in more than 26 million gallons over the course of seven minutes. You can even take a ride through the locks, experiencing the wonder of the structure as your ship is floated more than 50 feet above sea level. Meanwhile, the Panama Canal Railway gives you a chance to traverse the historic route traveled by the workers who created the canal itself.

On a shore excursion to Panama City, you can also experience the glory of its natural landscape. Take an aerial tram to Soberania National Park, where you can see the amazing biodiversity of the Gamboa Rainforest. Alternatively, check out the exotic wildlife that lives along the banks of Gatun Lake.