Celebrity Cruise - Cartagena, Columbia & Florida

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December 14th 2016
Published: December 14th 2016
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Cartagena, Columbia and Florida, USA

Up early again, as we were told that sailing into Cartagena (founded in 1533) was quite spectacular, looking at the forts. It was ok – not worth getting up at 6.30am for – but we did have a very clear view of the giant skyscrapers. (Not a fort to be seen!!) Off the ship by 9.00am and shared a taxi with some other people ($5 each) into the Old Town! (lots of traffic as 4 cruise ships today!) Very pleasant and colourful place to wander around with its large squares, old churches and sanctuaries, colonial houses, balconied flowered windows, ladies dressed in colourful outfits selling stuff. Didn’t manage to find St Teresa’s Square which is where a free walking tour started at 10.00am, but did find the Old City Walls that we were able to walk around.

Decided to walk across to San Philipe de Barajas Fort, through the crowded, local streets and across the lagoon – took about 30mins – no mean feat in heat of 90c and humidity at 75%!! Definitely worth a look around though. Paid our 10$ each and made our way up to the top, where we had excellent views of the Old City, and there were also a lot of passage ways and tunnels to be explored.

Caught a taxi back to the Port (5$ each), viewed La Popa monastery, and just wandered around the sort of zoo/park that they have there. Most of the animals are not caged, but because they are fed, they choose to stay there!! Wifi was ‘down’ so no blog uploaded but really enjoyed seeing the howler monkeys and watching the antics of the semi tame macaws and, at last, saw a toucan (even if it was in a large enclosure!!)

We then had two days at sea, passing between Cuba and Jamaica, before arriving at Port Everglades at Fort Lauderdale. The trip we had booked (Hop on, Hop off, Big Bus where they stored your luggage and ended up with your luggage at the airport at 5.00pm) was cancelled. BIG problem, as we then had a whole day (our flight back to the uk wasn’t until 22.00hrs) with two very large suitcases, as well as our hand luggage, and luggage for Spain! We were supposed to be disembarking about 8.00am, and after the usual chaotic departure, we ended up on the dockside about 9.30am, where we caught a free shuttle to the airport from a Car Hire company (it would have been easier if we had a car booking reservation) and hired a car from Avis (seemed quite cheap at 16$ but with insurance and diesel I suspect the total cost will be higher). Decided to drive to the Everglades, and the lady at the car hire suggested we go to the Billie Swamp Safari, located on IS75, straight out of the airport. Hairy drive to start with as four lanes of fast cars weaving in and out, joining and leaving the IS595, but once we got onto IS75 it was a pleasant enough drive, through the flats grasslands of Alligator Way, with loads of vultures and different large birds soaring overhead. Headed out to the Seminole Tribe Reservation where Billie Swamp Safari was located about a 30 minute drive from Junction 49. It was now about 12.15 so we booked as a safari ride for 13.00 and our airboat Ride for 14.15pm. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see the Snake show or the Critter show, but we had a good wander around, looking at all the animals that they had there.

The safari ride was basically in a large open air truck, and we set off through the water to the trails, bumping along, viewing the wildlife. Our guide was very keen to point out critters like, red deer and ostrich, whereas I was more interested in the local birds and butterflies!! However, it was all good, as managed to get some butterfly photos in between rides. By now, the sun had gone, which made our airboat ride chilly, but fun! Zooming and skimming above the wetlands in a very large engined open airboat, seating six people, the driver sat high above the engine, behind us. Time to get back to the airport so we had a quick look in the Big Cypress Cemetery, at the strange names on graves – Little Tigertail etc… before the drive back, shopping in Wendy for a burger and WiFi fix, before arriving back at the airport for the Norwegian Air overnight flight at 22.00 hours.

Ok – Overall I think Celebrity are an excellent cruise line. No real complaints, very professional, good travel lectures, hot tubs and a spa pool, good open air films on the top deck, plenty of sun beds, quiet cabin, good shows in a 1000 seater theatre, excellent large gym, no annoying photographs all the time……. Some people are moaning that the portions of food in the restaurant are very small and coming up to the café for more food after their meal!

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