During my time at sea in the merchant navy and also working as a ship surveyor for the last 18 months, I have been fortunate enough to travel through 3 of the worlds greatest man-made canals. Panama, Suez and the Welland canal.
I have been through Panama about 35 times and never get bored with that trip which usually takes about 12 hours.
Starting from the Atlantic side, the ship goes through the Gatun locks, three massive locks to the Gatun Lake 26.5 meters above sea level. Then a trip through the Gatun lake down to the Galliard cut. This was quite an engineering achievement to blast down through the continental divide to a depth of 40′. All the rubble was transported away in a specially made railway and used to make a dam which is seen at the Gatun locks. This dam stopped the flow of the Chagres’s river and flooded the area which is now Gatun lake. When the ship arrives at the Pacific side it enters the Pedro Miguel Lock. This is just one chamber and this leads to Miraflores lake which like Gatun lake is man made. At the end of this small lake is the Miraflores locks. Two locks which lead to the Pacific ocean. Panama is very lush and green what ever time of year you go through it is 47.9 miles long.
I have been through the Suez Canal three times. This canal which starts at Suez at the top of the Red sea and goes to Port Said on the Mediterranean is all at sea level so no need for locks.
There is not so much to see traveling through this canal except a lot of sand on either side of the canal. Though there has been more greenification of the land near the canal over the last 20 years of so. The canal is 100.8 miles long and the trip takes about 12 hours.
Welland canal in summer.
The Welland Canal which joins Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is quite an amazing place to visit and not so many passenger ships go here if any. This starts at Port Weller on the edge of Lake Ontario and goes to Port Colbourne on the edge of Lake Erie. The Welland Canal has eight locks to raise the ships up to the level of Lake Erie which is 100 meters higher than Lake Ontario. The canal is 27 miles long and the trip takes about 11 hours. In summer time there is much lush greenery here but in winter it is rather desolate.
Of the three canals. I would have to say my favourite and the greatest engineering achievement of them all, is the Panama canal. If you are going for a cruise try and get one that goes though Panama. Its amazing.