Ask cruisers, and most will tell you Panama Canal sailings fall somewhere on their bucket lists. There's plenty to be said for each port of call along the way, but the canal itself is the main event, offering an up-close look at an engineering marvel that has withstood more than a century of use by individuals who swim it, cruise ships that carry thousands of passengers through it and everything in between.
So, if you're thinking about planning a Panama Canal cruise, which experience would be best for you? In the accompanying slideshow, we compare a rundown of experiences between two ships: one small (72-passenger Variety Voyager) and one big (Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas).
Note: Although we refer to one of the ships as "big," it's still on the smaller side (1,832 passengers), as far as mainstream cruise ships go. Because the canal's dimensions require vessels to be less than a certain size in order to transit, mega-ships aren't able to fit.
--By Gayle Keck, Cruise Critic Contributor (Small); and Ashley Kosciolek, Copy and Ports Editor (Big)