Anyone have experience booking your own excursions in limon, costa rica and Cartagena, colombia? We try to find independent tour guides or agencies that other cruisers have used, rather than going thru the cruiseline. But we like to do it ahead of time. Any names or suggestions -- especially with email addresses?
Anyone who wants similar info on Grand Cayman, Dominica, or Caracas, we'll be glad to reciprocate.
Port Promotions (www.portpromotions.com) offers a tour of Cartagena. This is the mail that I received from then when I inquired:
Our Best Of Cartagena tour is a 3 1/2 hour tour of the city , the old city, La Popa monastery and shopping time $28 p.p. The tour is only available to groups of 8 or more persons. If this tour interests you please advise how many people are in your party.
Don't miss Cartagena. It's fabulous. Probably the best Spanish colonial architecture outside ofo Havana, and in better shape. The neat thing abouot the old city is that it is still lived in, worked in and played in. Maybe it's really old, but it isn't a museum.
Cartegena is one of the most interesting and intiguing cities in the world. The mix goes from 1500's forts, churches and city to 2002 high priced condos and hotels. I' m not sure that this is a city to get adveturous in. You have only a few hours and if you have not been there before you will want to see the fort, old city , Stjohn's church and LaPopa Monestary. In my humble opinion, this is the one place to go with the ship's tour. It will only be about $30.00 but will take you to see these few places and some brief shopping as well. Cartegena is as stated a beautiful place. It is also surrounded by abject poverty, a 30% unemployment rate, Aggressive street vendors and street beggars who are also quite aggresive. You will see armed guards at every stop (military in some places). Please don't let what I've said scare you, I am only suggesting that compared to many other cruise stops, this one is not as tourist friendly. It is a "must see" however.
Whatever you choose, I know it will facinate you.
Just jump off the ship at Cartagena and go to the Visitor's Center. Just outside is a cab stand. You can have a driver AND guide at a very reasonable price and not be tied to a regimented tour.
The fort is your basic fort. Next, go to the Old City square and do some creative wandering. Your guide may accompany you or you can tell him to have a cup of coffee at one of the street cafes.
I did the wandering thing with a woman friend and felt absolutely no fear or anxiety.
Then, the Dungeons for shopping. As you face the shops, start at the left and work your way to the right. Tell your guide and driver to sit under a tree and wait for instructions. Duck into the first shop and buy them each a Coke.
They will be related to every vendor there and can be quite useful in the end game of negotiating. Practice shaking your head "no" and delivering a "shoo" gesture with your right hand to handle the street vendors.