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Ya Ya Cruiser

Info on Cartagena, Please

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We will be visiting Cartagena on the Coral Princess. Does anyone have any info on shore excursions, safety, what to look for or look out for? Don't really have any info so would appreciate whatever anyone has to offer.

 

With thanks,

Yaya Cruiser

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My trip to Cartagena was on my first cruise so the information may be old. The important thing was the CD before we hit port was VERY EMPHATIC that we use only the ship's tours not an independent.

Before we hit Arruba, he again was trying to sell the ship's tour,BUT did not (more than any other CD) discourage independent travel.

The differance between the two talks said it all.

 

Hope this helps.

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I would second only going on a ship's tour, and sticking close to your guide. It is a fascinating city, but not a place to go on your own or even with an independent tour.

 

Read some of the history before you go (the chapter in James Mitchner's "Caribbean" about the pirates, Spaniards and Drake is a good place to start). I enjoyed seeing the old fort and the Old Town area. Be sure you are on deck either coming into or departing the city from the sea so you can see the former location of the huge old chain used to control access to the harbor in those days.

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Thank you JayS and Splinter - I will take your advice and for the first time, use ship's tours. We are on this cruise because we wanted the Panama, but between your comments about Cartagena and what I have read about Colon/Cristobal Pier, I'm think we haven't picked the safest of destinations. We don't usually use the ships' tours but, better safe than sorry!

 

YaYa

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Many years ago we went to Cartegana for a week and it holds a special place in my heart. We've gone back twice on cruises and have done independent tours by hiring a taxi driver/guide (english speaking) when we left the ship.. We went to the Old City.. a place that inspite of the Government has been reclaimed from ruin and there are beautiful little shops, and behind the doors are wonderful restaurants.. Although we did't go up. there is the Fort of San Felipe..dedicated to a stupid (officer) who kept fighting inspite of loosing a leg and an arm in a war.. Then on to the Dungeons...my favorite area.. little shops where wonderful handmade crotched shawls of silk are being sold among other things done by women in prison I believe... Then to another shopping area...The vendors are persistant, but if you tell them "no gracious".. and if you don't speak spanish a taxi driver who does is very handy... Dont let them scare you off.. but be very cautious where you do go and of your possessions.. Your driver will watch out for you....The people with us.. one spoke a bit of spanish as my husband did too and the other couple told me recently that it was one of the best times she had at a port.

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We were in Cartegena on our first cruise in 1992 and it has some very beautiful areas. Be sure to get up to the Cathedral which has a spectacular view of the harbor.

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Cartegana was one of the scariest times ashore I think I have had. We did a ship's tour and as we climbed up the walkway to the fort, I managed to get separated from the group. In an instant I was surrounded by pedlars all yelling at me and pushing their wares in my face!!! and in one more instant, there was an armed guard that accompanied us each time we left the bus, waving his automatic weapon and yelling at the pedlars who melted away as fast as they had appeared!!!

I guess the moral of the story is to take the ship's tour and stick with the group. But I wouldn't not go on a cruise just because Cartegana was on the itin. We found some really neat little shops and enjoyed the city.

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LOL.. We climbed that fort.. and that was years and years ago..probably almost 20 years ago and at the top was a little shop..and I still to this day have the primative wallhanging that I bought there.. .I doubt I could make it up there. We had an experience in the Dungeons like yours the last time we were there, but kept telling the venders...No... politely in spanish and at one point the cab driver interceeded and got us into the cab...and there was only two of us.. The only placed that scared the bejeebers out of me was Montego Bay.. I think our first and last time in Jamaica... I have never, never before or since then felt so physically threatened in a tourist area.. If I ever and I doubt I will be on a cruise ship tht goes to Jamaica.. I will never, never get off.. Right now considering trip to several Morocco ports..lol. and we wil hire guides..

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We were in Cartegena on our first cruise in 1992 and it has some very beautiful areas. Be sure to get up to the Cathedral which has a spectacular view of the harbor.

 

Yes, a visit to La Popa Monastery is a must. I just returned from a Panama Canal cruise where Cartagena was a port of call. There is no reason that you cannot travel independently there. It is a beautiful city, rich in history and worth seeing. Yes, there are aggressive street vendors (as there are vendors everywhere else....just handle them properly...with a firm no....and you will have no problem). I hired a van (with A/C & bilingual guide) online and had no problem at all. We were picked up and dropped off at the pier. There were 2 other couples that joined us here, on CC, and 2 more couples joined when they heard my plans onboard. Depending on the number of people, you can do this tour independently (and safely) from between one third and one half the price of the cruise line! Sites such as http://www.destinationcartagena.com/index.html can give you all the information that you need as to where to go. We just stopped at the fort San Felipe as the walk up and any further sightseeing would cut into our time in the old city (a walk there is also a must).

You can see a lot in four hours. The ten of us really enjoyed ourselves. Two couples even stayed on for a few more hours and took a taxi back to the pier! I hope you enjoy your visit as much as we did.

 

Cheers, Bruce

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Thanks PM,

There is much to see and do in Cartagena... I wish I had had more time.

We were in Casablanca for the day last year (part of the Westerdam's repositioning cruise) and rented a taxi for a few hours after we took the free shuttle into town. The mosque there is magnificent!

If jewellery is your thing, then emeralds Cartagena is the place to go... I believe 75% of the world's emeralds come from Columbia! They are plentiful and cheap too (relatively speaking).

So many places, so little time...:)

 

Cheers, Bruce

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Thanks PM,

There is much to see and do in Cartagena... I wish I had had more time.

We were in Casablanca for the day last year (part of the Westerdam's repositioning cruise) and rented a taxi for a few hours after we took the free shuttle into town. The mosque there is magnificent!

If jewellery is your thing, then emeralds Cartagena is the place to go... I believe 75% of the world's emeralds come from Columbia! They are plentiful and cheap too (relatively speaking).

So many places, so little time...:)

 

Cheers, Bruce

 

Cheers Bruce..you must be English...lol. Years ago when we had been about 20) when we were in Cartegena, before cruise ships, not being a fan of emeralds I just couldn't warm up to them...although others did. What we did with other people was to hire taxis and go out into the country side to an artisans village...we dodged donkeys, pigs and carts with drivers who thought they were driving LeMans..and in this village which I believe was near a woman's prison...we all bought huge ang magnificent silk crocheted shawls for the price of $7.00 apiece among other things... and I still have mine... The only souvenier that we brought back was a primative wall hanging we found at the TOP of the fort. We met the owner who was in from Bogata for the "bulls"..and I discovered it the other day.. As for jewelry...I love handmade and unusual items.. so I'm sure in Morocco that I'llbe coming home with many unusual pieces.. thanks for the advice.

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I've been to Cartagena many times but not on a cruise. I'm sad to say the last time was likely 7 or 8 years ago. When I did go I felt extremely safe in Cartagena but I understand things have changed. Even back then, cruiseship passengers were always targeted by the not honest. Cartagena is a beautiful city. The old fort, the walled city and the dungeon shops are all wonderful spots to see. Emeralds, gold and leather goods were all good prices.

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Last Mango (I love your name), unfortunately, cruisers will always be perceived as rich foreigners (mostly) and, as such, are 'targets' for many with little or no money to sell whatever to them. They are also 'targets' for not honest (thieves or scam artists etc,) but to equate the two is unfair. Are there more dishonest people in Cartagena than in other ports? While there are many aggressive vendors there (as there are in many cities), an experienced traveller learns how to deal with that. And it is done verbally. In the last few years, I think that Cartagena has unjustly received the reputation as being 'unsafe'. In today's climate of fear, that is understandable but I think it is up to people who have been there to dispel that myth. There are many posts here on CC that talk of a common sense approach to travelling and that applies unilaterally to all ports of call.

As you have said, it's a beautiful city and it would be a shame for people to miss it due to misinformation.

 

Cheers, Bruce

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I´m from Colombia and don´t think Cartagena is a dangerous place, is as dangerous as any other medium or big city, I´m not a big fan of Cartagena but I think it´s a facinating place to spend a couple of hours or up to two days, i think if you are a in a group of 5 or more you can use independent or maybe rent a ca rwith a driver but there is no sense in that as you can take a tai to ciudad vieja that is the best part of cartagena with restaurants, you can also walk safetly no problem at all the only thing i Recomend is not buying anything from the vendors on the beach or street, not safe for health reasons. plus they will try to take advantage of most of you. but don´t worry is just a city. colombian porblems are away from the big cities, if it weren´t like that then the cruises wouldn´t stop there

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Does anyone have any idea where I can find a guide for the day? There are up to six of us off the Volendam in October 07.

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Hi ldog, I am happy to recommend a guide for the day. I arranged a tour last year (same cruise on the Volendam, though you have a few extra ports of call) for Cartagena. As I mentioned in post #9 on this thread, you can get a lot of information on what you want to see in Cartagena at this site: http://www.destinationcartagena.com/index.html . Once I determined what I thought I wanted to see, I contacted Lee Miles at

leland@misteremerald.com for advice on what he thought was a good itinerary. I then set the agenda based upon what I had read and his recommendations. There is only so much you can do in a day, but you can accomplish quite a bit (by the time we arrived back at the pier, it was closer to 5 hrs.). The cost last year was $180 for 4 hrs. for the vehicle, the driver and an exceptional guide, Claudia. We were 10 people in the van (w/AC, thankfully) so we paid $18/person (+ whatever we felt appropriate to tip afterwards) for a wonderful day! I found Lee to be professional, personable and amenable to answering any and all of my questions. Feel free to ask if you have any other questions.

 

Cheers, Bruce

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I'll be on the 2/15/08 Coral Princess to the Canal. My wife & I want to do an independent tour and then have lunch at Club de Pesca which is supposed to be an excellent restaurant. I think I found it in Fodor's and then went on the internet to see if they had a site, which they did, www.clubdepesca.com. I liked their menu. My wife and I like to have lunch at GOOD local restaurants when we cruise since it's a lot of fun. On another site, www.tourcartagena.info/index.htlm, I found something of interest in a one on one tour guide and am pursuing it. I was not born yesterday, well, maybe I was due to my age, and have contacted him at tourcartagena@cs.com to get some information. I will have to perform a due diligence on this before I do anything, but it may be of interest .

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On another site, www.tourcartagena.info/index.htlm, I found something of interest in a one on one tour guide and am pursuing it. I was not born yesterday, well, maybe I was due to my age, and have contacted him at tourcartagena@cs.com to get some information. I will have to perform a due diligence on this before I do anything, but it may be of interest .

 

alphazeta, please let us know what you find out regarding this tour guide. We will be in Cartagena in early February (part of a canal cruise) and are interested in finding a guide to show us around.

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Except for the restaurants....when you leave the terminal there is a taxi stand..tell the man in charge you want an english speaking guide and driver. You will want to see the old city, the fort, the La Popa, and of course the dunngeon shops.. where you will definetly need the guide to fend off the vendors.. As for the emeralds..know before you go...also I believe Tumi leather is made in Colombia..

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alphazeta, please let us know what you find out regarding this tour guide. We will be in Cartagena in early February (part of a canal cruise) and are interested in finding a guide to show us around.[/quote

Here is another site I found. cartagenainfo.net amd then cruise down to travel agencies. Again, I'm just checking everything out and I certainly don't know if it is good or bad because I don't have any prior information. But, we have plenty of time and I am sure there are legit one on one tours. I need your feed back also. Keep in touch. You can also go to my e-mail address if this is boring everyone else at rprocterjr@wi.rr.com

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Alpha Zeta, we are also intersted in private Cartagena tours, will be on the 9/29 Infinity cruise.. Please let me know if you find anyone. Thanks.

Stan

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I git the email address of Lee Miles in Cartegena and just got an email from him today about tours for 4 people with a car and driver it would be $170 he sent me a very detailed email I was going to use princess tours but I think I might use his arrangements. His email address is Leland@Misteremerald.com any thing else just send me a message

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Lee also responded to me today. Here's what he suggested--is it the same as what he sent you, Elaine?





"A private tour in a private medium-size car waiting for you at ship's gangway, including a select English-speaking guide/driver for 4 hours will cost $170.00 plus the entrance fees to the touristic sites you choose to enter.





The car will fit 4 people with 1 next to the driver in front and 3 in the back seat. (That means that one person gets to 'sit in the middle' in the back seat, but saves spending an additional $40 to move up to a van.)





Unless you are wildly interested in getting an early start, we might figure that you start your tour at 9:00 am, which will give you time for leisurely rising and breakfast.





I might suggest that you go straight to the shopping at Pierino Gallo Plaza so that you will basically have the place to yourselves. You get much better attention than from 11:00 onwards, when the ship's tours begin arriving, and you can very quickly go from store to store for comparison shopping. ( I particularly want you to be assured that there will be other choices than just my shop :)





La Popa is a good choice because it gives you a great view of the Old City, the inner and outer bay, and the whole context of Cartagena. The cost will be about $4 per person for access to the Monastery.





The Gold Museum is free, and is definitely worth seeing.





I might recommend that you only do a photo stop at the Fortress (cost would be $6 pp) and pay instead to enter the Palace of the Inquisition, which is across the Plaza Bolivar from the Gold Museum. (entry fee: $5.50 pp).





A short walk from the INquisition is the Church of San Pedro Claver. You can step into the Church itself for free, but it costs $3.50 pp to visit the Monastery and Gardens. I would opt for just the church.





If you want to add churches to the mix I would suggest the Church of Santo Domingo which also costs $5.50 pp for a complete tour with headphones.





Lunch could be at 12:00 at Restaurante El Santisimo, which is very good. You can either have just an appetizer or a main course or can have a full three course meal. My experience with El Santisimo is that you can pretty much point at anything on the menu and it will be worth it. Appetizer & Main course without alcoholic beverages might run you about $25-30 per person.





I'll stop here to give you a chance to react."

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Hi Lori, Well, Lee was not as detailed to me but I am sure it is the same idea. He just gave me the car verses the van and prices for ship tour or taxi outside the port and what he does. I think that$170 plus all the fees for entrance to fort etc plus lunch is high we can do the ship tour from 10-1:30 and be back by lunch for a lot less for the 4 of us although I hate to take the ship tours I am thinking it might be better my TA told me the begging on the streets and in the tourist areas if awful and I read in the Fodors book not to give anyone of them anything or they will not leave you alone.What are your thoughts on the pricing and this tour? Elaine

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