Cartagena

Pretty cobbled streets
Historic Pirate Lairs!
Fortresses

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Cartagena

Beauty without equal

Step off your Caribbean cruise and step into history, in the port of Cartagena in Colombia. 

Cobbled streets, balconies overflowing with blooming bougainvillea and pastel-coloured buildings lining the elegant plazas, make Cartagena one of Latin America's most photogenic cities. Founded in 1533, this Spanish colonial city is steeped in history. Its location made it a popular port for plunderers and pirates but today the city is quick to give up its treasures to modern visitors.

Signs of the city's pirating past can be seen on every corner. The best example is Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas – built to fend off pillagers, it is the city's largest fortress and one of the strongest forts ever created by the Spaniards during their colonial period. Other forts, dating from the sixteenth century, make a worthwhile visit and we highly recommend the Cartagena City Tour, which will suit history buffs and shopaholics alike.

Other great deals on local attractions and not-to-be-missed sightseeing packages are covered in our Panoramic Bay Tour.

For a unique day out, you can choose to spend your day away from the ship and travel back in time as you board a majestic seventeenth century galleon and relive the sights and sounds of yesteryear. Imagine sighting a ship on the horizon. The flag’s Spanish and it’s riding low in the water, the hold bound to be full of plundered Inca gold. Time to hoist the Jolly Roger and set full sail to plunder the plunderers!

Nature lovers, meanwhile, can leave the swashbuckling to others and take in a Mangroves Ecological Tour, where the natural treasures of the region are available for all to enjoy.

Must see places in Cartagena

Discover our excursions

11 results found

  • CARTAGENA CITY TOUR

    CITY TOUR

    CAR01

    Explore the city of Cartagena, which has a reputation as impenetrable after the construction of its impressive fortress. Departing from the pier, you will pass by the “Republican” architecture of Manga residential area. Your first stop, La Popa Monastery, built during the 17th century and dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, one of the city’s patron saints, enjoy the splendid view over the city and visit the small chapel. Continue to a photo stop at the Fort of San Felipe de Barajas, the most important work of Spanish Military engineering in South America. Las Bovedas Artisan Center is next, built as dungeons and as a means of storage, today local artisans display their work there you will enjoy handicraft shopping. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets and squares inside the walled city, marvel with the majestic view of San Pedro Claver, the patron saint of slaves, Plaza and church. Plaza de Bolívar is the next stop and features a statue of its namesake. Across the street we find the Inquisition Palace, the Inquisition was established in Cartagena in the year 1610 to punish any crimes against the Catholic faith. Located in this building you can see samples of jails and torture chambers. The sentencing ceremony used to take place in public, in the middle of the plaza. Continue on to the Navy Museum which was established in 1986 and where you can see the restored ruins of the Jesuit School, find out about Cartagena’s historic military moments and Colombia’s naval history and browse a wealth of artefacts before enjoying a folkloric show with a refreshing soft drink. Your last stop at the Pierino Gallo Shopping Center will allow about 45 minutes to shop before returning to your ship. Please note: The sightseeing portion in the old town requires extended periods of walking and standing.
      • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Moderate

      • Duration
        4 h

      • Adults£39.00Price per person

      • Children£35.00Price per person

    • CARTAGENA WALKING TOUR

      CITY TOUR

      CAR04

      The tour departs from the pier in air conditioned buses, passing by the traditional district of Manga to admire the beautiful houses of the Republican Period. The walking tour starts at SANTIAGO´S BASTION. Visitors will go down the ramp and take San Juan de Dios Street, admiring the charming colonial architecture of the area and finish at the San Pedro Claver´s Plaza. The tour continues down towards Custom Plaza, which was the commercial centre during the colonial time. The walk will proceed to Plaza de la Proclamación to admire the Cathedral and the Governor’s building, which in the colonial days was used as headquarters of the Spanish government. Plaza de Bolivar will be the next stop. The tour strolls down the street admiring the magnitude of the colonial mansions in the area ending at Santiago’s Bastion. From here, the tour continues by coach to Las Bóvedas, for a 15 min. shopping stop and then to a 15 min. sightseeing drive thru Bocagrande. On the way back to the pier, guests will make a brief stop at San Felipe de Baraja´s fort for a panoramic view. Please note: Not designed for wheelchair bound guests and walking problems at all. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
        • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

          Difficulty Level
          Moderate

        • Duration
          3 h

        • Adults£32.00Price per person

        • Children£29.00Price per person

      • ROSARIO ISLAND TOUR WITH LUNCH

        CITY TOUR

        CAR06

        Enjoy a scenic speedboat ride from Cartagena to the Rosario Islands located 24 miles to the south of Cartagena. The Rosario Islands are composed of 27 islands, 3 of them belonging to the state and the other 24 totally private. The area is designated as a National Natural Park which is ideal for the development of coral reefs in its 55 kilometers of protected area with depths up to 90 feet. Your first stop will be at Isleta for a welcome beverage and fresh fruit. Next, you will sightsee around the islands by boat and visit the local aquarium at Isla de San Martin. Enjoy the show with the dolphins and sharks before returning to Isleta for lunch. This area is also the best for snorkeling, with coral reefs, sponges and many different kinds of fish to admire, or you may simply choose to relax and enjoy the beach area. Please note: Please wear your swimsuit and bring a towel, At the same time remember to bring your own snorkel gear which is not included.
        • Lunch or dinner included

        • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

          Difficulty Level
          Moderate

        • Duration
          6 h

        • Adults£82.00Price per person

        • Children£75.00Price per person

      • EXPERIENCE MAKING JEWELLERY WITH EMERALDS

        CULTURE AND HISTORY

        CAR10

        For a unique chance to make your own emerald cruise memento in sterling silver and leave friends at home feeling just a little green with envy, you can do no better than to join this fully guided tour to the Caribbean School of Jewellery, which is fully approved and endorsed by the country’s Education Ministry. Aided by an experienced instructor in the use of the various tools and how to go about making your piece, you will then begin the process of crafting your very own emerald-studded bling in 925 sterling silver. Next to an informative 15-minute presentation about how Colombian emeralds are extracted and cut, your 3-hour stay also includes instruction on how to melt the silver and help in making the item of jewellery of your choice, either a ring, pendant, a pair of earrings or a bracelet. When class is dismissed, you will not only receive a certificate of your newly found jewellery-making prowess, the item of jewellery that you made. Enjoy a panoramic view of the Old City on your way back to the port.
          • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

            Difficulty Level
            Easy

          • Duration
            4 h

          • Adults£55.00Price per person

          • Children£52.00Price per person

        • OLD CITY OF CARTAGENA AT YOUR LEISURE

          CULTURE AND HISTORY

          CAR11

          Boasting a history that can be traced back to its foundation in 1533, modern-day Cartagena presents itself as a city of contrasts. Featuring visits to both the old walled part of the city – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984 – and its more modern quarters, this tour will show you some of Cartagena’s best must-sees. After your coach takes you through the upmarket La Manga residential area, known for its exclusive mansions and impressive villas, and past the mid-17th-century Castillo de San Felipe, you’ll be dropped off at La Marina Park and left to explore the beautiful walled city at your leisure. Soak up the historical vibe as you walk down old alleyways lined with the loveliest colonial buildings – and keep your camera at hand to take some photos to show your friends at home. As you stroll through history with ancient plazas at every turn, you might even find an authentically Colombian memento in one of the quarter’s myriad shops. At the appointed time, you’ll pick up your coach again at the drop-off point for a drive through the modern residential districts of Bocagrande and Castillogrande, located on a small peninsula just to the south of the walled city. From quaint old lanes to modern commerce, glitzy shops, restaurants and grand hotels: the contrast between the two worlds couldn’t be more dramatic. Your tour then draws to a relaxing close with the brief return drive to the pier and your ship. Please note: the drop-off point (La Marina Park) is also the point at which guests must pick up the coach again to return to the ship.
          • Limited seats

          • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

            Difficulty Level
            Moderate

          • Duration
            3 h

          • Adults£25.00Price per person

          • Children£22.00Price per person

        • ECOLOGICAL TOUR & MANGROVES SWAMP TUNNELS

          NATURAL WONDERS

          CAR05

          Your tour starts with a panoramic view of the San Felipe de Barajas Fortress, situated outside the walled city. This monumental fort is considered to be the most outstanding feat of Spanish military engineering in the new world. Its construction began in 1536 and lasted for 121 years. After a quick drive through the narrow street of the walled city, you will continue to the Mangroves area. There you will be taken by canoe through mangroves tunnels to the Cienaga de la Virgen. A great diversity of birds such as the Kingsfisher, White heron, Common Laura, Pink Spatula and Pelicans live in this area. Enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna that encompasses this fascinating eco-system.
          • Drink included

          • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

            Difficulty Level
            Easy

          • Duration
            3 h

          • Adults£39.00Price per person

          • Children£32.00Price per person

        • PANORAMIC SIGHTSEEING TOUR

          SCENIC ROUTE

          CAR07

          This is an opportunity to experience the uniquely magnificent city of Cartagena de Indias from the comfort of your air-conditioned motor coach. Cartagena is a UNESCO World heritage site and a living breathing city that has been remarkably well preserved. Departing from the pier side and accompanied by expert local guides your first stop will be a panoramic view of the imposing military fort of San Felipe de Barajas, which is situated outside the walled city. This immense building is considered to be the most outstanding feat of Spanish military engineering in the New World with its construction beginning in 1536 and lasting for 121 years. You will then continue to the historic colonial city. The immense walls took 194 years to be completed and enabled Cartagena to defend itself from the numerous attacks of English pirates and other would be invaders. The Spanish colonial architecture is some of the most impressive and best preserved in South America with its imposing merchant’s houses, narrow streets, flower bedecked balconies stunning civic buildings and beautiful churches. You will continue to Bocagrande, which in complete contrast with the old city, is modern with high rise apartment complexes, hotels and restaurants, and is where many Colombians take their vacations. A brief stop for a shopping at the Pierino Gallo shopping center famous for its wide variety of jewelry shop with the world renowned Colombian Emerald before returning to the pier.
          • Drink included

          • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

            Difficulty Level
            Easy

          • Duration
            2:30 h

          • Adults£32.00Price per person

          • Children£29.00Price per person

        • CARTAGENA BY HORSE & CARRIAGE

          SOMETHING SPECIAL

          CAR09

          After leaving the ship, your guided tour of Cartagena begins with a photo stop at San Felipe Fortress, the largest example of Spanish military engineering in South America. Your coach then continues on to the Plaza Santa Teresa, from where you will pick up the horse and carriage that will be waiting for you. As you make your sedate way through cobblestoned streets and squares inside the walled city, you will have plenty of time to admire small details like flower-filled balconies or the glint of light escaping from colonial mansions just as much as the big things, such as the fine old buildings, many Iberian in style, and the general sense of majestic grandeur characteristic of this ancient city. A half-hour shopping break at Las Bóvedas – Cartagena’s former dungeons now turned retail haven – then follows. A panoramic sightseeing tour of modern Cartagena rounds off your tour before you head back to the port and your ship.
            • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

              Difficulty Level
              Easy

            • Duration
              3 h

            • Adults£39.00Price per person

            • Children£32.00Price per person

          • CHIVA PARTY BUS

            SOMETHING SPECIAL

            CAR12

            This entertaining party-and-sightseeing tour begins as soon as you board the chiva bus at the pier and continues until the moment you return. Chiva buses – open-sided vehicles painted every colour under the sun – were once used to provide public transport in rural areas, but have since been given a new lease on life. An open bar on board the bus and non-stop local papayera and vallenato music ensure the mood is relaxed throughout as you make your way around the major sights. Brief photo stops are scheduled at San Felipe Fortress, the bay of Manga, the bottom of La Popa hill, the districts of El Centro, Bocagrande and El Laguito, the 16th-century Castillo San Felipe de Barajas as well as Cartagena’s old quarter with the vaults of Las Bóvedas. A longer stop, with time for you to stretch your legs, enjoy refreshments and local entertainment or dance to the music on the bus, is also planned at the historical Fortress of Santa Catalina. A final break is then included at the Las Bóvedas Artisan Centre, where you can browse the handicrafts and shop for a souvenir before the chiva takes you back to the pier. By the way, each bus has its own peculiar nickname so be sure to find out what yours is called before you re-board your ship. Please note: guests must be at least 12 years of age to take part. Children must be accompanied by a paying adult throughout the tour and under their constant supervision at all times. Guests wishing to drink alcohol must be at least 21 years of age. Guests are recommended to wear light, comfortable clothing and comfortable shoes or sandals.
            • Drink included

            • Limited seats

            • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

              Difficulty Level
              Moderate

            • Duration
              3 h

            • Adults£35.00Price per person

            • Children£32.00Price per person

          • Colombian Coffee Experience & Graduation in Old
            Cartagena

            SOMETHING SPECIAL

            CAR14

            Colombian Coffee Experience & Graduation in Old Cartagena
            • Limited seats

            • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

              Difficulty Level
              Easy

            • Duration
              3:30 h

            • Adults£49.00Price per person

            • Children£35.00Price per person

          • OLD CARTAGENA, FOLKLORIC SHOW & SHOPPING

            SOMETHING SPECIAL

            CAR08

            This fascinating tour of the magnificent city of Cartagena de Indias, includes a tour of the historic colonial city and a beautiful show of Colombian music and dance at the painstakingly restored Heredia Theatre. Your tour starts with a panoramic view of the San Felipe de Barajas Fortress, situated outside the walled city. This monumental fort is considered to be the most outstanding feat of Spanish military engineering in the new world. On entering the walled city you will make 10 minutes stop for photographs at the San Francisco Gun Battery and you will then have the opportunity to encounter the 16th Century first hand with the city’s beautifully preserved colonial Houses, Churches, Plazas and Museums. A visit to San Pedro Claver Cloister and Monastery built in homage to the protector of slaves, serves as a reminder of the turbulent past of Cartagena. The ornate and very beautiful Heredia Theater was built in 1911 from the ruins of the old Mercy Church to commemorate the Centenary of the independence of Colombia from Spain and has been restored as a cultural centre for theatrical and musical performances. Here a folk show of music and dance will be presented by local artists in the main auditorium. The show consists of 5 beautiful dances of three important regions of Colombia such as the Atlantic Coast (Cumbia), the Pacific Coast (Currulao and Abosao), and from Los Andes region (the Market Place and the Indian Legend). You will then continue your tour to Bocagrande, the modern part of Cartagena, with its Shopping Center, Pierino Gallo, where you will be able to browse and shop for the world famous Colombian Emeralds before returning to the pier.
              • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

                Difficulty Level
                Easy

              • Duration
                4 h

              • Adults£52.00Price per person

              • Children£45.00Price per person

            The excursions in the programme above are intended to provide MSC Cruises guests with an idea of the different tours which can be arranged in each port of call; this programme is merely a guide and confirmation of each excursion and its description and prices will be made during your cruise. 
            Shore excursions programmes and itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour.
             
            Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The guides are guaranteed in English. Only for South America cruises, the guides are guaranteed in Brazilian Portuguese. Narration in other languages depends on the availability of guides. Please note that the final language of the tour will be confirmed on board during the cruise.

            Colombia

            A sophisticated colonial style
            A sophisticated colonial style

            Home to a traumatic but rich history, stunning scenery and some of the continent’s most welcoming and sophisticated people, Colombia is a natural draw for travellers to South America.

            Foreigners and Colombians alike are now far more able to explore this thrilling paradise of cloud- forested mountains, palm-fringed beaches and gorgeous colonial cities. The only country in South America to border both the Pacific and the Caribbean, Colombia offers a huge range of ecosystems, from the Amazon rainforest near Leticia to the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the tropical islands of San Andrés and Providencia. Cosmopolitan Bogotá is, like most capitals, a busy commercial centre, with a vibrant cultural scene and festive nightlife.

            The two other major cities, Medellín and Cali, are also lively but less overwhelming. Just a stone’s throw from the beach, the walled city of Cartagena is the biggest South American Spanish colonial port you will visit during your cruise to Colombia. A few hours east, the less scenic Santa Marta and fishing village of Taganga are near Parque Nacional Tayrona, whose picturesque sandy beaches are unrivalled.