Panama Canal Raises Rates Due to Drought Situation 

 Coral Princess

The Panama Canal has added new fees and changed its reservation system to counter historic drought levels.

“Due to changing rainfall patterns and historic low water levels at Gatun Lake, the main source of water for the waterway, the Panama Canal today that it will implement a series of new measures beginning February 15 to sustain an operational level of water and provide reliability to customers while it implements a long-term solution to water,” said a statement from the Panama Canal Authority.

This past year’s rainfall was 20 per cent below the historic average and the fifth driest year in 70 years. It follows several years of lower than average rainfall coupled by a 10 per cent increase in water evaporation levels due to a 0.5-1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature.

Without fee and operational changes, the Canal’s water levels are projected to drop to levels that would affect the Neopanamax and Panamax Locks. These new measures are intended to better provide reliability in water levels and therefore transit schedules.

A new freshwater fee will be applied to all vessels over 125 feet in length overall (LOA) that transit through the Panama Canal, and will include the following components: A fixed fee of $10,000 per transit and a variable fee ranging from a minimum of 1 per cent to a maximum of 10 per cent of the vessel’s toll will be applied depending on Gatun Lake levels at the time of transit (i.e. if the lake has a higher level, the percentage will be lower and vice versa).

The Panama Canal will adjust the number of daily reservation slots available to 27, replicating the total offered during lane outages.

The waterway will also require that each vessel pays its booking fee in full no later than 48 hours depending on the booking period.

A handling service fee will be applied to all visits for transit at the time they are created in the system. The processing fee will be applied as follows: For vessels 91 feet in beam and over: $5,000. For vessels over 125 feet LOA, but less than 91 feet in beam: $1,500.

The fee will be deducted from the vessel’s tolls invoice once the vessel begins transit. If the vessel cancels the visit and does not transit, the Vessel Visit Creation Fee will not be refunded. All visits created prior to February 15, 2020 will be honoured and will not be required to pay this fee.

“The decision to adopt such measures was taken following an evaluation of the impact of innovative techniques already instituted to save water used in the Canal’s operations. For example, the Panama Canal has been implementing cross-filling lockages, a technique that sends water between the two lanes at the Panamax Locks during transits and saves an amount of water equivalent to that used in six lockages each day,” the Panama Canal Authority said.

Carnival Miracle Kicks Off Year-Round Schedule From Tampa

Carnival Miracle docked in Grand Turk, Turks and CaicosPHOTO: Carnival Miracle docked in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. (photo via Wikimedia Commons/HurricaneX31)
Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle kicked off a year-round program of seven-day cruises from Tampa this weekend. The move doubles the line’s capacity at the port and further bolsters its position as the leader in Caribbean cruising.

Carnival Miracle will offer the only year-round, longer-length cruise program from Port Tampa Bay, offering an unbeatable mix of destinations that appeal to a broad range of consumers, including families seeking an attractive and affordable vacation option.

Carnival Miracle joins Carnival Paradise which operates year-round four- to eight-day voyages from Tampa to the Caribbean and Cuba. Together, Carnival Miracle and Carnival Paradise will carry an estimated 280,000 passengers annually from Tampa – the most of any cruise operator.

“Carnival Cruise Line has been sailing from Tampa for nearly 25 years and we’re thrilled to add a second year-round ship to provide our guests with an even greater variety of fantastic cruise vacation choices from this convenient homeport,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “We would like to recognize our partners at Port Tampa Bay and the Tampa community, as well as our valued travel agent partners, for their efforts in making Tampa one of our most popular and successful embarkation ports,” she added.

“We’re delighted that Carnival Cruise Line will have two year-round cruise ships dedicated to the Tampa market,” said Paul Anderson, President/CEO Port Tampa Bay. “It speaks to the record-breaking demand of passengers in the Tampa Bay area wanting to get on a Carnival cruise.”

Seven-Day Sailings from Tampa

On its week-long Tampa-based cruise program, Carnival Miracle departs Port Tampa Bay Saturdays or Sundays calling at four popular western Caribbean ports: Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Mahogany Bay (Roatan) and Belize, each known for their world-class beaches, varied shore excursion opportunities, centuries-old historical sites and excellent dining and shopping experiences.

These voyages from Tampa are part of Carnival’s exclusive Cozumel Plus program, which features extended stays that provide guests even more opportunities to experience and explore one of the Caribbean’s most diverse vacation destinations with a variety of exciting and unforgettable excursion choices, many taking place on Mexico’s mainland.

New Six- to 14-Day Cruises to the Caribbean, Panama Canal

Carnival recently added several six- to 14-day sailings aboard Carnival Miracle visiting spectacular ports throughout the Caribbean as well as an unforgettable opportunity to experience a partial transit of the Panama Canal. During the transit, guests will experience one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and sail on Gatun Lake, one of the largest man-made bodies of water in the world.

The new six-day voyages feature day-long stops at Cozumel, Belize, and Costa Maya or Mahogany Bay. Departure dates include Sept. 2 and Nov. 11, 2018, and Jan. 27 and March 31, 2019.

Eight-day Panama Canal cruises depart April 14 and Sept. 8, 2018, and Feb. 2 and April 6, 2019, and include a partial transit of the Panama Canal along with stops at Limon (Costa Rica) and Grand Cayman. There’s also an eight-day, five-port Caribbean cruise that departs Nov. 17, 2019, visiting Cozumel, Costa Maya, Mahogany Bay, Belize and Grand Cayman.

Miracle will also offer a 14-day Carnival Journeys Panama Canal cruise round-trip from Tampa Dec. 2-16, 2018, featuring Cozumel and Limon prior to a partial Panama Canal transit followed by visits to Cartagena (Colombia), Aruba, Curacao and Montego Bay (Jamaica). Guests sailing on Journeys cruises enjoy unique local dining and entertainment experiences and a number of shipboard-enrichment activities.

Signature Carnival Innovations

Guests sailing aboard Carnival Miracle can enjoy a wide range of onboard choices, the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub, the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, Nick and Nora’s steakhouse located atop the ship’s 10-deck-high atrium, a luxurious 14,500-square-foot spa, and a Serenity adults-only retreat. Of the ship’s 1,062 staterooms, 80 percent offer either an ocean view or private balcony.

Family-friendly options include Seuss at Sea, an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Hasbro, The Game Show, with larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic games and complimentary programming for children in three age groups – Camp Ocean (ages 2-11), Circle “C” (12-14) and Club O2 (15-17).

Just one cruise ship scheduled to use new Panama Canal locks

Caribbean Princess

The new, wider locks on the Panama Canal will open June 26 with the first official transit of a cargo ship, but don’t expect much traffic through them from cruise ships.

Only one cruise ship has reserved space to move through the new locks, which are open to one cruise ship a day starting in June 2017, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess is scheduled to make a series of thirteen 10-day cruises through the canal beginning Oct. 21, 2017.

At 118 feet wide, the 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess can’t fit into the 110-foot locks that were opened in 1914. The new locks had been scheduled to open in time for the centennial but were delayed by disputes between Panama and the consortia of contractors that built them.

The new locks rely on tugs rather than electric locomotives to move ships through them. Doubts have been raised about the ability to fit the tugs in the locks along with the longest ships, but at 951 feet, the Caribbean Princess will have room to spare in the 1,400 foot locks.

For cargo ships, questions have also been raised about the record-low depths of water in Gatun Lake, which connects locks on the Atlantic and Pacific side of the canal. Depths hit 81.75 feet earlier this year. But large cruise ships typically need only about 30 feet to operate.

Most cruise ships transiting the Panama Canal will continue to use the old locks. Cruise lines have several ships operating in Alaska that would need the new locks to move to the Atlantic, such as Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice. But for now they are stationed year-round in the Pacific, moving to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East during the winter.

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Line said Carnival doesn’t have any full transit Panama Canal cruises scheduled through April 2018.

Holland America Line recently launched the Koningsdam, the first HAL ship that will not fit through the old locks, but it is currently deployed in Europe during the summer and the Caribbean during the winter.