The country of Panama is home to more than 3.3 million people, as well as one of the world's most important waterways. Shaped like a sideways letter "S," Panama is a land bridge that connects the continents of North and South America. The Panama Canal, completed in 1914, was carved out of the land to allow passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by large seafaring vessels.

Today, because of the canal, vacationers can enjoy trips between Florida and California that last two weeks, instead of months. These one-way itineraries typically leave from Fort Lauderdale or Miami in Florida, traverse the canal and end in Los Angeles or San Diego on the West Coast. Itineraries that sail the reverse (from California to Florida) are also possible. Along the way ships call at ports in the Caribbean and along Mexico's western coast, like Aruba, Belize City, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. Stops near the canal in Panama include Colon, Panama City or the San Blas Islands.

Partial transits of the canal are another possible option for travelers interested in seeing the historic waterway. These round-trip itineraries last roughly 10 days and frequently set sail from Fort Lauderdale. Ships call at multiple ports around the Caribbean, like Jamaica, Costa Rica and the Bahamas. Partial transit cruises enter the Panama Canal but do not make a complete passage through it. Instead, ships will often enter the first set of locks of the canal and turn around in Gatun Lake before exiting the way they entered.

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