Oct 25, 2018 - This morning, Island Princess is docking in the port of Cartagena, Colombia.
We have scheduled a City Sightseeing Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tour for this morning. Even though this tour is available through Princess Cruises (and most cruise lines), you can save some money by booking directly with City Sightseeing through their website.
As soon as we disembark Island Princess, City Sightseeing folks are at the end of the gangway to take our tickets and guide us onto a waiting shuttle. In fact, we were invited onto the same shuttle as those who purchased the tour through the ship's tour office. However, this shuttle may not be provided for all cruise ships visiting Cartagena. If not, City Sightseeing will direct you to the nearest Hop-On/Hop-Off bus stop where you can board the tour. The tour includes a bus tour of Cartagena as well as a guided walking tour of the Old Town. Guests can opt to do both, or either one.
We chose to do the walking tour only. The shuttle drive to Old Town takes about 30 minutes and as soon as we disembark the bus, local merchants swarm around us selling everything from sunglasses to hats to bottled water.
One of the double-decker Hop-On/Hop-Off buses is just about to leave on its 90-minute tour through the city. There are 14 stops along the way where guests can "hop off", do some shopping, have lunch, explore, then "hop on" when ready to continue their tour. A bus comes around every 30 minutes or so, depending on traffic.
We have done many of these Hop-On/Hop-Off bus tours with City Sightseeing all over the world and have always found them an excellent, and affordable, way to see an unfamiliar city. But, we have never done a walking tour with them, so today Raul will guide us through Old Town.
There are about 20 guests in our walking group and everyone is given a set of ear buds and an audio receiver. This allows everyone to clearly hear the guide talking through his transmitter.
The tour begins with a walk through the old city gate under the clock tower.
Once inside the walls of Old Town, we begin walking through a labyrinth of narrow streets, and into expansive plazas.
There is some beautiful architecture to be found here, not the least of which are the elaborate churches.
Raul took us to a local chocolate museum where we enjoyed a complimentary chocolate milk drink. Many on the tour purchased chocolate items in the store.
Of course, everywhere you look there are local street vendors selling their wares. Rickee finally gave in and purchased a decorative head band. Even though the vendors are persistent, they are not aggressive or pushy. A simple "no, gracias" will send them away if you are not interested. One unique merchant was an artist who painted on a mirror with his fingers and palm, only using a small sponge for a couple of effects. He gave us a demonstration and it was amazing. He did a beautiful painting in about two minutes! We bought two of his paintings ($10) to take home as gifts.
The walking tour took about 90 minutes and was an excellent way to see the Old Town Cartegena, which is definitely the highlight of this port city. After the tour, most guests joined the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus for the driving tour of the city, but we opted to catch the shuttle back to the ship.
The City Sightseeing Tour in Cartagena is definitely worth the modest price of less than $23(US). A Hop-On/Hop-Off bus is one of our favorite ways to see a new city.
For more information, visit their website.