Cartagena heat

By Judith Hippner
This item appears on page 11 of the August 2018 issue.

While on a 14-day Panama Canal voyage aboard Holland America Line’s Oosterdam, Oct. 21-Nov. 4, 2017, my husband, Richard, and I participated in an onshore excursion in Colombia titled “Cartagena by Land & Sea.”

We learned about the 4-hour excursion in an email sent to us by Holland America about six weeks before the cruise. We booked the excursion on the ship for $89.95 per person.

The tour’s written description offered on the ship described the historical significance of the 17th-century San Felipe Fortress, noting an “opportunity to walk the narrow streets of the old city.”

Next it stated, “You will learn about famous native gem in Mr. Emerald, (sic) after that you will have some free time. Enjoy a scenic harbor cruise through the Inner Bay for nearly an hour, as your local guide points out fortifications best seen from the water.”

On the day of our excursion, temperatures hovered around 100°F, with extremely high humidity. When we got on the bus, we each were given a small ticket and told that we could redeem it for one bottle of water from a vendor when we stopped at Mister Emerald.

However, the stop at Mister Emerald took place in the latter half of the tour. Drinks could be purchased from vendors on the streets of the city, though, so future participants should take money.

The visit to San Felipe Fortress included a walk with a very steep climb to the top, which some might find a bit physically demanding, especially in the heat. There was no water for sale at the fortress.

The scenic cruise turned out to be on a 40-foot boat. There were 43 passengers on board, seated on rows of closely spaced white plastic benches, in addition to three or four tour company people. We were provided with life jackets, and seating was very crowded and uncomfortable.

There were no toilet facilities on the boat. Shade was provided by a makeshift canvas tarp. There was no water available on board.

My purpose in writing this letter is to make people aware that, given the heat and humidity of Cartagena in October-November, this excursion, as we experienced it, can be quite stressful and uncomfortable, and it is important to take your own water along.


Scottsdale, AZ

ITN emailed Holland America Line (300 Elliott Ave. West, Seattle, WA 98119) and received no reply.