We loved the snorkeling - the seas were a bit rough and current was strong, but still it was fun. We had over 70 people on our catamaran, and most were "older". When they got in the water to snorkel I was a bit nervous for them because there were only 4 crew members on the catamaran - I think there should have been a few more crew members or less people there in case of emergency. It was obvious many of them had never snorkeled before. Two older people weren't paying attention to where they were going and swam over my husband, pushing him down causing to go down on some coral. A little instruction from the crew might have helped. We did 2 snorkeling stops, and many of them didn't dive off at the 2nd stop.
We really wanted to go into the fort, but it was very pricey ($17/person) so we opted out of going in, but Wil shared the history of the fort with us as we toured outside. Again, the vendors are very persistent but usually polite. Don't try to take a picture of the "Fruit Ladies" unless pay them! They are not happy if you snap a picture and don't pay.
We were very leary about going into Cartagena even with a cruise line shore excursion, let alone on our own, but we are SO glad we did. We hired Wil after we got off the ship and he was great! Good English, so it was easy to understand him. He took us to great spots. We had heard that Cartagena was dangerous, but if you use good common sense you'll be fine. Don't hesitate to go into the Old City and enjoy! The street vendors are very persistent, but pleasant. We wish we would have been able to spend more time there.
This was the first place Wil took us and it was a great place to start - great views of all of the city and very interesting. He talked with us about things we saw on the way up the hill.
Wil took us in the Gold Museum and at first I thought it was just a cool place to get out of the heat, but it was very interesting
We were excited to take the Monkey Watch excursion and it didn't disappoint! After the bus ride, we got on to a small boat at Gamboa and went out into Gatun Lake and saw many of the ships that went into the locks before and after us (the was about half way across the country). Then the fun started as we turned down small streams and tributaries - first families of howler monkeys, and several capuchin monkeys - two even came onto our boat! We also saw several Snail Kites (large hawk sized birds) - very interesting to watch them, a crocodile, lots of other birds and butterflies. A very relaxing and interesting trip.
The only suggestion would be it should be advertised as a 1 hour bus ride in each direction - at first, we thought we might have gotten on the wrong bus, but all's well that ended well.
We grabbed a tour on our own after we got off the ship and had a great time - she showed us all over Willemstad and was told us a lot about the history of the island. She let us off where we wanted and gave us a great suggestion of where to grab some lunch with the locals (had goat for lunch)
So sad we weren't able to get off the ship there - the seas were too rough for the tenders to take people to shore. A wise decision by the captain, but a sad one for us. It looked so beautiful!
Even the 2 hour bus ride in each direction was interesting - got to see many banana and pineapple plantations as we drove by. Our guide, Manuel, spoke very good English and filled us in on everything we saw. When we reached the tram spot we transferred onto smaller buses and drove down to where the tram starts (about a 2 minute ride). Manuel told us there was a sloth up in the tree, and sure enough he was there. But then a large tapir came thru and it was interesting to watch her feed. The tram ride was great -only 6 people + the guide, so it felt very personal (I just wish there had been less talking so we could enjoy the sounds of the rainforest more). If you go expecting to see a lot of animals, this tour is not for you. You hear the monkeys and birds but don't see much of them. But that was OK - we went to learn about the rainforest. Beautiful plants and ecosystems. About half way thru it started to pour so we got the full "rainforest" experience. We didn't take ponchos, and wish we had! When the tram ride was over (about 90 minutes) there was a lovely Costa Rican lunch for us and time to shop in their gift shop. There is a short nature walk that I'd highly suggest you take - the guides explain details about the plants and we even saw a small poisonous frog and a vipir snake. Their display of orchids is also very interesting. While we were waiting for the bus to take us back up top, the tapir came back and as she walked down one path, her baby came along. A thought she might come back to get him, but she kept on going. The baby cried out for her - stayed near us for a few minutes then went on his way. All in all a very interesting day.
While we really enjoyed the Aerial Tram, I was there had been time to also do the Veragua Rainforest tour. I've heard from others that it was an incredible trip - next time!