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Excursion in Cartagena, Colombia question

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(posted on excursion thread initially) 

 

We're in the early stage of planning excursions for our March 2020 cruise on Reflection. We have cruised before and have always found booking independently of Celebrity to be much better value. However we have been quoted $70pp for a four hour tour with Dora (approx £57 gbp) whilst a very similar tour on Celebrity cruise planner is only £37pp. We know Dora will be max 16 people but is this really worth the extra money. This is the description of the two tours and we'd appreciate any thoughts you may have. 

 

 

CITY TOUR-DORA

 

We begin our tour in Manga where we will see great mansions built at the beginning of the XX Century.  

We visit the main monuments of the city.  We start at the hill of La Popa from where, besides visiting the monastery and the chapel, we will be able to admire a fantastic view of the city.  Following we head towards the San Felipe de Barajas Fort, the most important fort built in the whole American continent.Photo Stop. Next we walk and drive around the walled area - old city admiring houses and plazas such as Plaza de Santa Teresa, Plaza de Bolivar, Plaza de la Aduana, Plaza de los Coches, full of history and legends. Photo stop at the Palace of the Inquisition.

 

We do a stop at the Dungeons, which today are 23 handcraft shops. (option to walk the walls)

We Visit a Church called San Pedro Claver Church.

 

Time 4:00 hours

Monument tickets included.. La Popa and San Pedro Claver Church, transportation, Tour guide, and port fee.

 

Private TOUR 16 passengers maximum 

 

Transportation: air conditioned van.

 

CELEBRITY 

Discover Cartagena’s fascinating history on this journey to several unique landmarks including, the fortress, Saint Peter Claver’s Sanctuary, and the Inquisition Palace. Your adventure begins with a visit to San Felipe Fortress, the largest example of Spanish military engineering in South America. Then, learn about the role the Holy Inquisition played in Cartagena’s past. The Inquisition Palace served as the headquarters of the Court of the Holy Inquisition. See examples of torture chambers and jails from this harrowing time period. Next, you’ll discover the heart of Cartagena’s old town. Stroll the narrow cobblestone streets and squares inside the beautiful walled city. Admire the majestic Saint Peter Claver’s Sanctuary. Cartagena is a city of transformation and renewal. Former dungeons and storage areas have been turned into a lively artisan center. Discover local handicrafts as you explore Las Bóvedas Artisan Center. Finally, see Cartagena’s modern side at Pierino Gallo Shopping Center. CA09

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We did the Dora Tour as a family of four in April on our NCL cruise to the Panama Canal. She is worth every dime and offered one of the best tours we have ever take anywhere. Goes to some places the ship tours do not. She is very punctual and reliable with excellent transportation. She knew everything and just above everyone on our tour. Super friendly! You won't regret using Dora. She has perfect reviews on Tripadvisor. I would use again in a minute over anything the ship would offer. Do it! 

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Re Cartagena old town...We loved seeing it but there is no way you can “leisurely stroll the streets”, they are really busy and the vendors are quite pushy. The vendors  do happily take “No” for an answer but as you pass one you just bump into the next!

 

We opted for a horse and cart tour of the old town and loved it. All the sights without any pushing and shoving!

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We did a tour with Dora in 2011 and it was great.  Since you are in a smaller vehicle than the huge bus on the X tour, you can go places like the monastery at the top of the hill overlooking the city.

I was surprised to read that the X tour was cheaper.   What was included in the X tour?

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5 minutes ago, 4774Papa said:

We did a tour with Dora in 2011 and it was great.  Since you are in a smaller vehicle than the huge bus on the X tour, you can go places like the monastery at the top of the hill overlooking the city.

I was surprised to read that the X tour was cheaper.   What was included in the X tour?

The description is as in the original post, only difference seems to be the church up the hill?? 

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Posted (edited)

We did a similar Celebrity tour years ago.  They just dropped us at several places, gave some explanations when walking, but most of group did not hear anything.  Last and major stop at jewellery ans souvenir shop where they were pushing for sales.  Can t remember price but was definitely not worth it.

Edited by Michidoeme

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We went with Marelvy Pena in 2015.  At that time the cost was $63 pp.  It included a snack that she brought for us.  Her tour was similar to Dora's.  We all wanted to stop for coffee so she took us to a local place where we could have some refreshments and do a little shopping.  That's the difference.  You will hear more with a smaller group and they can take you to places the big buses can't go.  There is also a bit more flexibility if you want to stay somewhere a bit longer or stop off somewhere.  We didn't spend much time in the dungeon (which was a cool place to be).  I imagine the shopping stops will be longer with the big bus tour.   I always recommend smaller groups.  It's usually worth the cost for a better experience.

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Overall my experience with non ship tours has always been better than ship tours.  I am doing Dora after doing the research on it, from Trip Advisor to other feedback on Cruise critic.  From what I hear and others have chimed in she is great. 

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We’ve done two private tours with lee miles, mr emerald.  You might check to see what he could offer you

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Posted (edited)

You want to go to the Monastery with Dora atop the hill. It is the highest point in the city offering spectacular views all around. It was very quiet when we went in April. Vendors here are only outside the gate . Like others have said, the street vendors here are some of the most aggressive we have ever encountered. Dora has no problem telling them to leave her group alone and get lost .... I had the only two children on our tour and ages 9 and 11. Dora was as motherly as could be involving them in everything. She even gave them small gifts at the end of the tour. Spectacular......

Edited by tallnthensome

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1 hour ago, tallnthensome said:

 . Like others have said, the street vendors here are some of the most aggressive we have ever encountered. Dora has no problem telling them to leave her group alone and get lost .... 

 

We did Dora too and she was helpful in keeping some of the vendors away (not all there are so many).  The only thing I recall that I was surprised at was that she didn't have any water for us, and Cartegena is hot.  My husband bought a hat for $10 that the vendor originally wanted $20 for.  We've seen it at Walmart for $7.

I did purchase an emerald cross at Lee Miles (I'm a May baby).  I think I got a good deal (don't want to know if I didn't - lol).

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I second the vote for Marelvy Pena. She was wonderful. The view from the monastery was wonderful and can’t be accessed by large bus. She walked around with a fancy white umbrella which made her easy to follow. I don’t remember being hounded unreasonably so maybe they knew to stay away. We also stopped for coffee and she convinced a fruit cart vendor to give us samples. Of course, we all had to have more after that sample. People in the area seemed to know her. You won’t be sorry if you book her.  

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Somehow in 20 years of cruising we had missed a Cartagena call.  This was remedied with a Reflection cruise in March. We were a bit concerned about what to expect and so we went with a Celebrity tour.  Needless to say it was a mistake.  Will we never learn? We should have gone with Dora.  The Spanish Inquisition was a surprise but then, "nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition".  

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13 hours ago, tallnthensome said:

You want to go to the Monastery with Dora atop the hill. It is the highest point in the city offering spectacular views all around.

 

Agreed!  OP: you definitely want to visit La Popa.   

 

We were part of a small group from our Roll Call in early 2017 who toured with Dora, and, like others above, I highly recommend her.  There is just no comparison between a small private tour and a ship's big-bus tour, especially when you are walking along the streets of an old city, or visiting small churches, etc.  The price difference is too small to be a concern here.   (Tip: Dora and other private guides book up quickly, so don't wait!)

 

enhance

 

(Cartagena from La Popa, by turtles06)

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I was our Roll Call leader for a tour with Dora.

What wasn't noted is that Dora was graciously willing to alter the tour to fit our group. 

We thought we would climb the ramparts at the fort and she advised me (us) that it was not advisable due to the heat. She correctly noted that she only leads groups up the ramparts when they have been in Cartagena long enough to acclimate to the heat.

We asked for a longer tour to include lunch and she arranged this at a local restaurant, not a tourist stop.

She introduced us to nuns at the monastery who gave us a tour even though it was Good Friday.

I could go on and on.

Dora also had additional vehicles and from experience she usually takes the first group booked before placing passengers with her other drivers/guides. I don't know if this is still the case.

Sign on quickly.

And, enjoy your cruise.

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Thanks very much for all the advice, from your experiences it makes the difference between the two tours much clearer.  I have booked for our party and we are on the "Dora 1" tour so hopefully will get the lady herself!! 

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We are on Dora#1 tour for Mar 2020 & I’m exceptionally glad we booked early, looking forward to it (I’ll make sure to have my water bottle with me). 

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Dora was all booked for a recent trip to Cartagena, so we reluctantly did a ship's tour for our this repeat visit to the city.  We had done a private tour last visit to La Popa and other more distant  sites. 

 

The ship's tour was very quick at all "stops", no attempt was made to keep the vendors away on our very quick "stroll the city section", and the last stop at the emerald store was the longest by far and very boring.  It was very hard to even grab a photo anywhere. 

 

The store at the port is quite nice, reasonable in price and has some very decent merchandise, so good to visit.

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Can't speak highly enough about "Dora".  We met a couple on a 2014 CC roll call for an MSC Divinia cruise who were looking for 1 more couple to join them.  He made the arrangements and we were happy to join them, as the itinerary is exactly the type of thing we like to do.  Dora herself was not available, but her awesome guide Mercedes was.  Mercedes gave our small group an awesome tour.  We got to La Popa (the monastary on the hill) immediately, at leaset 45 minutes before the large groups started to arrive (had the place to ourselves).  Back in the walled city, we got a personal tour and a lot of history.  Answered every question.  We could not have been more pleased.  Price was not very expensive, though don't recall exactly what it was.  If it is even close to the ship sponsored trip, it is SO worth it. 

 

In fact....we just recently booked a 2020 Reflection return to Cartagena.  The first thing we did was contact Dora for a reservation.  We even found out that Mercedes is still there, so have requested her.  You will not go wrong!

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Private tours are the way to go, but if you like Hop On hop off busses, that's also an option.  We did that, and it stopped in lots of neat places.

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Posted (edited)

Are there links or emails to all 3 private tours mentioned here?

I found Marelvy, which tour takes you to Popa

 

Edited by ISLABONITA

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Posted (edited)

Marelvy Pena Hall has an outstanding tour.  She is ranked 5 stars with 499 reviews on Trip Advisor.  I can not say enough about her enthusiasm and knowledge of her country. 

 

Her web address is www.tourincartagena.com.  

 

We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and would go again if we happen to return to Cartagena.  

 

 

Edited by Buck1949

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