In 2016, Panama broke the news of an exciting new development that was planned for the Amador Causeway. The development was a modern cruise terminal similar to that of which you’d find in Miami. The terminal, named Fuerte Amador, would be capable of docking two full cruise ships up to 380 meters in length, being the first of its kind in Panama City. It was exciting news for Panamanians, promising to boost tourism both internationally and domestically.
Construction began in 2017 but ran into a number of challenges. A global pandemic didn’t help much either. Finally, however, the project is 90% complete with one of the two ports completely operational. The new development, combined with the Colón port, make for a busy 2022 cruise schedule in Panama and a potentially huge impact on the local economy.
With two ports connected on two coasts, the tandem is primed to further support Panama’s strategic initiative of operating as a regional hub. On the Caribbean side is the well-established Puerto de Cruceros port in Colón 2000. This port features a 70,000 sq meter Duty-Free shopping centre along with restaurants, bars, and a cinema.
An hour or two south (depending on traffic) is Panama City and the newly built Fuerte Amador port. The two piers are capable of handling an extra 5,000 cruise passengers. Before, only small ships could dock at the pier. Cruise tourists had no way of exploring Panama City en masse unless they travelled from Colón or took a tender boat from the Pacific docked off the Causeway. With the new port, cruise ships can dock and passengers can spend the day exploring and boosting Panama’s economy.
The cruise community has already taken notice. Large cruise operators like Norwegian, Princess, and Windstar have booked itineraries for the 2022 & 2023 seasons. Norwegian has even established a homeport contract in Panama City, permanently basing a ship in one of the two ports during non-trip activity.
“This new agreement enables nearly 24,000 guests to experience the beauty of Panama each year,” said Harry Sommer, president, and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line.
The geographic advantage of Panama is simply too good to pass up for cruise operators. But aside from geography, Panama City has another perk for cruise tourism – Tocumen International Airport. Since it’s only 10.5 miles from Panama City, cruise tourists can avoid logistical headaches at the end of their trips. The same is true if they begin their cruise in Panama, which isn’t such a bad idea. Panama has positioned itself to be a gateway to several intriguing itinerary options. In fact, there will be a whopping 49 ships departing Colón and Panama City in 2022.
New and established routes include cruises along the Central and South American Pacific coasts and out to the Galapagos. Through the Caribbean to Miami, along with the western edges of Central & South America and as far north as San Diego.
Altogether, the improvement in cruise infrastructure is a major addition to Panama City and will have a tremendous impact on the local economy and also the quality of life for residents of Panama.