Saturday our ship docked in the port of Colon, Panama on the Atlantic side of the country. We took a bus to Panama City for a walking tour of the old town. The Panama Canal is a real asset to the country turning it into a major banking and commerce center which has attracted many companies.Panama City has an impressive skyline with many modern skyscrapers. According to Wikipedia, the city presently boasts 127 high rise buildings with 110 more in the planning stage. It places 45th in the world by high rise count.
Our walking tour was in Casco Viejo, or the old quarter of the city. There were many beautifully restored buildings interspersed with many buildings in ruins. The ruins are occupied by squatters who resist leaving the their free accommodations. The city then has to go through a drawn out procedure to relocate these squatters so the buildings can be restored.This is one of the decaying buildings. The first floor is abandoned and a squatter is living on the top floor. It is easy to spot the buildings presently being refurbished. They have sheet metal projecting at an upward angle from the side of the building (as seen above) to protect the street below from any falling debris.Some ruins are attractive such as this old church adjacent to its smaller replacement.There were also many attractive buildings in the old quarter.
Transiting the Panama Canal is always a cruise highlight. Panama recently increased the capacity of the canal by constructing a new set of locks capable of handling large vessels parallel to the older set of locks. The capacity of a container ship is measured in TEU’s or twenty-foot equivalent units. This refers to the capacity of a standard container that is 20 feet long. A forty foot long container of the same width and height would be 2 TEU’s. A large container ship today has a capacity of 15,000 TEU’s or more and would pay a toll of over one million dollars to pass through the canal. Our gift of the canal to Panama has been very profitable for them!This is a new bridge under construction on the Atlantic side of the canal. The large support columns and associated roadway are finished with large gaps to be completed on either sideOur ship went through the old canal. This picture gives you an idea of how narrow the clearance was, and the Sun is relatively small at 930 passengers. I saw no indication of any ships in the new locks. I believe they only use the new locks for the mega ships since they use a lot more water. Since I wrote about the canal only a few years ago, I won’t repeat that here.
It is Christmas Day and we are headed for the Pacific side of Costa Rica tomorrow. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to everyone.