Cartagena Colombia ?

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!

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts
BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
All times are GMT -4.
The time now is 12:18 PM.
Ottawa Canada
686 Posts
Joined Nov 2009
We have never been to the Panama Canal, and today in one of our newspapers we noticed an enticing ad for the Westerdam cruise leaving FLL in April...destination Vancouver.

The Canal itself would be worth the experience, as would the day spent in one of our favourite ports, San Diego CA, but I haven't seen too much in CC re Cartagena.

I have looked at as well as some archived CC board comments...but it seems rather limited.

Any comments re Cartagena relating to safety, tours and taxis would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Peter.
107,603 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
Been there several times.

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.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Cruising is a wonderful way to enjoy retirement!
Stopped counting a few years ago -- have done over 140 cruises.
Bainbridge Island, WA
594 Posts
Joined May 2010
We visited Cartagena using a private tour guide for a small CC group. My blog post, done from the Celebrity Infinity, is here
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature

My website

9/12 Alaska on HAL Westerdam
7/12 Voyage of the Vikings on HAL Maasdam
10/11 Spanish Serenade on HAL Ryndam
10/10 Panama Canal on Celebrity Infinity
Petaluma, Ca. 94954
29,378 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
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.
East Coast
834 Posts
Joined May 2004
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.
1,100 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
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.
Granger, Indiana USA
4,179 Posts
Joined Jan 2000
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.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
PADI Master Instructor #1244
NAUI Instructor #5036

NCL Dawn, Owners Suite, 2017, NCL Gem B2B out of San Juan 2016, NCL Getaway, NCL Escape 2016, NCL Sun 2015, NCL Getaway 2015, NCL Epic, 2015, NCL Jade 2014 21 days Eastern Med, NCL Sun 2013, Nieuw Amsterdam 2013, Zuiderdam 2012, NCL Epic 2011, Zuiderdam 2010, Westerdam 2009, NCL Pearl 2008, NCL Pearl 2007, Tahitian Princess 2006-07, NCL Sun 2006, NCL Spirit 2005, NCL Sky 2004, Zuiderdam 2003-04, NCL Sun 2003, NCL Sun 2002, Westerdam 2001, Ryndam 2000, Veendam 1999, Westerdam 1998, Westerdam 1997, Nieuw Amsterdam 1996, Noordam 1995-96
Central FL
8,759 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
we did the ship's tour also to the old city and fort. I would love to go back but going on a ship's tour is best. I would've like to had lunch at a restaurant to taste Colombian food.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Queen of Bermuda 4/65 * Carnival Festivale 1995 * AMSTERDAM Alaska 7/02 * Sovereign of the Seas Bahamas 1/05 * WESTERDAM Baltic 9/05 * NOORDAM West Mediterranean 6/06 * VEENDAM Western Caribbean 12/06 * Sovereign of the Seas Bahamas 4/07 * STATENDAM Alaska Cruise-Tour 9/07 * ZUIDERDAM Eastern Caribbean 12/07 * AMSTERDAM Panama Canal transit 4/08 * EURODAM Bahamas 10/08 * NOORDAM Southern Caribbean 12/08 * NOORDAM Southern Caribbean 12/09 * NIEUW AMSTERDAM Eastern Mediterranean 9/10 * RYNDAM Western Caribbean 12/10 * VEENDAM Bermuda 10/11 * MAASDAM Southern Caribbean 3/12 * PRINSENDAM TransAtlantic 5/13 * Disney Dream Bahamas 11/13 * EURODAM Viking Passage 8/14 * NIEUW AMSTERDAM Eastern Caribbean 12/14 * EURODAM Western Caribbean 11/15 * KONINGSDAM Bahamas 11/16 * OOSTERDAM Western Caribbean 12/16

Bryan, TX
2,894 Posts
Joined Dec 2003
On a Sept.-Oct Zuiderdam Panama Canal cruise in 2011 we took an independent tour for 16 of us arranged through

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.

Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
2,941 Posts
Joined Dec 2010
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.
Ottawa Canada
686 Posts
Joined Nov 2009
Himself : I will stay safe and stay with the group. Safety concerns are my first priority.

Krazy Kruizers : No wandering on my own. Better safe than sorry.

Island Thyme : Great Pictures ! I feel as if I've already been there.

Cruiser Bruce : Looking forward to the harbor entrance. Great historical aspects.

Icand1923 : Private tour vs Shp tour. The ship tour wins this one.

oaktreerb : The walled city is definitely a goal to see. Hopefully the tour goes there.

cmdchiefthom : I don't know how that fellow with the assault rifle is going to react when I take his picture.

catI331 : The ship tour is the only way to go.

obriendan : The toursclaudiavidal looks good, but I think that peer pressure from the above comments will force me towards a ship's tour.

RDC1 : I'm relieved to hear that based upon your observations, Cartagena may be safer now than in the past.

Thanks to one and all for your great advice, comments and suggestions. Cheers Peter
82,476 Posts
Joined Aug 2000
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!!!!

Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
<img src= border=0 alt= />

sail7seas7 At yahoo .com
Please put CruiseCritic in Subject Line
4,095 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
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.
6,291 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
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.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature

Ontario, Canada
3,904 Posts
Joined Jun 2006
Originally posted by Himself
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!
Coimbra, Portugal
1,846 Posts
Joined May 2008
We hired a taxi in Cartagena and had a wonderful day there. Here is a link to our blog for that day with lots of pictures of where we went and the sights we saw.

Go and Enjoy!
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Linda & Vince
[email protected]

Our Travel Monkey, Sun Wukong, has his own Facebook page. Follow his travel adventures at:

Crown Princess 2017 Mediterranean
Diamond Princess 2016 Australia & New Zealand
Diamond Princess 2015 Southeast Asia & Japan
Grand Princess 2013 Alaska
Oosterdam 2012 Hawaii
Coral Princess 2011 Panama Canal
Golden Princess 2010 Hawaii
Zuiderdam 2009 Alaska
Celebrity Mercury 2009 Hawaii
Sea Princess 1999 Western Caribbean
Ottawa Canada
686 Posts
Joined Nov 2009
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.