Arriving in Cartagena by Ship
The Disney Panama Canal Cruise provided us our first glimpse of South America, the beautiful port of Cartagena, Colombia. I excitedly roamed the upper deck of the Disney Magic for the best vantage points. First, we saw the Spanish forts from the 1600s that guarded the Bocachica entrance to Cartagena from the British.
After sailing past these impressive and well preserved forts, we passed colorful fishing villages lining the shore of Isla de Tierra Bomba on the port side
Passing around the side of the island, we caught view of the modern city at Bocagrande. Skyscapers reminiscent of Miami soared in the distance. Finally, we reached the dock which is in the middle of Cartagena, Colombia’s busy commercial port. Cargo ships, huge cranes and rail car sized shipping containers spread out before you.
Best of Cartagena Tour
We chose to take a tour of the highlights of Cartagena to try to see as much as possible.
We first stopped at the Naval Museum. Local dancers demonstrated Cumbia dance.
Slaves from Africa brought this dance with them to the New World. It was a wedding dance; now, it is the national dance of Colombia. The dancers thrilled us with their athleticism and grace.
Our guide then quickly took us through the Naval Museum.
I had most wanted to see Old Town for the Colonial architecture. It was colorful and beautiful.
There are two downsides to walking through Old Town. First, it is hot! Not surprising being near the equator. Our guide told they have two seasons: hot, and hot and wet.
Second, I have never encountered the magnitude or tenacity of street peddlers selling anything from table clothes to beer to art. My son could not look me in the face to keep from laughing at my continuous “No gracias. No gracias.”
Church of San Pedro Claver
Catedral de Santa Catalina
Plaza de Bolivar
After leaving Old Town, we made a brief stop at Las Bovedas, home to crafts and gifts located in dungeons and vaults from the 1700s.
Fort San Felipe de Barajas
Our last stop was for a photo of Fort San Felipe de Barajas, an impressive example of Spanish military architecture
- Get out early to escape the worst of the heat.
- Be ready to say “No Gracias” a lot as street merchants approach.
- Do not photograph people on the street wearing traditional costumes unless you are willing to pay. They do expect to be payed. That is why they are dressed that way.
- American money is accepted if not preferred.
- Carry some extra cash. You can conveniently get cold water, soda, beer, or souvenirs from street vendors at good prices. They are working hard out in the heat.
- I felt safe in Cartagena, but I always protect against pick pockets.
- Be prepared to walk a lot on most tours. The charming, touristy parts of Cartagena require you to go on foot.