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Voluntourism Tours in Cartagena?

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Does anyone have information about the tours offered by Friends for Colombia? My family is traveling to Cartagena on March 22 and wanted to get some feedback from others that have done this. Was the bus nice? What did you do? Did you feel safe?

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Hello wish-I-wascruisinTN

 

Earlier last month we returned from a Western Caribbean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Equinox which included a stop in Cartagena, Colombia.

 

This was our second visit to Cartagena. On our first visit we had taken a typical Celebrity offered tour of the scenic highlights of this beautiful city which we enjoyed very much.

 

On this visit we took a tour offered by Friends For Colombia, http://www.friendsforcolombia.org/ having learned about them from postings on CruiseCritic.com

 

Our hosts, Dan & Berit Wick met us at the pier and took us in a modern, air conditioned mini bus to visit Grantios des Pas in the Rafael Nuñez barrio of Cartagena to see some of the projects that Friends For Colombia are involved in and to visit with some wonderful Colombians ranging in age from very young to much older . Dan and Berit are a wonderful couple, knowlegeable, friendly and very committed to helping. We were very impressed by them and the work that they and the organizations that they work with are doing. We felt perfectly safe at all times.

 

This experience was a highlight of our cruise and we would recommend that anyone ( especially if they have visited the city before ) who would like a unique opportunity to get to know and experience the real Cartagena by seeing some of the work this non profit foundation, Granitos de Paz (Grains of Peace) is doing and by getting a chance to meet and interact with wonderful Colombian people consider this tour.

 

We would invite anyone to consult the website http://www.friendsforcolombia.org/ and if you are interested from there email Dan and Berit for more information.

 

We expect that if you take the tour you will find it a very rewarding, educational & fun day, as we did !

 

As we said " It was a highlight of our Cruise" !

 

David & Alice.

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We also experienced this excursion in Cartegena. As Dave said above, we enjoyed this time spent with the Colombian people. Everyone we met was very friendly. We enjoyed meeting young and old alike. We shared stories, a birthday party, dancing and singing, and I even learned how to play dominoes! The people were eager to show us their homes and gardens, and shared flowers and hugs for all. It was a great way to meet "real people" away from the typical tourist shopping spots. The garden project was fascinating and seems to be a real way to lift people out of poverty. We highly recommend this tour.

 

Bob and Roxanne

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My family really enjoyed our visit to the Rafael Nunez neighborhood sponsored by http://www.friendsforcolombia.org/. First of all, Dan and Berit Wick picked us up in a big, AC bus with cushy seats and took us straight to Rafael Nunez which is supported by a foundation called Granitas de Paz. They had lined up some of the local folks to greet us. I don't know who was more excited, the kids or the seniors. While the kids hugged on our daughter, my husband was a big hit with the lady seniors. We really appreciated this opportunity to meet Cartagenian citizens, and we felt quite safe.

 

Afterward Dan and Berit handed out bottled water and we headed to Productive Patios, my favorite part. We got to see the raised gardens that the neighborhood has built and is now profiting from. By raising basil, lettuce, arugula, spinach--produce that we can easily pick up at the grocery store--they have become self-sufficient. They now sell their goods to local restaurants, thus creating a self-sustaining circle of trade. The growers are so proud of what they've accomplished. It's touching to see good works performed by good people.

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Does anyone have information about the tours offered by Friends for Colombia? My family is traveling to Cartagena on March 22 and wanted to get some feedback from others that have done this. Was the bus nice? What did you do? Did you feel safe?

Two words: DO IT!! You will not regret it.

 

My story is different from most in that I met Dan and Berit on my first trip to Cartagena. I was on a Celebrity cruise and experienced some chest pain. I was "dropped off" the ship in Cartagena and spent a few days in a local hospital. I knew NO Spanish, and only one or two doctors in the hospital spoke English.

 

Dan and Berit are volunteers there and met my wife as I was being admitted. They literally adopted her for our entire visit. Dan came to the hospital every day to make sure I knew what was happening.

 

When I got out we stayed another couple days (with them) - and they showed us many of the non-profits they support. I vowed to do a couple things: a) Learn to speak Spanish and b) Come back to help them.

 

We have been back twice - once on a working trip where my wife taught art classes and I took photos for several of the non-profits. It was a very rewarding trip that I'll never forget.

 

We went back again, this time on another cruise, and experienced the same tour that has been described on this thread. It was fantastic! Everyone on the trip had similar comments to those posted on this thread.

 

Finally, we will go back to help again, not sure exactly when, but we will!

Maybe after more Spanish classes. I have been taking them since I last left there two years ago. Ahora yo hablo español más que un poco.

So: GO, DEFINITELY GO!!

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Photom-

 

You were right! We all loved it so much. Dan and Berit were so great and we were able to interact with the people of Colombia. This was so much better than just touring the city. It was the highlight of our trip. I understand now why you liked it so much and went back. My 9 year old cousin, 83 year old grandmother and everyone in between thought it was wonderful. There was something for everyone and Dan and Berit catered to what we wanted to do and were so kind and generous. If we ever make it back to Colombia on a cruise or otherwise, we will be calling them. Such an enjoyable day for all of us. The highlight for me, for sure! Thanks for reassuring me before we went!

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We spent the day with Dan and Berit in April 2011, while on a cruise. I will admit, at first we were leary...but a group from our CC role call talked us into joining them. BEST DECISION I EVER MADE!!! I won't go into details, it has all been said above and I agree with everyhting. If you have a chance to do this...GO! you will not regret it and you ill have an amazing experience. My other half, who does NOT got for this kind of thing, had the time of his life! He could not stop talking about his day, both while back on the ship and once we got home.

 

We just booked a last minute Panama Canal cruise for this May. The first thing I did was email Dan and Berti...as I could not wait to go with them again. Unfortunately (for us), they will be in the States at that time, as their dauhter is graduating from University. I was heartbroken and my SO was very disappointed. Nothing will compare to meeting and spending time with the people of Colombia, and if I ever get back to Cartagena again, my first email will be to Dan and Berit. DO IT...it will be the higlight of your trip!

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Cartagena is one of the ports we will visit on our cruise. I was thinking of booking a "Highlight of the City Tour", but after learning about Friends for Columbia, I checked out their website, and it sounds fascinating. Can you share what the price is per person? Our family consists of myself, my husband and our 14 year old daughter. Did you bring items to donate to the people? If so, what type of items are recommended? Any other information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

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We spend half the year living in Colombia because of family we have there.

 

The concept of a "foundation" or "not-for-profit" organization is Colombia is very different from the same concept in the United States or Europe. Many organizations such as these are definitely "for-profit" but have their corporate identities shielded through these vague forms of association such as "foundation".

 

There are many organizations whose goal is to make money off of tourists by offering tours as if they were NGO's. I'm not saying the company involved in this thread does that, but let the buyer beware.

 

Instead of viewing the rich history the old city of Cartagena has to offer a first-time visitor, why instead would you rather take a tour of the slums? Would you get off your cruise ship at a port stop in Los Angeles and run to take a tour of downtown LA - skid row?

 

Paradoxically, Cartagena has one of the highest poverty rates in all of Colombia. I say, paradoxically, because there is no reason for this. Cartagena is also Colombia's main tourist city -- with all of the tax money associated with such status. Why then, does one of the richest cities in Colombia, at the same time have the highest poverty rate? Corruption ........

 

Colombia is living the biggest economic boom in modern history. Its economy is growing at record levels -- ahead of the United States and, naturally, ahead of most EU countries (except Germany) that have experienced negative growth and extreme contraction recently.

 

The politicians of Cartagena should be implementing programs to put an end to the poverty there -- they certainly have the money and they should put it to much better use than keeping it for themselves.

 

Kind regards,

 

Gunther and Uta

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Cartagena is one of the ports we will visit on our cruise. I was thinking of booking a "Highlight of the City Tour", but after learning about Friends for Columbia, I checked out their website, and it sounds fascinating. Can you share what the price is per person? Our family consists of myself, my husband and our 14 year old daughter. Did you bring items to donate to the people? If so, what type of items are recommended? Any other information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

 

Friends of Colombia was a heartwarming tour that my husband, 14-year-old daughter and I enjoyed very much. We didn't donate any items. Dan and Berit assured us that our presence was the gift. My daughter and I learned to salsa with some children and my husband thrilled the seniors by dancing with them. I especially enjoyed visiting the herb gardens that have allowed residents to become self-sufficient. We traveled on an AC bus under safe conditions.

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Has anyone else been on this tour recently? We will be in Cartagena on Sat, March 2nd and wondered if others have done this tour lately?

Whenever we cruise, we like to do something to "give back" or "pay it forward".

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We just returned from the Norwegian Sun, Feb 27 - March 10th and toured with FriendsforColombia.org on March 2nd in Cartagena. I cannot recommend highly enough taking this private tour with Dan and Berit Wick!

 

First of all, they met us right at the pier (but they had been there early in the morning, since they are called upon when Norwegian has to disembark passengers who are ill...so they went to the hospital to help translate for the ill patient). What an amazing couple, who really care about the people of Colombia!!

 

We visited a day care center, danced with little children, gave gifts (that Friends for Colombia provided) to senior citizens , and also saw much of the city that regular tours do not participate in. It was an eye opening experience that I would highly recommend!! It caused us to reflect on how much we have, but also showed us the incredible happiness of people who are joyful with so little materialal possessions.

 

At the end of the tour they also took us through Old Town and explained much of the history....

 

Jane

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We Also took the tour from the Norwegian Sun with Jane on 2 March, Dan and Berit are a truly amazing couple whos love for Columbia and its people is inspiring. It was wonderful to interact with the local people, both young and old and to learn more about Columbia. Most people from cruise ships leave ports of call without any knowledge of the country they are visiting. We had time to visit the Old Town and could have spent more time there if we had wished. Dan & Berit even e-mailed photos of our tour with them

We cannot recommend the tour with Friends for Columbia highly enough

Pat & Bob:)

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We just returned from our cruise on the Norwegian Sun. Two of us had been to Cartagena previously and two had not. Both couples enjoyed the tour very much. We got to interact with he children in the Center and also saw the community gardens. We also had a walking tour of the Old City. Dan & Berit were wonderful hosts. I cannot recommend them and their foundation enough. After we returned home they sent us a note with a link to the photos they took during our tour. You will not be disappointed with Friends for Columbia tour.

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Our family of five, three generations, enjoyed our half day with Dan and Berit as a highlight of our two week cruise. My sons were deeply touched by the children we met and we were all impressed with the connections Dan and Berit have in Cartagena. After several hours at a children's hospital, very fascinating, we spent an hour and a half or so seeing some city highlights and walking through the town. They have a nice bus, and we were always safe and could get around fine, even Grandma. We even sampled some treats.

Such an interesting way to see a city and a culture on limited time, while giving American children a unique experience. Dan and Berit have taken it upon themselves as well to aid any English speaking people who find themselves stuck in Cartagena, opening their home over Christmas to a young woman whose mother had fallen ill on a previous cruise.

All five of us, including my usually grumpy husband, grandma, teenager, and preteen, highly recommend Friends for Colombia.

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We took a tour of Cartagena with Friends for Colombia (having read about it on Cruise Critic) and it was one of the best vacation days my husband and I have ever had (and we have traveled a lot). Dan and Berit Wick are two of the most comfortable, genuine and generous people we have met and through them you have the opportunity to meet other people in Cartagena making your visit there a true visit and not just and excursion.

 

Dan and Berit were waiting on the pier as we exited the ship and had a small comfortable van/bus waiting for us and several other cruisers. After we all introduced ourselves we were quickly on our way.

 

Our first stop was a community center. There we met the senior citizens who use it daily. We played dominoes with them, danced with them and gave them packages of healthy food (prepared in advance by Dan and Berit, for us to "give"). Next stop was a preschool where I (being a teacher both in a former life and in my heart) sat down on the ground and started teaching finger plays to the children who immediately opened their hearts and smiling faces to me. Next stop was the patio garden of a local resident. Through a program affiliated with the Clinton Foundation, residents are growing vegetables on their home-patios both for their own use and for sale (what an idea… why not do it in the US?). He was just so proud of what he had done, he was glowing with pride in the warm Cartagena sun. Finally we stopped at the old town and took a walking tour with Dan and Berit who were totally familiar with the locals (running into several friends and introducing us to them) and stopped to buy some sweets at a local bakery and treats at a small restaurant all of which they generously shared with us.

 

We were back at the ship in plenty of time. The cost of all of this was about $20 per person, barely enough, IMHO to cover the cost of the transportation, snacks and the gifts of food to the seniors.

 

I can't recommend this excursion, which is so much more than an excursion, highly enough. I dream of the day I can return to Cartagena for a longer stay, perhaps to volunteer.

Edited by rubinstein2r
typos

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We cruised on the Norwegian Sun into Cartagena, Columbia on Easter Sunday. Dan and Berit met us on the pier with their air conditioned bus. I think there were 22 of us on the tour. Being as so much was closed because of the Easter celebration we did not get to see some of the projects.

We were driven through different status neighborhoods, seeing both the best and the worst of Cartagena. The economy and how it is handled were explained to us as we went.

We were delighted to visit and give out gifts (most provided by Dan & Berit) at the children's hospital. The staff is limited in this hospital so one parent stays with their child and basically lives in a chair beside the child's bed. Many of these parents bring their children often by boat and then hours on a bus to get to the hospital. The hospital is getting more funding now because of recent changes in the local government. There was much renovation going on with outdoor areas being spruced up for the families to get some welcome outdoor time. We prayed with a family who had just lost a child but were told by a Dr. that the mortality rate is much reduced and now rivals the death rate in the US.

Our second stop was at a nursing home for abandoned seniors. While there was a definite language barrier hugs and kisses as well as birthday cake made for a wonderful time.

We did have two translators Nick and Sandy (young people from the community) who spent the day with us and helped with questions. What caring kids they were.

Then we had an hour long walking tour of the walled city. We visited three catholic churches where we were given the opportunity to pray if we chose too.

All in all it was the best Easter Sunday I have ever spent and a wonderful way to realize just how blessed I am.

I wanted to say Thank you to Dan & Berit for giving up their Easter Sunday to brighten the lives of those we visited and all of us tourist folks. You are truly a wonderful couple.

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Greetings--Based on the information provided on Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor I am interested in possibly contacting Friends of Colombia to arrange a tour. However, we will only be in port from 7:00am to 2:00 pm. Is this enough time to take one of their tours and still get back to the ship with time to spare?

Thanks,

js10

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Our tour of Cartagena with Dan and Berit Wick of was one of the most memorable things I have ever done on a cruise and I HIGHLY recommend it. I'm sure if they are available they will be glad to give you a tour in your timeframe. Please do not hesitate to contact them at danbwick@gmail.com. Please give them my regards and let them know that when the time is right, I WILL be back.

 

--Myra Rubinstein

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We were met by Dan and Berit Wick, who have lived in Cartagena for 12 years, just outside the port docks. They were so welcoming and hospitable, as stated in earlier posts. By an interesting twist of fate, we were, just days before the cruise, connected through his dad, who lives here in Washington state. We went to high school with Dan's brother, so we were at ease being whisked off with them to the barrios of Cartagena. We had an extremely enjoyable and informative tour of the Granitas de Paz foundation headquarters, visited a bakery the foundation has funded, saw back yard gardens, and met darling children at the preschool. Plus Dan and Berit also took us to the Old City, which is the big tourist draw. We felt so lucky to have had this wonderful introduction to Columbia.

 

If you are stopping in Cartagena, take this opportunity to meet this gracious couple and see the people of Cartagena. And be ready to be really warm! Gotta love the tropics.

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If anyone is debating between a tour of Colombia or a chance to have a truly memorable experience AND a tour of Columbia, a tour with Friends for Columbia is the way to do both. We emailed with Dan and Berit (danbwick@gmail.com) when we saw the recommendation here on cruise critic.

 

Our ship was scheduled to arrive and depart earlier than the other ship in port and most of those on the tour were on the other ship. But Dan assured me that we could still join the group if we wanted and he would make sure we got back in time for Celebrity Equinox's departure. Dan and Berit were, as promised, right at the end of the pier, waiting for us. The bus was right across the street and we were given the opportunity to go sit on the air conditioned bus and wait for the rest of the group, but we talked to Dan and Berit and got to know them a little bit while waiting for the others. What a delightful couple with hearts for doing great thinks in Columbia.

 

After a short wait we began our tour. Since it was a holiday in Columbia, we could not do the usual tour of the non-profit places, so Dan and Berit had arranged a visit to the Children's Hospital. It was all very organized and we had a chance to interact with the kids who were all very easy to "talk" to using student interpreters who all did a very good job. We were provided with presents to give the patients, although since I chose to bring a few things, I had my own gifts. We brought a duffel bag full of superballs, teddy bears, coloring books, crayons, candies, toiletries for the parents, etc. The kids were so appreciative and the parents were so grateful, too. They all hugged us and took pictures with us and I feel we just really connected with the folks. Both my husband and I agreed we had the best time in Colombia and that it was the highlight of our entire trip!

 

We learned lots of behind the scenes, REAL things about Colombia and I feel that we had a much better experience than others who just settled for a regular tour. Many of the people we talked to wished that they had done our tour and loved seeing our pictures because we had all the ones they had and more! We visited areas not usually visited and we got to see the real Columbia. The market and fishing areas and driving bus tour was really enjoyable and I got some great pictures. While we drove, Dan was telling us all about Colombia and what we were seeing.

 

After the visit to the hospital and the bus tour, we visited the old part of town. Dan and Berit both are so knowledgeable and told us all about the buildings and history of Columbia. We spent a nice amount of time there and felt very safe the entire time.

 

Because my husband and I had to get back to our ship earlier than the rest of the group, Dan had a policewoman escort us back in a taxi. He paid for the taxi and spoke to them and had us taken straight to the ship. After we got to a certain area where all the other passengers were shopping, we felt we didn't need an escort anymore, but the policewoman insisted on escorting us all the way to the ship. She was so nice and we felt like she just wanted do such a good job. It was obvious we were never in any danger but she just made us feel totally comfortable and taken care of. We hugged her when we said good by. These people are just all so warm and wonderful!

 

We loved Colombia, felt so safe the entire time, and both agreed we would have loved to have spent more time there. We'll definitely be back and will visit with Friends for Columbia again.

 

If you are debating on what to do in Columbia, I highly recommend not just settling for a plain old tour of the old town. Friends for Columbia is a way to do something really special which will make you feel great, allow you to make a difference, and give you a truly memorable experience!

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I wholeheartedly agree with Mama02girl’s review. This excursion offers cruise passengers a different shore experience that allows you to see the “real” Cartagena.

 

17 people sailing on the NCL Star 11/3/14 Panama Canal Cruise joined Mama02girls and her husband on the Friends for Colombia tour on Friday, November 14th.

 

In early October Dan Wick informed our group that we would be visiting Cartagena during the Independence of Cartagena and the Colombian Beauty Pageant celebrations. With a week of festivities schools were not in session and most of the nonprofit foundations would not be open during these events. Therefore, our excursion was modified to include a visit to Casa Del Nino (Children’s Hospital); a city highlights tour and a walking tour of the Old Walled City.

 

Our hosts, Dan & Berit Wick met us at the pier and took us in a modern, comfortable air-conditioned bus through local neighborhoods where we passed by a public market selling fish, fruit and vegetables and were able to see how the people of Cartagena live and work. On the way to our first destination Dan explained the current social situation of Cartagena, the economic status levels and the improvement programs currently underway. He also reviewed the history of Cartagena and answered all our questions.

 

Casa Del Nino serves the children of poor families that live throughout the northern coastal region of Colombia. After a short presentation about the hospital and the services provided we were divided into small groups to tour the facility where we had the chance to interact with the children. Friends for Colombia provided gifts (i.e., toys, balls, stuffed animals, games, toiletries, diapers, candy and cookies) for us to pass out to the patients and their parents.

 

While at the hospital, a small group of young Colombian adults, who are learning English, accompanied us during the tour and served as interpreters. Later we had the opportunity to hear about their lives, aspirations and what it is like to live in Cartagena and Colombia.

 

After leaving the hospital, we drove through several barrios on our way to the walled-in Old City. Snacks and refreshments (bottled water, bananas, tangerines, Colombian chips and cookies, guava candy and coffee) were provided on the bus.

 

A walking tour of Old Town allowed us to see many notable sights, historic buildings and plazas of the city. While in the walled city, Berit purchased a variety of sweet treats for us to sample.

 

Dan and Berit are a truly amazing couple. Their love for Columbia and its people is inspiring. It was wonderful to interact with the local people and to learn more about Cartagena. Dan & Berit even e-mailed photos of our tour with them

 

Our excursion with Friends for Colombia was one of the most memorable things I have ever done on a cruise and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like a unique opportunity to get to know and experience the real Cartagena.

 

Both my husband and I loved Colombia and should we ever have the chance to return we will definitely contact Dan and Berit for another tour or possibly volunteer at one of their organizations.

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Hi everyone,

 

My husband and I had the fortunate opportunity to tour with Dan and Berit on our recent (Dec 2015) trip to Cartagena. We are not big on doing organized tours, so we welcomed the opportunity to join them for sightseeing from a local perspective. Since Dan and Berit have been living in Cartagena for 10+ years, they offered their perspectives on life, took our bus through barrios so we could see all of the facets of the city, and led us on a visit to a local hospital in which we could see the impact of fundraising on the health care. The hospital was beautiful and we appreciated meeting hard-working staff, volunteers, patients, and their families.

 

We highly recommend this trip. We had a beautiful air-conditioned bus and were provided with local snacks and tips for places to visit on our own.

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