You did not mention what cruise line. Celebrity no longer stops in Cartegena and as you mentioned safety.
If you do port there stick with the cruise line shore excursions. Venturing on your own is not safe. We went into the recommended shopping area and felt very unsafe going leaving and trying to get a cab back to the ship.
The taxis outside the controlled area of the ship is like playing Russian roulette. Fist fights between the cabbies to get your business and you might find yourself in the middle of it. All for the savings of 5 bucks, not worth it.
The shopping area has vendors outside on the streets that will surround you like flies and bother you until you can duck into a store or get a cab that will take you back into the controlled area for the ship.
Cartegena on all the ports we have been to on 22 cruises was our least favorite and the worst feeling for safety.
There is a lot of unrest in that country and city. Sorry to be so negative but want you to know the truth.
We will do another Panama Canal cruise again but if Cartegena is on the stop schedule we will stay on the ship or just look around the shop at the pier.
I'm very adventurous on ports. My wife at times prefers to shop and I go it alone on excursions and cabs. Not in Cartegena.
Sea of Cortez on Ryndam 9-28-2005
Round trip Los Angeles to Hawaii, Summit March 26, 2006
Vancouver – Alaska – Los Angeles, Sept 16, 2006 on Summit
Post Edited (07-07-05 02:27)
__________________ Ready to Steer towards another cruise
Cartagena is a hit or miss port. If things are looking stable then chances are you will port there if things are not looking good you will go somewhere else. Your safety is the cruise lines first concern.
Having stayed in Cartegena many years ago it is a favorite of ours on cruise ships.. Granted it's not for everybody.. The Old City has been refurbished and full of art galleries and beautiful home and restaurants behind the walls.. The Dungeons (okay,so the vendors are agressive) have some of the most fabulous shopping.. silk macrame shawls now about $20.00... Then there is the shopping center whose name I've forgottn but tours go there where upstairs is a lovely leather shop..the jewelry stores selling Emeralds are everywhere..be careful. then there is the historical Cartegana.. the La Popa, the fort where when we walked to the very top had at one time a great little shop. If your afraid of doing it yourself take a ships tour... the shops in the Dungeons are waiting for you..lol, but if you speak a little Spanish hire a cab with an english speaking guide outside the building,.. take a look at the prices theywant for the shawls. I believe the shawls are made in prison by women..I've bought them back for gifts too.. Perhaps I'm a little bit more adventurous...but I love Cartegena and theSan Blas Islands...and would go on a cruise if knew they were stopping,.. Oh yes.. there are tourist police all over the place..
In April, I sailed on MSC's Lirica, and the fact that Cartagena was on the itinerary was one of the main draws that made me book the trip in the first place. I'd heard for years that the Old City was one of the great beauty spots of the Caribbean basin, and I was not disappointed! I found it even more beautiful than Old San Juan, which is really saying something. (The heat was pretty tough for a New Englander to deal with-- but since it's practically on the equator,I don't guess it would be much worse in July!)
The OFFICIAL rate of unemployment is pushing 20%-- so the desperation of the street vendors is palpable. They'll put themselves in your eyeline whenever they see a foreign tourist, and each sells one thing-- caps, t-shirts, tablecloths, necklaces, belts, cold bottled water-- and in a stroll of a few hours, you''ll see a dozen people trying to sell exactly the same thing. On my 3-hour guided walking tour, arranged through the ship, I think I must have politely declined their offers with a smile and a "No, gracias," about 300 times; many vendors will take your first refusal as a negotiating tactic, and sure enough, the first guy I encountered dropped his initial price on necklaces by about 75% in three minutes. I had to explain to him, and others, that I sincerely wasn't interested in a purchase, no matter the price.
You'll also see lots of police-- Colombia may have a lot of security problems in its drug-cartel capitals or out in the mountainous countryside, but I don't believe Cartagena has ever had any such incidents against foreign visitors.