Speaking for majority of the crew on board, including myself, we were all enraptured to arrive in Cartagena. Strong winds had us sailing an average of six knots an hour with only the forestay sail set, although as we usually do when we arrive early, we didn’t have the opportunity to drop anchor. The past sail from the Dominican Republic had felt much longer than an eight day sail because we had no other choice than to slow down as much as possible and even detour to incorporate an additional two hundred nautical miles into the voyage. It felt as if it was the epitome of being so close, yet so far from something.
Fortunately, we were docked at an optimal port in which the Old Town and the New City were both nearby, two aspects that make Cartagena stupendous. The port presentation from the night before exhibited the vivid culture of Old Town, so the majority of we students hopped in taxis and headed off to explore this thrilling destination. Approaching the exit of the port, we were greeted by an abundance of peacocks, parrots, and monkeys which were roaming around making a great deal of noise, all of which added to the excitement of getting off the ship. My first impression of walking into the stone walls of Old Town gave me assurance that Cartagena was going to be one of my favorite ports of the year. The majority of us knew our way around after four days of exploring the spirited streets of Old Town.
The authentic architecture, delicious food, and vibrant colours made Old Town so remarkable as it radiated positive energy. Porto had been one of my favorites ports from last semester for reasons similar to Cartagena, which leads me to say that Cartagena is the Porto of second semester.
The reassurance of having three full days to immerse ourselves in the culture along with having shore leave until 2300, simmered our eagerness to feel the need to see everything the first day we were there. Some of the priorities of things to do consisted of drinking pure Colombian coffee, visiting the Museo de Chocolate that had unlimited free samples, and just simply walking around the lively streets that are full of unique souvenirs and fresh fruit vendors. My group made up for all of the walking in our first full day in the Old Town that we had been limited to during our sail from the DR. Amongst all of the restaurants, cafés, and ice cream shops, there was always the opportunity to find an exceptional cup of coffee, something we all often tend to miss when being at sea, especially when you have the 0400-0600 night watch. The streets within the Old City were rather narrow and often people just walk down the middle of the street unless a taxi or a horse drawn carriage is approaching.
Almost every street corner has local men and women selling delicious freshly cut fruits!
Our port program in Cartagena consisted of salsa dancing lessons which was an amusing way to engage ourselves in the Colombian culture. The only students that really succeeded are the three students from Mexico, but other than them, it’s fair to say that the rest of us should stick to sailing.
During the our past sail from the DR, a growing number of the guys onboard had been finding bites on themselves when they woke up in the morning and as you may be able to infer, they were bed bug bites. Cartagena was our opportunity to deal with this predicament because bed bugs has to be one of the worst possible problems to have on a ship. Measures were taken to get rid of these bugs in which we cleared every item of ours off to be cleaned and the ship was fumigated. This got rather chaotic though when all of our laundry and personal items of the entire crew came back as one bundle. Try and imagine finding your shirts, sheets, socks, underwear, etc. when there are fifty others looking for their belongings as well. It will definitely take some time until everyone finds their own belongings, however on the bright side of things, we all have a sea chest full of clean clothes and there are no more bed bugs.
Watching the sunset on the beach in the New City.
Once we had departed and classes started up again, my anthropology class discussed how it was interesting that the Old Town which is supposed to fulfill the history of Cartagena has almost everything to accommodate the comfort zones of many tourists. Contrastingly from the Old Town, the New City which emits similarities to Miami, revealed that personally, it was not all that exciting. All that we saw there was to offer were beaches, however they were rather crowded and considering the San Blas Islands are our next port, majority of we students took advantage of spending time in the Old Town. We have not visited any cities since the beginning of the first semester during our time in Europe, which made Cartagena something we had all been looking forward to exploring. There is nothing that would make me hesitant in going back and being there made me realize how similar the energy of the city was to Porto.
Written by: Class Afloat Student, Blair Potter