Why go to Cartagena (Spain)?
A visit to Cartagena will allow you a chance to soak up some of Spain's ancient past minus the crowds
Be sure not to confuse Spain's Cartagena with Colombia's when planning your day out ahead of your trip
This friendly, easy-to-navigate and culturally rich city is ideal for sightseeing and people-watching
Cartagena (Spain) Cruise Port Facilities?
Pier Alfonso XII Cruise Terminal is low-key, basically an easy-in-easy-out security checkpoint, designed to make transit as convenient as possible for ship passengers. The historic section of the city, brimming with amenities, is a five-minute stroll away.
Next to the terminal is an attractive and welcoming waterside area, where the Real Club de Regatas de Cartagena (Yacht Club) features an open-to-the-public restaurant with a spectacular harbor view. There is also a stand for taxis, which are metered, if you are interested in exploring farther afield, though nearly all the Cartagena city sites are doable on foot.
On your post-sightseeing return to the ship, you might be tempted to laze away any remaining minutes with a sherry or sangria in hand at one of several inviting portside restaurants with umbrella-topped outdoor tables, overlooking Cartagena Bay. Keep an eye on your watch, but definitely give into the feel-good urge to soak up the last drop of relaxed Spanish ambiance.
Good to Know?
Cartagena is a safe, friendly, low-cost city. The caveat is in your pre-cruise preparation. In many travel forums, people often confuse it with Cartagena, Colombia, sharing incorrect info and debating where the cruise ship terminal is, for example. During our recent stay in Cartagena, several North American travelers told me that they had downloaded maps, read up about restaurants and historic sites, only to embarrassingly realize once they arrived in this Spanish port that they had had the two cities confused in their research.
On Foot: Cartagena's easy accessibility from your ship is a time-saving bonus. As you walk off the gangplank, leaving the port security gate, head north alongside a picturesque marina, filled with vessels -- from rowboats to swanky multimillion-dollar yachts. The broad walkway is landscaped with dozens of majestic palm trees and colorful flowers.
Take a left (it's obvious which way to go with the city within eyesight), turn right to cross a road and continue past a small leafy park, Plaza Heroes de Cavitte, which has an obelisk war memorial in its center. Going straight, you'll be on bustling pedestrian street, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, covered in gray-white-and-saffron-hued marble tiles.
You will now be inside the compact historic area, delineated by Muralla del Mar, an 18th century seawall built by Carlos III. Next to Heroes park is Palacio Consistorial (City Hall), a gorgeous Art Nouveau towered structure dating from 1907, containing a tiny tourism office outpost that provides helpful info by a few English-speaking staff and a free detailed street map that illustrates sites and worthy buildings. From there, your many options are footsteps away and cinch to navigate.
By Taxi: If this is your second trip to Cartagena, you might enjoy going to Cala Cortina, a sandy beach on the city's outskirts that is popular with residents; it features a casual fish restaurant, lifeguard and toilet facilities. Hire a taxi at Pier Alfonso XII Cruise Terminal's taxi stand; the driver will zip along the shoreline on Paseo del Muelle for the quick 1.8 mile trip.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Spain uses the euro. For current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
While credit cards, such as MasterCard and Visa, are accepted in some stores and restaurants (American Express far less so), it greatly helps if your cards are the embedded-chip-and-pin versions that work with the European point-of-sale systems. Some Cartagena stores and restaurants do not accept credit cards at all.
To obtain euros, go to banks in the historic district, such as Deutsche Bank (7 Plaza de San Francisco), to use ATMs.
Most people in this Spanish port who interact with tourists -- in their jobs at restaurants, bars, museums and other sightseeing venues -- speak basic English. Friendly and welcoming to visitors, they may also know French or Italian, so if you also understand a bit of one of those languages, there are no communication barriers.
Where You're Docked?
Cartagena has two cruise ship docks, with most vessels mooring at Pier Alfonso XII Cruise Terminal. A quick 1,000 feet or so from city center, the port makes an ideal entry point. The water is deep and can accommodate megaships. If your vessel docks on the south side of the harbor, Muelle de la Curra, you will ride a shuttle bus.