PANAMA CANAL – The Norwegian Bliss, a mega-luxury cruise ship with the capacity to carry 5,000 passengers, has crossed the expanded Panama Canal, reaching a new milestone for the interoceanic route, since this is the largest ship of its category to ever sail its waters.
The Norwegian Bliss on Monday became the biggest cruise ship to transit the Expanded Panama Canal. The 168,000 gross ton cruise ship has a total length of 325.9 meters (1,069.2 feet), beam 41.4 meters (135.8 feet) and draft of 8.3 meters (27.2 feet), the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said in a statement released Monday.
The ship, operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines, entered the Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side early Monday morning.
The cruise liner set off on its voyage from Miami, and after crossing the canal will visit the east coast of Central America and Mexico before arriving at its final destination of Los Angeles, California, the ACP said.
The Norwegian Bliss is one of the last passenger ships to cross the canal during the 2017-2018 cruise season, which officially ends on May 24 with the transit of the Pacific Princess, canal authorities said.
ACP deputy director Manuel Benitez said the ship has also broken the cruise-ship record for the amount paid to cross the Panama Canal, a record previously held by the Caribbean Princess, which on its last time through paid $560,000, while the Norwegian Bliss paid $891,600 between the toll and other maritime services.
The much larger container ships are the vessels that pay the most with approximately $1.2 million per crossing, Benitez said.
Cruise ships currently represent between 4 and 6 percent of the tonnage that sails through the canal, which last year added up to some 400 million tons.
The expansion, inaugurated in June 2016 at a cost of more than $5.6 billion, was designed specifically to allow the giant Neopanamax ships to sail through the Panama Canal with a cargo of up to 14,000 containers.