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Christine Cruisin

Private Tour Guide For Cartagena

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Hi All---

We're close to the end of our 17 day Trans Canal cruise aboard Zuiderdam. A more thorough review will be posted upon our return home, but I wanted to let you know about Lee Miles's (Mister Emerald)'s tour of Cartagena we did yesterday.

 

In a word, the tour was great and we'd use Lee again in a heartbeat. The tourguide he arranged, Claudia, was a native Cartagenan and her English was impeccable. The ship arrived earlier than anticipated and Lee and Claudia met us at the pier. The tour actually lasted longer than we'd arranged, and at no additional charge.

 

There were 8 of us in the van and I would suggest NO MORE THAN 8. We fit nicely, but more than 8 would be a little cramped, in my opinion.

 

We visited LaPopa Monastery, Las Bovedas DUngeons (now crafts market), Bocagrande area, the walled city, the Naval Museum, Fort San Felipe, as well as a general drive around the city. We lunched at La Olla Cartagenera, an authentic Colombian restaurant, with a lovely shaded courtyard full of greenery and spinning ceiling fans.

 

We also stopped at Pierino Gallo Shopping Center where Lee's store, MISTER EMERALD is. He gave us a great price on the gorgeous emerald earrings I'm wearing right now. Another store, COFFEE AND, has Colombian coffee at fair prices, and the owner Luis Romano is fluent in English and very knowledgeable at pointing us to the right coffee selection.

 

I think there were one or two more stops, but my brain is clouded right now ... lol.

 

I can't speak to the poster who asked about wheelchair accessiblity, but I can say that if Lee promised it, he'll deliver. It was a real pleasure to meet him and I feel confident about his services.

 

Safety: at no time did we feel unsafe. There are numerous vendors who approach you to buy leather, t-shirts, artwork, "Rolex" watches (ha!), and Cuban cigars that probably aren't Cuban at all, but a firm NO and they're away. The "fruit ladies" with baskets of fruit on their heads and colorful costumes, ask $1/person to take their photo ... they were probably the most persistent of the vendors we encountered.

 

Questions? Pls email me at cruisingcp at comcast dot net and I'll do my best to answer you.....

 

Bon Voyage for now.....

Carol in SC

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CP, thanks for the information about Lee Miles. We are using Lee for a tour for four next March. The intinerary you mentioned is close to what he has recommended for us. A couple of questions:

 

  1. How long was the tour? We are scheduled to arrive at 11:30 and depart at 6 so we were thinking in terms of 4 hours or so to be sure we get back in time.
  2. Did your tour guide eat lunch with you? If so, did your group share the cost?
  3. Is a tip to the tour guide expected?

Thanks and hope you have enjoyed your cruise.

 

David

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CP, thanks for the information about Lee Miles. We are using Lee for a tour for four next March. The intinerary you mentioned is close to what he has recommended for us. A couple of questions:

 

  1. How long was the tour? We are scheduled to arrive at 11:30 and depart at 6 so we were thinking in terms of 4 hours or so to be sure we get back in time.
  2. Did your tour guide eat lunch with you? If so, did your group share the cost?
  3. Is a tip to the tour guide expected?

Thanks and hope you have enjoyed your cruise.

 

David

 

All good questions we would like to know too.:D

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CP, thanks for the information about Lee Miles. We are using Lee for a tour for four next March. The intinerary you mentioned is close to what he has recommended for us. A couple of questions:

 

  1. How long was the tour? We are scheduled to arrive at 11:30 and depart at 6 so we were thinking in terms of 4 hours or so to be sure we get back in time.
  2. Did your tour guide eat lunch with you? If so, did your group share the cost?
  3. Is a tip to the tour guide expected?

Thanks and hope you have enjoyed your cruise.

 

David

 

 

Hi David & FogFog --

Yep, those ARE good questions.

 

Our tour was scheduled for 4.5 hours including lunch. It actually lasted from a bit before 10AM to after 3PM.

 

Lunch in Cartagena is a great experience, but not a quick one. Due to the shortness of your visit, you might consider having an early lunch on the ship and just doing a four hour (or so) tour ... without lunch, which lasted over an hour.

 

Our guide did eat lunch with us, but we paid only for ourselves. I don't know if she paid for herself or what she worked out with the restaurant, but we paid no part of her lunch charge.

 

We tipped the guide. I'm not certain it was fully expected, but it was well deserved ... we tipped her about $10USD for the two of us.

 

Re souvenirs from Cartagena: We bought coffee beans (whole beans, which we were told would remain fresh longer and be less suspicious if Customs chose our bags to look through). Lee Miles also sells a really nice 18K yellow gold "coffee bean" pendant with a little emerald embedded in it. $17USD and a great little souvenir and present.

 

Re the van: We were eight people and a few of us were not tiny, either. The van had a front passenger seat, a backwards row behind the driver for three, and three more rows which comfortably sat two per row. With the guide, we were nine passengers and I really wouldn't have wanted any more...

 

Pls let me know what other questions I can answer. We just got home and now I have the fun of unpacking (yuck) but also unwrapping all the souvenirs!!!

 

Carol in SC

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Carol,

 

Thanks for the detailed comments. These will really help us plan our visit. Since my wife, daughter, son-in-law and I like to eat, we'll probably opt for the lunch and maybe forgo some of the shopping! I hate to miss an opportunity to sample the local cuisine.

 

I also appreciate the comments regarding tips and paying for lunch. The only other smaller tours I've been on have not had any meals included so didn't know what the protocol was. I guess we'll just evaluate the situation at the time and see what's right.

 

By the way, what was your guides name in case we get the same one?

 

I wish our cruise was next week instead of next March!

 

Thanks again and hope the rest of your cruise goes well.

 

David

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Hi David --

There's a Cartagenan dish of squashed and fried plantains (patacon?) that our guide Claudia recommended. Several in our troop had it at La Olla Cartagenera and it was excellent. I had camarones con ajillo (shrimp with garlic) and it was great, too. The menu was in Spanish with some English translation, which helped.

 

We chose to sit in the open air center courtyard, shaded by a roof, greenery and ceiling fans. We were not overly warm. There was an air-conditioned dining room, too, but we preferred the more picturesque courtyard.

 

We got home last night and are still really tired. Long day at airports and such. Thanks for your kind wishes.

 

Seriously, any more questions are welcome. They help us relive the wonderful experience ....

 

Best

Carol

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Carol, thanks for the recommendations on food and sitting outside. Sounds beautiful. We'll deifinitely give it a try.

 

Another question - what were the approximate entrance fees (if any) for the sites? It seems I read somewhere that $5 or so was typical. Not critical but just wondering.

 

I hope you have a restful day and enjoy the memories of your cruise.

 

David

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$5 entrance fee seems about right. We were charged for the Naval Museum and LaPopa Monastery. The Gold Museum was closed the day we were there ... national holiday the previous day.

 

The tour guide paid our way and we reimbursed her at the end ... The total tour was $45.25/pp based on eight passengers, and including the entrance fees. It would have been ~$36/pp without the entrance fees.

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In rereading these posts, I want to point out that we had a driver (Rene) AND a guide (Claudia). Rene drove (and spoke maybe three words of English) and Claudia sat in the back of the van with us and told us all about her city ... she was great.

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Carol,

since you experienced quite a few places, what do you think of pushing a wheel chair to some of them...I know people that aren't disabled don't usually notice, but if you could possibly remember I would be grateful. My husband and I are interested in Art, history (both recent and long ago), politics, architecture and the actual people who live in around this area. We also love sampling different kinds of local food...however my husband can not eat bananas or plantains...Any help would be appreciated. Perhaps you could...when you have the time of course describe some of the things you saw.

Thanks a lot for all your trouble.

Rev

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Carol,

since you experienced quite a few places, what do you think of pushing a wheel chair to some of them...I know people that aren't disabled don't usually notice, but if you could possibly remember I would be grateful. My husband and I are interested in Art, history (both recent and long ago), politics, architecture and the actual people who live in around this area. We also love sampling different kinds of local food...however my husband can not eat bananas or plantains...Any help would be appreciated. Perhaps you could...when you have the time of course describe some of the things you saw.

Thanks a lot for all your trouble.

Rev

 

 

Oh, Rev, you're so right. I didn't really take notice all that well. BUT I remember lots of cobblestone streets, esp downtown. LaPopa Monastery was on a hill and it was rather steep ... quite a task to push a chair up to the overlook.

 

The Naval Museum was navigable by chair, but Las Bovedas Dungeons (now crafts market) had signs about the uneven floors (due to the historic nature). And there were curbs at most intersections.

 

The restaurant was chair-accessible, but the ladies room was kinda small (no first hand experience with the mens' room...)

 

And I don't eat bananas, either, but there was a HUGE range of food choices....one of our group members had lemon/cinnamon allergies and the restaurant went out of their way to be sure she didn't get those ... to the point of the waiter bringing out a jar of (I think) mayonnaise so that Claudia could translate the ingredients.

 

What I would do is email Lee (who lives there every day) and ask him.

 

I can tell you that we got a terrific feel for the city from just riding around in the van ... visibility was excellent and there was SOOOO much to see. Maybe your trip will just not be able to stop certain places (such as where the cobblestones are so tricky....)

 

When we get the photos ready to post, I'll try to remember to send you the link. May I have your email address? You can send it to cruisingcp at comcast dot net ...

 

Do let me know

Thanks

Carol

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Hi Carol -

 

Did you actually visit Fort San Felipe or did you just stop to look at it from a distance? Also, do you remember about how much time you spent in each place? Thanks!

 

Robert

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Hi Carol -

 

Did you actually visit Fort San Felipe or did you just stop to look at it from a distance? Also, do you remember about how much time you spent in each place? Thanks!

 

Robert

 

Hi Robert--

By our choices, we stopped for photos at Fort San Felipe...did not enter the fort.

We went into La Popa Monastery ... maybe 20 minutes

Lunch was over an hour

Naval Museum was maybe 15-20 minutes

Pierino Gallo shopping was 40 minutes, I think

Las Bovedas Dungeons (shopping) was 15-20 minutes (most of the shops there, each in what used to be a dungeon) have similar items.

We wandered on foot in the Old City for about half an hour, and visited a church.

We also spent a good bit of time in transit, touring.

 

Look at the private buses when you're there: like parts of Mexico, Cartagena allows individuals to own public buses and they are distinctively and highly decorated. They make money by how many passengers they carry, so the buses are usually crowded and move fast. The rear seats of small motorcycles are also for rent as public transportation, and there are SOOOO many small motorcycles. (I would not want to drive in Cartagena....)

 

The one thing I know is that your tour can be customized, so check out the sites and decide what you'd like best to see within your alloted time.

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Coud you please describe the port area? Were there shops and restaurants at the dock?

My DH uses a wheelchair and we wondered about accessibility.

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Coud you please describe the port area? Were there shops and restaurants at the dock?

My DH uses a wheelchair and we wondered about accessibility.

 

 

It was a cargo terminal with the usual gangway off the ship.

 

There were a couple of shops near the terminal, but I did not go into them. I know Adriana's Jewelers was there, and there was also an internet cafe.

 

Perhaps someone who has experienced the port area better than I did will have more answers for you.....sorry......

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Carol my e-mail is Rev1139@yahoo.com thanks so much...that would be great.

I have been doing research on Cartagena lately...reading a lot...what a fasinating city. You are right, just driving around we will be able to soak up a lot of the sites. I am so excited. I have been around the world many, many times and believe it or not...this is my first time in Columbia...so I really look forward to the experience. Thanks for staying on this thread and sharing, there is so little information out there.

Rev

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Hi Robert--

By our choices, we stopped for photos at Fort San Felipe...did not enter the fort.

We went into La Popa Monastery ... maybe 20 minutes

 

Hi Carol,

 

We also have some mobility limitations - can't walk far or for a long time. Lee is suggesting the Fort rather than the Monastery - but from what I have read La Popa is almost a 'must see' in Cartagena. Would you agree? Are there stairs to reach the view point at the monastery? or ramps? Would it be like 3 or 4 storeys high to walk? or more? Just trying to get an idea before we decide to go there or pass.

 

Sounds like you had a wonderful experience! We are looking forward to it!

Dot

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Hi Carol,

 

We also have some mobility limitations - can't walk far or for a long time. Lee is suggesting the Fort rather than the Monastery - but from what I have read La Popa is almost a 'must see' in Cartagena. Would you agree? Are there stairs to reach the view point at the monastery? or ramps? Would it be like 3 or 4 storeys high to walk? or more? Just trying to get an idea before we decide to go there or pass.

 

Sounds like you had a wonderful experience! We are looking forward to it!

Dot

 

Sorry for the delay in responding, Dot.

 

We stopped at the Fort, but did not enter. We just used the exterior as a photo stop.

 

The Monastery is on a hill and it's a steep slope. There were wide steps after the entrance booth and I didn't notice a handicap ramp, but I wasn't looking for one. I'll bet Lee can tell you.

 

I will say that the view from LaPopa is phenomenal. The van can drop you off near the entrance booth and you can make your way up as slowly as you wish. The courtyard inside the monastery is breathtaking ... reminded me of some in Havana. I'd definitely try to make it, if I were you.

 

We are posting photos of the cruise and tours ... http://community.webshots.com/user/TravellingBlues

Cartagena pics are not up yet, but please keep checking over the next couple of days, as DH is working on them as we speak.

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I was on Carol's Cartegena Tour with Claudia. We arrived back at the ship about four. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted that magical sign "internet" . Rene, the driver, dropped us off as close to the ship's ramp as he could get. I asked if I could stay on board and return to the internet store. It is close to the exit from the port area. No problem. The internet was with a few shops selling coffee and souvenirs (picked up a nice T shirt) If I am recalling it correctly it was all flat easily accessible by wheelchair. I do not recall any restaurant but people were sitting out in the shade having drinks. The Zuiderdam or the port had a shuttle running back and forth from the ship to the shops.

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Great Pictures. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

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Don't know if this helps, but my Spanish teacher is from Cartagena and knows the Rosario Islands well. Says they are beautiful and worth a trip.

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DEBS UK.........i have posted my question about rosario islands in many places and for months.....THANK YOU for having an answer:D

royal caribbean has a ship's excursion that looks awesome but i've been in situations before where i've done an excursion that no one on cruise critic had ever done.......and boy was i sorry:eek:

you've just helped me make my decision.

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Thank you for sharing your pictures - they are beautiful!

 

We will be going to Cartenega at the end of Aug 08. My sister and I will definiely have my 15 and 17yo sons with us, and possibly my 20 yo son and husband will be there, too (there are booked on the cruise but we need to wait and see what happens with jobs come the spring!). Everyone always says stick with a ship tour for this port for safety reasons, but it seems like Lee makes sure you are not only safe but see what is important, too! So besides the fort and the monastary, what would you suggest I think about? And how far in advance do you think I need to make reservations?

 

Thanks!

Sorry for the delay in responding, Dot.

 

We stopped at the Fort, but did not enter. We just used the exterior as a photo stop.

 

The Monastery is on a hill and it's a steep slope. There were wide steps after the entrance booth and I didn't notice a handicap ramp, but I wasn't looking for one. I'll bet Lee can tell you.

 

I will say that the view from LaPopa is phenomenal. The van can drop you off near the entrance booth and you can make your way up as slowly as you wish. The courtyard inside the monastery is breathtaking ... reminded me of some in Havana. I'd definitely try to make it, if I were you.

 

We are posting photos of the cruise and tours ... http://community.webshots.com/user/TravellingBlues

Cartagena pics are not up yet, but please keep checking over the next couple of days, as DH is working on them as we speak.

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Tigrbaby --

Let me tell you how I worked things out with Lee.

 

I checked the ship's shore excursions and saw what was featured, then did a little online research on my own. I also checked other cruise lines' Cartagena tours to be sure we weren't missing anything important.

 

I then contacted Lee and asked what he would suggest. For example, he suggested the Gold Museum which I would have LOVED to see, but it was to be closed on the day we were going to be there, so we couldn't include it in the tour.

 

What I would do, in your shoes, is to contact Lee (he's positively delightful) and give him your date and time constraints. Ask HIM when he would like you to confirm your plans.

 

Remember that Lee used a van for us that I would not put more than nine Americans in ...

 

And one off-topic note: Lee owns an emerald jewelry store and I purchased earrings there ... my jeweler here in the US appraised them significantly higher than my purchase price, so I am pleased with both Lee's tours and his emeralds!!

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