Our first day in port! Frankly, I knew nothing about Cartagena other than the misconception of what you see in Romancing the Stone which was actually filmed in Mexico and that the US Department of State says Columbia is still dangerous for Americans though security has greatly improved in the tourist/business areas of Cartagena and Bogota.
We arrived at 7 am and our tour was meeting at 8 am. I had heard a few people say that they preferred room service for early port days like this; we decided to give it a try. Its not exactly room service though as our butler brings it, puts out a white table cloth and lays out all the food you ordered on the little glass table in our room. Richard had scrambled eggs and sausage links. I had a sausage link and a bagel with lox and capers. I made my own strawberry hibiscus tea from hot water that we ordered, while Richard had coffee. Sadly the orange juice that you get from room service is Minute Maid instead of the fresh squeezed OJ that is served in Blu.
Frankly, I don’t understand how room service works well for early tours because the earliest time slot in which you could request a hot breakfast was 6:30 to 7:00 am. You could request continental only prior to that, but really, that hardly makes it more convenient than going up to the Oceanview Cafe (buffet) and getting it yourself.
Coming into Cartagena:
Our tour was one we joined through Cruise Critic Roll Call; it was through Mr. Emerald. There were 17 of us at a cost of $42 each plus tip for the guide and driver. Our guide was Niba and our driver Roberto. The mini-bus we were on was air conditioned and held probably 25 people so we had some room to spread out. Unfortunately I have no photos from the actual tour since I forgot my camera! The tour made the following stops: La Popa Hill and monastery, Fort of San Felipe de Barajas, the Pierino Gallo Plaza where Mr. Emerald’s store is (all of the ships recommended stores are here), the walled city for a stop at Las Bovedas (The Dungeons) which is more shopping, and a walking tour to the top of the wall and into the Church of San Pedro Claver.
La Popa Hill and monastery, with a distant shot see you can see how it stands out above the city. This was the first stop on our tour.
Iglesia Pedro Claver dome in the distance. I was impressed by this church. It’s the closest I’ve seen to the cathedrals in Europe, outside of Europe.
Niba was a wealth of knowledge about every area we went to as well as historical and current topics about Cartagena and Colombia. Of course, since the tour was through Mr. Emerald we had 45 minutes shopping time at his store and the Pierino Gallo Plaza. I hadn’t planned on making a purchase, however the spirit and freedom got the better of me and I came home with a beautiful pair of earrings.
Cartagena isn’t exactly high on my list of places I’d like to return to. There were a lot of very poor areas around the city and the beaches were not exactly nice. If we were to go back (and that would only happen if we were on a cruise that stopped here) I’d spend all my time in the old city.
The tour departed at 8:15 am and we were back to the port at 1:20 pm. Lines to re-board were long. One nice thing about Celebrity is that they pass out ice cold wash cloths as everyone was sticky and hot after walking around in a humid 81 degrees.
Back on the ship…
Once again I had lunch at the Aqua Spa Café. This is the food I love – light, fresh, no preservatives. Today I had a small Greek salad and the portobello sandwich. The sandwich was one quarter the size you’d expect, served open faced with grilled portobello, red bell pepper and onion. It was tasty and just the right amount of food when eaten with the salad. I have to say, so far, between eating a healthy breakfast in Blu and a healthy lunch at Aqua Spa Café there is no way I am going to gain weight on this cruise. I am actually finding myself to be quite hungry – even with a small bite with tea and the 3 tiny canapes before dinner. Not that I’m complaining, there is plenty of food available at all hours of the day. I’m very happy to have the healthy options and glad that I don’t feel as if I’m stuffing myself while at the same time enjoying quite tasty food.
For dinner I had the caprese salad appetizer which wasn’t as good as I had hoped, mostly due to beefsteak tomatoes that weren’t ripe. Then I had a radicchio salad with craisins, nuts, and a creamy vinaigrette of some sort. Really, the best thing to do with salad dressings was to ask Rosys what he recommended – he never steered me wrong. My main entree was rib eye steak that was served with boiled brussel sprouts and a disc of fried mashed potatoes. Richard had a salad wedge of iceberg lettuce with tomato and blue cheese dressing. He also had the rib eye. For dessert I passed on the kiwi sorbet and had tiramisu instead (couldn’t resist). Everything was good, though we thought the rib eye was odd – not a normal rib eye.
Leaving Cartagena. A very busy port.