Welcome to Cruise Critic! If you'd like to participate on our forums by joining in the conversation, please Register Now! Be sure to visit our FAMOUS Roll Call forums, where you can meet other cruisers sailing with you and share a tour or shore excursion and SAVE MONEY!
First couple of times we did the ships tour. Now we just stay on the ship or take the port bus to the shop in the terminal.
You are docked in the freight area -- so you can not just go wondering out on your own.
This is not a safe port. You are wise not to go wondering out of the gated area on your own.
We had guards at the fort and the shopping area that we went to. One time when we were there on a Princcess cruise our bus driver up and quit in the middle of the tour. Princess kept all the buses in a group and were prepared for this as it does happen often. There was another bus there and we all left the shopping area together.
__________________ Cruising is a wonderful way to enjoy retirement! Far, far too many cruises to list.
We were on one of the stops KK mentioned above- on the Westerdam, doing a FLL-Seattle repo. The area is interesting. The entrance into the harbor is very pretty. We had no problems and felt no threats. We took a ship's tour.
Historically, Catagena stops were fragile- they could be canceled due to security issues. Haven't heard any of that sort of thing for 4 or 5 years.
I thing the cruise lines like stopping there as fuel prices are good for them.
Last edited by CruiserBruce; January 28th, 2012 at 03:25 PM.
We were in Cartagena several years ago on a Panama Canal transit (not on HAL). We took a ship's tour. I spoke with several other passengers the day after. These folks did some independent tours and/or just grabbed cabs (one person wanted to go to a pharmacy to pick up some needed supplies). Frankly, the folks on the independent tours were sorry they didn't do the ship's tour. They said they felt quite uncomfortable the entire time and were "very happy to see the ship". The person who grabbed a cab for a pharmacy never got to one. (Our ship's tour ended in a shopping area - pharmacy, liquor store, emerald shops - naturally, and a small supermarket.) As we went from place to place (the tour was an Overview), fewer and fewer people would get off the bus. We talked about it. Most of us were feeling uncomfortable because of the huge volume of armed police at each stop. I know they should have made us feel safer, but they actually intimidated us. The city is beautiful with many gorgeous spots. Hopefully it has gotten safer.
Last edited by lcand1923; January 28th, 2012 at 03:18 PM.
Is the walled city on your list of ship tours? It was a nice tour and safe. The ride to and from the walled city was an experience. It was almost like a scene from a movie with the way they drive through the crowded streets! Be sure to get a picture of the statue in the harbor as you cruise in or out of the port.
I agree your best bet is a ship's tour in Cartagena. Downtown has a tourista shopping area, and indeed you are never out of sight of a well armed policeman with a loaded assult rifle. There are also several beautiful churches from the 17th century scattered throughout the city. The entrance to harbor is loaded with Spanish fortifications called Fort San Jose that rival the sail into the port in San Juan. Frankly, I would book another cruise that included a day in Cartagena.
On a Sept.-Oct Zuiderdam Panama Canal cruise in 2011 we took an independent tour for 16 of us arranged through www.toursclaudiavidal.com.
Claudia conducted an outstanding tour. She picked us up at the dock in a van with a driver. We visited Convento Santa Cruz high above the city, the fort in the town center (can’t remember the name), and made a walking tour of the Old Town. We then made a tour of the new part of the city with a stop at an emerald store. There were three cruise ships in port that day so Cartegena was crowded with tourists. We never felt unsafe!
The tour lasted about 5 hours and cost $45 per person. And at the end of the tour Claudia gave each of us a CD of the tour! I would very highly recommend this tour.
I did a Princess cruise from LA to Ft Lauderdale last year over New Years.
Not sure when the others went but I saw very few signs of heavy security. A few police near the entrances to the old city, seemed to be more for directing traffic than anything else. No sign of heavy security at the Fort, the market, or any of the others stops, including the location of the Inquisition. That is located in the old town so the bus drops of the tour and the guide at the entrance and then you walk some of the stops.
While the ship is located in a freight dock a few miles away and one would clearly need transportation into the city, the city seemed far calmer then the stops in Mexico (far far less armed police visible on the streets).
There are street vendors but they seemed to back off when told that you were not interested.
We were in Cartegena a few times.
Our last visit, we walked, on our own, to a small shopping center near where the ship docked. When we saw the soldiers with rifles (I have no idea what type they were but my Viet Vet husband knew), I got very uneasy.
There was a table set up with t shirts and a few vendors. I wanted to look at the souvenirs etc but was afraid to and paused but then started to walk by.
One of the soldiers was watching us and motioned to me to go back. I don't speak Spanish and didn't understand but sure didn't like seeing a weapon being waved. We finally figured out he was trying to indicate they were there to protect us and we should shop and they would watch over us. Great!! Sigh.. Now I felt obliged I better find something to buy or no one is going to be very happy with us.
I found a few things, DH paid and we continued on our way but the soldier watched as we entered the little mall and in the end, really wasn't threatening but who needs that on vacation?!!!
We got back to the ship fine and were safe and I still love the little emerald pendant my DH bought me in that mall. Columbian emeralds are beautiful and I'm happy to have a small, pretty piece.
Take a tour!!!!
sail7seas7 At yahoo .com
Please put CruiseCritic in Subject Line
Last edited by sail7seas; January 28th, 2012 at 09:16 PM.
Highly recommend Mister Emerald for this day. It is not a see on your own stop due to traffic (it's insane), hawkers, beggars and general security.
The tour protects you (as best it can) from the people who come up to the bus, banging on doors and windows asking for money. They know where to go/park to avoid it as much as possible, and give you fair warning when needed.
I loved Cartagena. We went in... Can't remember the year but if you look at my signature- if was the MSC cruise ('08?).
We walked from the ship with some hardy Canadians. It was a long walk but at no time did we feel unsafe. The city itself is gorgeous. A tour might be better- we knew we were looking at pretty churches and things but we did not know much about the historical significance. We took a cab back because we were tired of walking. I can't recommend the port highly enough- it was gorgeous.
If you go on tour in Cartagena, go on a group tour and stay with the group.
I'll second this post! DW & I did just this & we felt "secure" more than "safe"! There were soliders everywhere, fully armed! On another Panama Canal cruise, (such as April 12 to May 5, 2013), onboard the Statendam, which does NOT include Cartagena as a port of call), I would/"may" book it! If I were you, I would choose a Panama Canal cruise that included Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao instead, like the aforementioned cruise!
Eaton Doolittle : Mr. Emerald site looks interesting, and it's seconded by sppunk. 30 years of living in Cartagena certainly adds to Leland W. Miles' credibility.
wakepatrol : We won't be staying on the ship....we'll take a tour...probably a ship's tour based on what I've been reding. Although Mr. Emerald's tour description does look mighty enticing. Still debating on that one.
sail7seas : I too would get uneasy with folks brandishing weaponry...even for our own protection. Buying a little souvenir emerald will certainly be one of our purchases...heck, even a big one.
sppunk : That's 2 recommendations for Mr. Emerald. Actually, my only regret so far in researching this trip is that I won't be able to see the Padres' game the day we are in San Diego. 7PM start. And hey..all the best to Fenway on its 100th anniversary.
Seago2 : Walking with hardy Canadians ? Our bravery ( and stupidity ) is facilitated by those frozen hockey sticks we always carry over our shoulder. Might be difficult to do in Colombia, however.
Geriatric Nurse : Statendam looks good, and we love Aruba....but. This Westerdam cruise is value-added, giving us our flights, 2 great night in a fantastic hotel in Vancouver, and some other pluses. Since we ALWAYS book last-minute, and this is a HAL cruise, do we have any choice ? Looks as if we are being forced to go.
Last edited by Math Guy; January 29th, 2012 at 09:58 AM.