Cruise ship sets canal record

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE -

Mon­day was a day for the record books at the Panama Canal as one of world’s big­gest cruise ships, Nor­we­gian Bliss, passed through the wa­ter­way for the first time.

Un­veiled by Nor­we­gian Cruise Line in April, the 168,028-ton ves­sel is the ninth-largest cruise ship ever built and by far the big­gest to at­tempt a tran­sit of the canal. Twenty decks high and 1,082-feet long, Bliss is in the midst of an in­au­gu­ral jour­ney from the Ger­man ship­yard where it was built to Seat­tle, where it will be based for the sum­mer.

The tran­sit comes nearly two years af­ter the com­ple­tion of a mas­sive ex­pan­sion at the Panama Canal that has opened it up to the world’s big­gest cruise ships. Two new sets of locks were added — one each on the At­lantic and Pa­cific sides — that al­low for big­ger ships. The ex­pan­sion also brought new chan­nels that serve the new locks as well as an ex­pan­sion of chan­nels to the canal’s orig­i­nal locks, which re­main in oper­a­tion.

Though the old locks at the canal are large enough for many of the world’s cruise ships, they can’t han­dle a rapidly grow­ing num­ber of megaves­sels. Un­til now, when mov­ing be­tween the At­lantic and Pa­cific, these big­ger ships have had to travel around the tip of South Amer­ica, adding 8,000 miles and many days to their jour­ney.

Bliss is one of 20 cruise ships tran­sit­ing the canal this sea­son that are too big for the old locks, ac­cord­ing to the Panama Canal Au­thor­ity. The cruise ship tran­sit sea­son tra­di­tion­ally lasts from Septem­ber through May as ves­sels re­po­si­tion from the Caribbean to the West Coast and back.


Nor­we­gian Bliss is the largest cruise ship to tran­sit the Panama Canal.

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