The French spent 20 fruitless years trying to build a canal - Suez-style - straight through the land. Then the Americans tried a lock-based canal and, between 1903 and 1914, completed the waterway that stands today. Look out for memorial plaques to the thousands who died in its creation, mainly of diseases rife in the forests and swamps through which the canal was forged. It is 50 miles long and, from the Caribbean side, your ship will be lifted 85ft by the Gatun Locks into Gatun Lake. She then negotiates the narrow Gaillard Cut to the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks which lower her back down to the level of the Pacific, which you first see stretching out on the other side of the towering Bridge of the Americas.