Of course we went to the canal to watch ships go through the locks. It is a very popular tourist destination and was moderately crowded with people taking pictures and watching. There is a museum which is excellent that explains the entire process from its inception to the controversial expansion that opened in 2016 for the bigger boats.
The canal is big money from the standpoint of the income going through it each day as well as the tourism and banking associated with it. The cost of going through the canal is typically $400,000 to $600,000 or more for the newer, larger ships. The money has to have been received and cleared the bank before the vessel is allowed to get in line to go through the locks. It takes 8-10 hours for the entire not quite 50 mile long trip. You might check out this website that has information which is probably fairly accurate even today.
Fun fact, the lowest tolls to date were paid by Richard Halliburton, who swam the Panama Canal in 1928. Halliburton paid only 36 cents.
Here are three animations that Google created from our pictures:
- Men working on a ship as it goes through the canal
- Ships going through the canal. The cruise ship in the background is using the new larger canal. Note the vehicles on tracks that guide the ship through the canal; up to 8 vehicles are used per ship
- Dan guiding a ship though the canal. The museum was well done and had this simulation
The dirt that was removed to make the canal was used to fill and expand the shoreline. There is a long, safe, paved area along the shore for walking, riding, and even sports. Of course there are restaurants as well.
Panama City iis a modern, vibrant city and is relatively safe. We had no issues while we were there. We heard mixed things about the water so we were careful not to drink tap water (we have a device to treat tapwater which we used when possible, otherwise we got bottled water).