Mama Loves Food

Visiting Cartagena Columbia - Ten Day Cruise through the Panama Canal

If you're looking for things to do in Cartagena, Colombia, you'll love the old city tour we took on our ten day cruise to the Panama Canal!
Cartagena Colombia Cruise Port
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Cartagena, Colombia was the second port with our Panama Canal Cruise on the Coral Princess (thank you so much for hosting us, Princess!).  Our first stop was Aruba - if you missed it, go back and take a look.  Don't worry, I'll wait!

To me, Cartagena felt like a beautiful mix of Spain, St. Augustine, and South America. We chose a bus and walking tour that took us into the Old City.  As a lover of city centers and old European influenced architecture, I found it very enjoyable.  And bonus, we had time to try some of the local food and shop.  Yay!

Excursions in Cartagena Colombia

Castillo de San Felipe in Cartagena

After driving through the newer part of town from port, we arrived at Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, also known as the San Felipe Fortress.  It was a beautiful Spanish constructed fortress built on the top of a hill.  Buyer beware - lots of inclined walking on this one.  Perfect for earning a good lunch later!  

The gentleman in uniform livened up the atmosphere with his horn - he could play any country's anthem on demand.  It was quite impressive!

Majestically standing guard on a hillside overlooking the city and harbor is Castillo de San Felipe, a fortress built by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe. -Princess Cruise Website

View from Castillo de San Felipe in Colombia

exploring castillo de san felipe

We weren't the only ones from our cruise group to choose this tour.  We had the pleasure of sharing our day with Erin of Dinner, Dishes, and Dessert and Sandra of A Dash of Sanity.  Erin's the sensible one posing in a doorway, and Sandra's the one who will do literally anything for a good picture.  Including giving us all heart attacks!  I do wonder how that shot turned out. 

fortress walls in cartagena colombia

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At the top of the castillo was a small gift shop and incredible views.  Which makes sense, because the structure was built for defense and it would be awfully hard to defend against something you couldn't see!

european spanish architecture in cartagena colombia

fortress walls in colombia

After the castillo, we visited The Historical Museum of Cartagena.   Where, "behind a charming, colonial facade, the palace museum displays instruments of torture from the Spanish Inquisition, pre-Columbian, colonial and independence-era art." -Princess Cruise Website

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Before leaving the museum we enjoyed a short show with traditional music and dancing.  I'm going to be totally honest.  I was skeptical when we first sat down, and a little eager to be on our way to the next place.  I'm so glad I didn't sneak out though, because the artists were super talented and I really and truly enjoyed the show!

traditional dancers in cartagena colombia

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Next up was Cartagena's Cathedral we had to sneak in quietly because mass was going on, but the altar and stained glass work were so beautiful, it was worth a stop even if we didn't stay for long.  I took a really really lot of pictures because I looooooove stained glass.  But I'll only bore you with a few.  Hah!

things to see in cartagena colombia

cartagenas cathedral

Cartagena's Cathedral is one of the largest in a series of fortresses with a massive exterior and simple interior. Partially demolished by Sir Francis Drake's cannons, it was completed in 1602.  

stained glass in cartagena colombia

church architecture in cartagena colombia

Some of the folks on our tour were put off by looking at a church while mass was in session, but I can say as someone who has visited many churches around the world, this is totally normal and fine so long as you're quiet and respectful.  (Other folks were just glad to get a reprieve from the heat!)

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San Pedro Claver Sanctuary was our next stop, and while it was beautiful in its own right, the patio was also being decorated for a wedding and it had an extra air of romanticism that I just could not get enough of.  What I did get more than enough of though was people complaining about the heat and asking for air conditioning.  Here's a pro tip - don't take a walking tour in South America if being hot makes you miserable.  I know, sounds obviously right? 

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This is my face when I hear someone complain about the heat for the eleventy billionth time.  Hey folks, we're practically on the equator.  Get you some shaved ice and calm down.  

vibrant buildings in cartagena colombia

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As much as I loved the tour (and I really did!), my favorite part of the day was sneaking off with Wesley, Sandra, and Erin to do a bit of exploring on our own.  We tried arepas from a street cart, chocolate tea from a local cocoa shop, and sausage empanadas at a gorgeous little bakery. And best of all we wandered and took in all the beautiful architecture, vibrant colors, and unique culture. 

street arepas con queso en cartagena colombia

eating areapas from a street vendor

empanada por almuerzo

The bright colors you see throughout the Caribbean, Central, and South America  make everything look so joyful and happy.  I could take pictures of the gorgeous buildings in Cartagena all day and not get bored!

colorful buildings in cartagena colombia

bright red door in cartagena colombia

I also find the culture of sales and bartering so intriguing.  The ladies with fruit on their head would offer to take a picture with you for a dollar.  There were vendors lined up and down the streets and sidewalks with everything from spices, to jewelry, and clothing.  If we had more time in Colombia, I would have gladly spend a full day collecting treasures to bring home.  

lady with fruit on her head in cartagena colombia

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But mostly, mostly it was the colors.  And I can say this (and did say it above already), the splendid colors throughout the city just made me so happy.  And it made me want to come back and paint my whole house.  Be gone beige!  It's aqua, and yellow, and red, and allllll the colors!!!

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Want to see what others from our Princess traveling crew thought of Cartagena, Colombia?  Check out these posts by Marissa and Sandra!

blue skies and bright buildings in cartagena colombia

statues in cartagena colombia

Have you been on a cruise before?  This was my eight cruise (I know!), and I fall in love with cruising more each time.  Only having to unpack your bag once.  Never having to search for a place to eat lunch or dinner, and having all the amenities right there, moving from location to location with you.  I'm a junkie.  That's all there is to it.  Call me Mama Loves Cruises from now on.  Hah!

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But seriously, I love cruises, and Princess Cruises knows how to do them right as rain.  If you're thinking about maybe taking one, be sure to check out the itineraries and specials available on Princess!  I'm really hoping to go to Europe next.  Have I told you Wesley's never been!  I feel like we should remedy that STAT!

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