Book Review – Your Day in the Panama Canal

16 Nov

Over the weekend, I had some time to read through Richard Detrich’s new book, Your Day in the Panama Canal. Here is a book review.

The book is organized in two major sections. Chapters 1 – 6 are a mile-by-mile guided tour though the canal. These chapters can be read ahead of time. But, you will want to bring the book with you on the cruise to read as your ship passes through the areas described in each chapter. To give you an idea of what is included, here are the chapter 1 – 6 titles for the Southbound edition: The Approach, Atlantic Locks, Gatun Lake, Gamboa & Gaillard Cut, Pacific Locks, and Balboa & Amador.

The remainder of the book provides planning, historical, and current events information. Chapter 7 – Cruising Panama and Chapter 12 – Questions & Answers, provide all of information on what kinds of cruises are available, what shore excursions to take, and nuts & bolts kinds of information like “Is the water safe to drink”. These two chapters answer most of the questions that someone would have when planning a cruise.

Chapter 8 – Panama 101 is an introduction to Panama. Chapter 9 – The Big Ditch is a short history of the building of the Canal. Chapter 10 – A Complicated Marriage of Sorts describes the relationship between Panama and the U.S. from a Panamanian perspective. Chapter 12 – Moving Forward deals with the Panamanian operation and improvements to the Canal including the 3rd locks expansion project.

There are two separate editions of this book, a Northbound and a Southbound edition. I have the Southbound version for my Westbound cruise. Cruise lines market Panama Canal cruises as Westbound (typically Florida to California) or Eastbound (California to Florida). If you are on an Eastbound cruise, you need to buy the Northbound book. Confusing? I won’t even try to explain it here.

The only improvement I would like to see in this book would be the addition of basic orientation maps at the beginning of each of the first six chapters. (Like those in Joe Upton’s Alaska Cruise Companion and Alaska Cruise Handbook.) Consequently, readers will also want to have a good Panama Canal map available when reading this book, such as the National Geographic Panama AdventureMap.

Overall, I think this is the best Panama Canal book for cruise ship passengers. I recommend it to anyone planning a Panama Canal Cruise.

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