Sail Cuba and the Panama Canal with Cruise Express

Ship going true Panama Canal

Ship going true Panama Canal

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Australians can be amongst the first to sail through the enlarged Panama Canal this October as part of a new escorted cruise tour of Central America and Cuba from Cruise Express.

A huge $7 billion expansion of Panama Canal – named as one of the seven wonders of the modern world – is scheduled to open this June, doubling the capacity of the vital shortcut between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and allowing bigger freighters and cruise ships to transit the spectacular waterway. Opened 102 years ago as one of history’s greatest engineering feats, the 77-kilometre-long, jungle-lined canal saves ships a 13,000-kilometre journey around the tip of Cape Horn.

The new 25-night ‘Panama Canal and Central America’ cruise tour to be escorted by Cruise Express departs Australia on 4 October 2016, and begins with a three-night road tour of California’s majestic Pacific Coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The sea-hugging tour includes famous Highway 1 drawcards such as Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Monterey and Hearst Castle, built by media magnate William Hearst in the 1920s.

After a tour of San Francisco, guests will board Holland America’s luxury, 2100-passenger MS Nieuw Amsterdam, for a 16-night voyage under the Golden Gate Bridge and on to Fort Lauderdale in Florida via the new-look Panama Canal.

The cruise will visit six ports including the sun-kissed Mexican Riviera resorts of Cabo San Lucas, Huatulco and Puerto Chiapas. From the Costa Rican port of Puerto Caldera, passengers can explore pristine rainforests nearby. After a day transiting the Panama Canal – one of cruising’s top bucket-list experiences – MS Niuew Amsterdam will call at the 16th century, walled city of Cartagena in Colombia. The final port of call will be Holland America Line’s own Caribbean resort island of Half Moon Cay where passengers can spend the day on the private beach and enjoy a range of watersports.

From Florida, Cruise Express guests will fly to Havana in Cuba and spend four nights in a city famous for its time capsule culture, classic cars, big cigars and toe-tapping reggae. Included in the itinerary is a trip in a vintage car to a Havana restaurant for traditional Cuban music, dancing and cuisine and a day trip to the Vinales region, famous for its tobacco and coffee plantations.

Free time will also be available to roam Old Havana’s, soul-filled, cobblestoned streets and sip Cuba’s signature drinks, mojitos and Cuba libres, in one of the rustic bars once frequented by American author Ernest Hemingway

Including return flights from Australia, flights to Cuba and extensive sightseeing, the full 25-night ‘Panama Canal and Central America’ tour is available from $10,980 per person, twin-share, or $13,480 for solo travellers, representing a supplement of just 23 per cent. A shorter 21-night tour without the Cuba extension is available from $8990 per person, twin-share, or $10,990 for solo travellers (22 per cent supplement).

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