Upon Arrival: Cartagena
Approaching the Port of Cartagena, cruise ship guests are greeted with splendid views of the mighty forts of San José and San Fernando. Constructed in the 18th century, these great white-stone strongholds once valiantly protected the entrance to Cartagena Bay from plundering pirates.
Past the fortresses, ships dock at the cruise terminal on Isla de Manga, a small island connected to mainland Cartagena by a bridge. The cruise terminal has a handful of duty-free shops, souvenir and craft stands, bars, restaurants, and the notable Juan Vladez Coffee Shop. Visitors can marvel at some of the world’s finest emeralds in the terminal’s man-made cave, complete with emerald veins and the aroma of Colombian soil.
The terminal offers a shuttle form the dock to the port gates, where taxis and buses are readily available. Several shore excursions depart from the pier as well. It’s a 10- to 15-minute ride into Old City, but there is no need to rent a car; Cartagena is best explored by foot. Old City Cartagena is reminiscent of many old towns in Spain and Italy, with winding cobbled streets and numerous plazas.
Ten minutes south of Old City lies the Bocagrande Peninsula, a modern neighborhood complete with high-rise buildings, luxury hotels, and resort-owned beaches. Here, the Pierino Gallo Shopping Plaza is the premier location to purchase leather goods, world-famous Colombian emeralds, and coffee.
Visit the San Felipe Fortress and other key points of historical interest in Cartagena. Witness the infamous dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition and tour 17th-century masterpieces of Spanish architecture and engineering.
Ramble down cobblestoned streets under flowering balconies and bask in the warm glow of colonial and Spanish architecture. Explore Old City on your own after the relaxing horse-drawn carriage ride.
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