Friday, December 5, 2014

MSC Divina Port of Call; Cartagena, Columbia

Forget all the negative things you have heard about this place. Cartagena is interesting and the city is full of hardworking and friendly people. We had a taxi driver named Luis. He was very knowledgeable and showed us all around the city. We went up to the old monastery at the top of the highest hill overlooking the city. The view from there was beautiful. There were people there selling their wares. Any type of souvenir you wanted, they probably had represented there. From tablecloths to leather purses to shot glasses (which I collect) to sliver jewelry. There were many buses and vans along the winding road leading to the monastery. The drivers are very skilled and able to negotiate those huge buses in the smallest of spaces. I was able to get a pair of souvenir shot glasses partly covered in leather. I also got a key chain (another collectible for me) at a location down the hill. We toured a jewelry factory/store where the harvest and sell emeralds. We received a behind-the-scenes look at how they actually cut and polish the stones in the upstairs area before they are made into jewelry and taken downstairs for sale. I also didn't realize North Carolina produced emeralds. They had a display there with the areas around the world that they bought emeralds from. The tour was informative and they even had mock scenes of people mining for the gemstones. There was also a video playing of people in mines working and actually finding the stones. We went to the fort, the old city and a couple of shopping areas. We even went on some walking excursions to see the sites and important landmarks.
All in all, the trip was a really enjoyable experience. We spent about 3-4 hours touring and learning many things about Cartagena. There are over one million people who live there. There was a very noticable police presence everywhere we went. I did not go a couple of blocks without seeing a policeman. Of course, it made me feel very safe to know there was such a strong presence of law enforcement. The sunsets there are breathtaking (so much so I had to insert myself in on of them). I was able to take all of my photos with my camera phone! This Samsung Note 4 is amazing! The photos are clear and the color seems to jump our at you. I even learned there is an all-inclusive resort there across the street from the beach. I will have to look that up when I get back to my office.
One note of caution in Columbia. People there will try to convince you to buy wheat they are selling. They will get into your personal space and saying no does not seem to dissuade them from continuing to try. We even had people come to our van and stand in the doorway to sell us things. To me, it was rude but to them, it is how thy make their living so they ten to be aggressive. So make sure you take some extra manners, patience and empathy when you are touring.
Don't just read about it. See it for yourself. Book your cruise to visit Central America today with McMillian Travel. Your adventure awaits....

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