Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Island Princess Christmas Cruise [Day 5] - Cartagena, Colombia

Rachel and I woke up early this morning to watch the ship pull into port.

Cartagena, Colombia

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Dad got some cool creeper photos...

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Buses lined up and ready to go!

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Black smoke... yummy.

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We got off the ship with the plan to take a taxi to the fort and old town.

The port area was actually really cool and nicely done. The best we stopped in, I'd say.

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Being a travel and tourism minor who has done a great deal of studying ecotourism, I was a little concerned about the birds. It was a really cool photo opportunity, though.

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They were so used to people.

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You can see there's something metal attached to his foot... I'm not sure what and if this might be what keeps them in this area. I kept my distance and zoomed in for these photos. Others weren't as concerned with giving the birds their space.

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We were approached by a man offering us a bus tour of the city. They'd take us to the fort, monastery, and old town for $20/person. Sounded like a good deal to me. We boarded an air-conditioned bus with other Island passengers.

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Our first stop was Castillo San Felipe. We had 20 minutes and were told it was not enough time to go inside, so don't buy tickets. I was a little disappointed that we didn't go in, and if I ever come back, I'll probably just go there for the day. But our tour was a good way to get a taste of everything.

As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were mobbed by street vendors shoving souvenir crap in our faces. I started out with polite nos, but by the end of the day, I had resorted to an old trick that my high school Chemistry professor had taught us to get almost anyone to leave us alone - walk fast, look pissed, and carry a clipboard (well, minus the clipboard part). Works like a charm everytime. If you look like you're about to punch someone in the face, not many people are going to try to sell you a hat on the street. Body language conveys so much.

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So our 20 minutes at the castillo were up, and we all got back on the bus... or so we thought. Apparently, there was one guy traveling alone who was sitting in the front seat, and he had gone and bought a ticket to go inside, even though he was told not to. We were annoyed that he was delaying our tour, so everyone was saying to leave him since he didn't follow instructions. However, the tour operator had a bigger heart and went inside to find him. It was good to know then that he wouldn't leave us anywhere, even if we didn't follow instructions.

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Our next stop was the monastery. We had to pay an extra $5/person here to go inside, but it was well worth it.

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The tour guide took a real liking to my dad, despite a big language barrier with the tour guide not so great at English and my dad's terribleness with accents. So they walked all around the monastery together, the tour guide telling my dad all sorts of things.

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Interior courtyard -

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Rachel bought a little purse. She had heard they were only $1, but when she got there, the guy wanted $20. No thanks. He lowered it to $7 and wouldn't let Rachel give it back to him. Negotiation at its finest.

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We drove around more. I enjoyed just driving and not having to get out and be harassed by street vendors.

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We had the option of going to the market or going to a grocery store. We chose the grocery store collectively because I think everyone had seen their fair share of souvenirs and was more interested in making purchases without being harassed.

The tour guide helped us purchase the local coffee and the local beer. Rachel and I also picked up Oreos and Pringles.

It was neat to see the grocery store. It was Christmas Eve, so it was ridiculously crowded as everyone was stocking up for the holidays. Rachel was disgusted/fascinated with their meat section - nothing was wrapped. It was all just out for you to pick. "Take a photo of that!!!"

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We left old town and headed into the newer development.

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Our next stop was a museum. Rachel wanted to stay on the bus. "Oh, come on!" As soon as we got in, we realized it was an Emerald museum. Rachel loves jewelry. "And to think you were going to stay on the bus!" "I didn't know what kind of museum it was!"

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We got paired with a tour guide who showed us around. At the end of the tour, I saw a sign that said no photos. Oops. I wasn't the only one, though. Normally I check on these things, but everyone else was clicking away, so I didn't question it.

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Cleopatra's necklace. Rachel told me to take a photo of this.

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Like Disney dumps you from rides into gift shops, they strategically dumped us from the museum into the jewelry store where our tour guide then attempted to sell us $24,000 jewelry. There were more reasonable pieces, but there simply wasn't enough time for us to decide to make a purchase. So we looked around for a bit, then left to get back on the bus.

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The last part of our tour was walking through Old Town.

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I believe they called this statue "La Gordita."

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Dad couldn't wait to be photographed in front of it.

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It was during this part of the tour that Rachel and I started getting very annoyed. As an architecture major who has taken her fair share of awkward field trips where we stop in the middle of the streets to sketch buildings, you'd think I'd be used to traveling in a group of idiotic-looking tourists. However, it continues to bother me (maybe I'll get over this after four months in Italy). And it was even more annoying that Dad walk walking around with his iPhone taking pictures like a maniac. I thought briefly about taking the photos off of his phone, but later decided that I didn't want to bother with any of that. Just know that he took a million photos that he will never look at again and looked like an idiot while doing so. There was also a guy taking photos with an iPad. Don't be that guy.

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Rachel bought a mini gordita. She was very excited about it.

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When getting off the bus, the tour guide told my dad that he was his favorite. I guess he tipped him more than everyone else. Or maybe it's because he walked around with him.

We bought a few souvenirs before getting on the ship. And I took photos of flamingos.

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We were in the port with the Grandeur of the Seas, our first Christmas cruise was on the Grandeur. Got us addicted to Christmas cruising!

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Back on the ship, they were having Christmas festivities in the Centrum, hosted for the families by the kids' program. We weren't in the kids' program, of course, but they were letting everyone who wanted to participate have at it.

This is the Wheelhouse Bar, empty as always -

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They announced that they brought on additional kids' club staff just for the holidays. The staff seemed to be doing a good job, as I saw them greeting the kids by name. However, I do have some complaints about the teen club. Apparently on the first day, they decorated t-shirts that said "Remix" (the name of the teen club) with markers. Well, the group of teens wore these shirts everyday. In addition to coloring in Remix, on th back of the shirt, they wrote "Boats and Hoes." The girls' shirts read Hoe #1, Hoe #2, Hoe #3, and the boys' shirts read, "Baywatch." I understand that it's kind of funny in a Ho, Ho, Ho holiday sense... if only they had spelled it without the "e." But I was a little surprised that they were allowed to wear shirts demeaning women around the ship. If the teens' club didn't stop them, you'd think their parents would.

Back to Christmas festivities, Rachel and I decorated cookies.

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Our cabin attendent, Ryan, folded our chocolate wrappers into little birds!

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We had another uneventful dinner. We were going to go straight to bed after, but instead decided to see the hypnotist since we really enjoyed the hypnotist on our Carnival Dream cruise. I volunteered to get hypnotized. People asked me what it was like, and I remember everything she was saying, and I remember little things of what I was doing. Like she told us to play instruments, and I chose the violin. Rachel took a video of me playing the violin like a madman. I was the one person to (admit to) "waking up" and no longer being hypnotized. She touched me on the back, and I just bolted up, then looked around and realized that I was no longer in a trance and went back to my seat. Back in my seat, Rachel and I noted a few people who were definitely faking. This one girl kept laughing at herself, and she did everything late and over the top... maybe because she wasn't really hypnotized. But we're confident that she was faking.

They hypnotist on the Carnival Dream was much better. He would eliminate the fakers from the stage and narrowed it down to five people who were really in a trance. This women allowed everyone to stay up which made her not look very good.

NEXT: Day 6 - Panama Canal