Panama Canal Cruises from San Francisco: The Three Best Options from SF

Jill at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

You will find a variety of Panama Canal cruises from San Francisco, all of which take you through the canal after stopping along the western coast of the US, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Most of them then offer a few stops on the eastern side of the canal and finish their journey in Florida.

Below, you will find the three best options, which are the most popular and offer one or two departure dates per year.

Panama Canal Cruise

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Upcoming Cruises to the Panama Canal from San Francisco

15-Night with Carnival: 10/1 - 10/16/24

16-Night with Princess: 9/28 - 10/14/24,  1/20 - 2/5/25

13-Night with Silversea: 5/26 - 6/8/24

1. Carnival Cruises: 15-Night Panama Canal

Carnival Panama Cruise Map

Carnival Cruises offers a very popular 15-night cruise that starts in San Francisco, makes its way through the Panama Canal, and ends in Galveston, Texas.

Before it reaches the canal, it makes a stop in Mexico and then in Costa Rica.

After you cruise through the canal, you will make one stop in Colombia.

This trip is aboard the Celebrity Miracle.

Onboard amenities include a full-service spa, a state-of-the-art fitness facility, and even a water park with slides and pools that are fun for all ages. You will also find a comedy club, dance floor, several indoor and outdoor bars, and activities for your kids. In addition, you will find several restaurants from elegant to casual. 


This is the typical itinerary for this cruise:

Day 1: Depart San Francisco at 5 pm.

Days 2 & 3: At sea.

Day 4: Arrive in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico at 9 am. You will have all day to explore. The ship departs at 6:00 pm.

Days 5, 6, 7 & 8: You will continue south and be at sea.

Day 9: You will arrive in Puntarenas, Costa Rica at 9 am and will have until 6 pm to check out this lovely waterfront town.

Day 10: At sea.

Day 11: Today is the highlight of the journey. You will cruise through the Panama Canal. 

Day 12: Stop in the colorful and historical port city of Cartagena, Colombia from 9 am to 5 pm.

Days 13, 14 & 15: At sea.

Day 16: You will arrive at your destination, Galveston, Texas, at 8 am.

2. Silversea: 14-Day Panama Canal

Silversea Panama Cruise Map

Another one of the popular Panama Canal cruises from San Francisco is the 13-night trip with Silversea. It offers four stops before you cruise through the Panama Canal and one on the eastern side. You will arrive in Cartagena, Colombia on the morning of your final day.

Your stops before you transit the canal include San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, and Puntarenas (two in Mexico and one in Costa Rica)

Your journey is aboard the Silver Shadow. 

Onboard, you will find restaurants that range from a casual meal by the pool to fine Italian dining. If you decide to stay in for the day or night, they also offer a 24-hour in-room dining service.

You can also enjoy the full-service spa and salon, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and the lively casino. 


These are the typical stops for this cruise:

Day 1: Leave SF at 11 pm.

Day 2: At sea.

Day 3: Visit San Diego, California between 8 am and 11 pm.

Days 4 & 5: At sea.

Day 6: Visit Cabo San Lucas, Mexico between 8 am and 3 pm.

Day 7: At sea. 

Day 8: Stop in Acapulco, Mexico from 10 am to 4 pm.

Days 9 & 10: At sea.

Day 11: Visit Puntarenas, Costa Rica from 5:30 am to 6 pm.

Day 12: At sea.

Day 13: Today is the highlight of the trip as you will visit the Panama Canal. You will enter the canal on the western side around 6 am. You will cruise through all day long and exit on the eastern side around 6 pm.

Day 14: Arrive in Cartagena, Colombia at noon.

3. Princess: 16-Night Panama Canal Eastbound

Princess Panama Cruise Map

Princess Cruises also offers a very popular option through the Panama Canal. This trip features five stops and eight days at sea.

You will make one stop in Mexico, one in Guatemala, and one  in Costa Rica before stopping in Panama itself and riding through the Panama Canal. On the other side, you will make one stop in Colombia, and finally arrive at your destination in Fort Lauderdale.

This cruise is onboard the Sapphire Princess or the Coral Princess, which each have a capacity of at least 2,000 passengers. Amenities include a full-service spa, Movies Under the Stars by the pool, and shows every night. You can relax near one of several pools, grab a cocktail at one of the lounges, or head to the fitness center.

These ships include several dining options. You can enjoy fine dining in the Dining Room or grab a slice of pizza. Onboard, you will also find a casual buffet, pastry shop, ice cream bar, and a bar & grill. Room service is available 24 hours a day.


This is the typical route for this cruise:

Day 1: Leave SF at 4 pm.

Days 2, 3 & 4: At sea.

Day 5: Full day stop in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with an arrival time of 8 am and a departure time of 5 pm.

Days 6 & 7: At sea.

Day 8: Arrive in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala at 7 am and depart at 6 pm.

Day 9: At sea. 

Day 10: Stop in Puntarenas, Costa Rica from 7 am to 7 pm.

Day 11: At sea. 

Day 12: Anchor at Fuerte Amador, Panama, from which you can access Panama City, from 7 am to 6 pm. 

Day 13: Today is the day you will cruise through the Panama Canal. You will enter at 6 am and come out the other side around 4:30 pm. There are no stops; you will cruise the entire day through the canal.

Day 14: Final stop in Cartagena, Colombia between 9 am and 4 pm.

Days 15 & 16: At sea.

Day 17: On the final day, you will arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 7 am.

Where to Stay in SF Before or After Your Cruise

If you plan to spend a night or two in SF, then I recommend checking out the selection of hotels in the Fisherman's Wharf district. This is the heart of the tourist attractions, including Pier 39, the ferries to Alcatraz, and more. It's also close to Pier 27, where your ship will arrive and/or depart.

Fisherman's Wharf is home to several dozen hotels for every budget. You can stay at places such as the four-star Argonaut Hotel, a historic beauty near the waterfront and a perfect find for those looking for a higher-end experience. Or, you may opt for one of several popular hotel chains such as Marriott, Sheraton, or Holiday Inn. In addition, you will find a few budget-friendly options that are locally owned and operated.

Click here to check out my recommendations for hotels in the Fisherman's Wharf District.

Other Fun Things to Do in SF

Here are a few activities I think you will enjoy during your stay in San Francisco.

Alcatraz Prison Tours: Head over to Alcatraz Island for a self-guided audio tour of this famous prison. It was home to inmates such as Al Capone, Robert Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), and Machine Gun Kelly. The worst of the worst were transferred here and on the tour you will learn all about what happened when this place served as a maximum security prison.

Visit the Golden Gate Bridge: Walk along the Golden Gate Bridge for a close-up look at this amazing structure. This important bridge connected Marin County with San Francisco for the first time. Today, you can visit its outdoor museum, take a guided walking tour, or stroll along its pathways on your own.

Enjoy a Guided Walking Tour: The best way to explore a city such as SF is on foot. Learn from the experts on one of these guided walking tours. Sample food, learn about the history of Fisherman's Wharf, or uncover the hidden stories of Chinatown. Most tours are two to three hours.

See the Sights on a Bus Tour of SF: Ride around the city and learn more about its history on one of these bus tours. Some offer you the chance to explore on your own and others include several hours of guided fun. You will see places such as Golden Gate Park, learn more about how the Haight-Ashbury District became famous, and discover more about the days of the Gold Rush.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

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