Cruises to Cartagena (Spain)

506 Reviews
Cartagena (Spain) (Photo:Hakat/Shutterstock)

About Cruising to Cartagena (Spain)

In the sun-dappled Murcia region of southeastern Spain, Cartagena -- a naturally deep and sheltered Mediterranean port surrounded by five hills -- has long been coveted as a trading center and seafarers' game-changer. Despite the reputation, cruisers to Spain may be presently surprised with the activities available when you spend a day docked in Cartagena.

Dating to 227 B.C., when Carthaginians first set foot on its shore, this strategically located harbor has unfurled a culturally rich and historically tumultuous tapestry. Cartagena has been governed by Romans (Hannibal, with his army and elephants, stopped there on their military march across the Alps to Rome), ruled by Arabs and re-conquered in the 13th century by Ferdinand III for his Kingdom of Castile. Each new wave of distinct leadership carved indelible marks on this port's art, architecture, law, finances and industry.

And yet this city of awesome ancient treasures is one of Spain's lesser-known tourist havens. Today, you will discover a pedestrian-friendly and pleasant metropolis of approximately 220,000 people that both exuberantly celebrates its past and exudes a forward-thinking spirit. Cartagena's wealth of archaeological sites draws you to explore its notable yesteryear -- many Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine and Moorish ruins remain, making it one of Spain's most fascinating age-old jewels. Its universities, filling restaurants, bars and parks with young people, are signs of a lively future.

  • More about Cartagena (Spain)

  • Why Cruise to Cartagena (Spain)?

  • Cartagena (Spain) Cruise Port Facilities?

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More about Cartagena (Spain)

Why Cruise to Cartagena (Spain)?

Pros:

A visit to Cartagena will allow you a chance to soak up some of Spain's ancient past minus the crowds

Cons:

Be sure not to confuse Spain's Cartagena with Colombia's when planning your day out ahead of your trip

Bottom Line:

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.

Getting Around?

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. 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.

Language?

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.


Cartagena (Spain) Cruise Reviews
Cartagena was having their annual marathon so I really enjoyed watching the runners - ended up sitting in a cafe along with locals and cheering them on. Went to the Casa de la Fortuna (House of Fortune) - several roRead More
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Queenvee
Beautiful port. Shops, tapas, wine tasting and lots of historic sitesRead More
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Babs960
Again, walked along the shops. No tour. Streets were clean, but shops open too late. Read More
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thespinmama
Outstanding guide who provided a ton of information and had obviously planned for our trip and coordinated with the various places we were visiting to ensure a smooth experience.Read More
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Cornhogio

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