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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

What’s on your door?

Day 6/138,2022/2023 Viking World Cruise

Cartagena, Columbia, South America

Last evening we went to the Star Theatre to watch the Viking Neptune Vocalists “In Concert performance “ Stage Door” at 9:15pm.

As we were waiting for the show to being that featured the dazzling lights of London’s West End, and New York’s Broadway with songs from over 20 of the world’s most loved musicals, the Neptune started swaying quite a bit. Richard was feeling very ‘off’ so we decided to watch the performance on the live stream in our cabin instead. Since the Star Threatre is at the Bow and on deck 2 of the ship, it is more prone to movement, while our cabin is on the 4th deck and mid ship. I watched the show from our room and the benefit of being in our cabin was I could sing as loud as I wanted along with the amazing vocalists!

Today was our port day in Cartagena. We arrived in Cartagena sometime in the wee hours of the morning and when we awoke, this was the view from our balcony.

The temperature was already very hot at 31C/88F and the air smelled of smog. All we could see around us were the cranes of this extremely busy port. Cartagena is in the Caribbean Coast Region, bordering the Caribbean Sea and is one of the major ports on the northern coast of Columbia.

Cartagena was founded in 1533 by the Spanish, although archaeological evidence shows people have lived in the area since 4000 BC. In fact, Cartagena was the first Spanish colony on the South American continent!

Originally known in the colonial era as Cartagena de Indias, it served as an important trade route between the Americas and Europe. In the 16th century, trade was primarily Colombian gold and Bolivian silver. Then at the beginning of the 17th century, included the slave trade from Africa as well. Unfortunately, over the years, over one million captive African slaves were brought through Cartagena to work in gold mines, on sugar cane plantations, cattle ranches, building the large wall around the City and also to work on large haciendas or do other domestic work. In 1984, Cartagena’s colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cartagena definitely has a huge port. The large buildings in the background are in the ’new’ part of the City of Cartagena which our tour guide likened to Miami Beach, in Florida.

Leaving the Neptune this morning.

Finally a full shot of our beautiful ship the Viking Neptune. We are mid ship, just above the lifeboats on this the port side of the ship.

I had booked us a private guided walking tour through Viatours because I did not like the included bus tour being offered by Viking. The intimacy of walking through a City with our own private guide is something that we much prefer in any new City we visit. Our guide was texting me using ‘What’s App’ last evening so I knew that she would be meeting us after we exited the cruise ship terminal area. But before we could exit the terminal area we were met with this beautiful oasis of flowers and exotic animals!

What a beautiful entrance to the City of Cartagena!

Parrots just hanging out on a fence so close I didn’t need to use a zoom lens.

These parrots are looking at me and scrunching up their eyes as if to say “Are you looking at me?”

A few parrots were fighting over the bird bath today. I had to be quick to try and get their photos and capture the water they were splashing too!

Best buddies having a splash.

”Shake it up, shake it up”

“I’m out of here!”

As we continued to walk through the cruise terminal area, we saw other creatures too.

Titi monkey who let me get very close to take his photo.

Wow! What an entrance to a country? It was like we had definitely opened up a door to a whole new world when we left the cruise ship.

We met our guide ’Liz’ who walked us through the protocols for visiting Cartagena, especially in the touristy areas. She warned us we would be pestered to buy souvenirs and when that occurred we were to say “No, gracias”. Liz had a driver waiting for us with a very old, small Hyundai Accent which we jumped in the back seat of, to be taken to the old city of Cartagena and a beautiful neighbourhood for us to explore.

“La Heroica”, the Walls of Cartagena commenced in 1614 and were finished at the end of 1796. Primarily constructed by slaves brought over by the Portuguese, the walls were constructed to defend the City from continuous pirate attacks and extend 11 kilometers around the old City of Columbia. The beginning section of wall shown in the photo above was constructed in 1631 by Francisco de Morgan to protect the Gethesemane neighbourhood.

In addition to the walls, the Castle of San Felipe was also built with a set of underwater breakwaters located on the Island of Tierrabomba.

A very imposing structure, meant to protect the City. It took 200 years for this military structure to be completed.

Our walking tour commenced at the start of the wall around the old city in the Gethsemane neighbourhood.

The locals have shortened the name of ‘Gethsemane’ to ‘Getsemani’. Forbes magazine claimed that the neighbourhood of Gethsemane was the 4th most beautiful neighbourhood in the world. In 2013 the 1st Urban Art Festival was held in Gethsemane and we enjoyed walking the streets of Gethsemane to see the beautiful graffiti wall art along its colourful streets.

A very colourful sign.

The beautiful umbrellas were so colourful against the sky.

1000’s of colourful kites were on this upscale street.

Some of the hanging items on this street were added specifically for Christmas such as the stars.

Beautiful colourful wall art.

Artists put their Instagram handle on their works if you look closely to the right of the midriff in this mural.

The lion’s eye seems so realistic

Notice the little tip box to support the wall art on this home.

There was a local legend about hearing a noise of a rattlesnake each night on this wall and the legend goes that the mayor of the neighbourhood was the only person to have come face to face with the mysterious snake, so he put the snake under a spell and turned it into a witch and imprisoned it without mercy.

The 4 men pictured here are all very important in the history of Cartagena and include Gabriel Garcia Marquez ( purple sweater) who was a Columbian novelist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. His book ‘100 Years of Solitude‘ was one that I read in 1983, when I was in 4th year University, as an English Major at The University of Toronto. He is affectionately know as “Gabo’. The one eyed man at the end of the table is admiral Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta who was a Spanish navy officer remembered for the Battle of Cartagena de Indias in 1741. Lezo not only lost an eye, but he lost his left hand, and had his left leg amputated. Lezo defended Cartagena against the British fleet and His legacy as one of the most significant heroic figures of his time is legendary. He is recognized as one of the greatest naval strategists in history

As we continued walking through Gethsemane as well as the old walled central section of Cartagena, I kept noticing very interesting doors along our way.

Some doors were small, some large, some with both a small door inset in a larger one. And most of them has these intricate metal door knockers. Due to Cartagena’s very warm, tropical climate homes and doors were constructed to provide natural air conditioning. Since large, intricate doors were a status symbol it was important to have a large door. However, opening large doors all day would allow too much of the cool interior air to escape, small doors were included within the larger ones and the servants were to enter through the smaller doors, bending down to enter the home of their providers.

Additionally, the door knockers, known as aldabas, represent a very important cultural significance of colonial Cartagena. The door knockers size and type of metal were indicative of wealth and social status. The bigger the door knocker, the richer the family were that lived in the home. While the actual motif usually depicted the type of profession. Marine motifs such as mermaids and seahorses adorned the homes of men who made a living in the seas, lions represented members of the military and lizards represented royalty. Today the door knockers are primarily decorative.

A seahorse on a door in Cartagena, symbolizing someone who made their living from the sea.

A lizard on a door, representing someone who was from Royalty.

A lion on a door representing someone who was a member of the military. If you look closely at this door you can see that there is a smaller door, with a lengthwise handle cut into the bigger door.

I loved the colour and weathered look of this old door.

A mermaid on this door again representing someone who made their living from the sea.

A member of the army lived here.

A fisherman lived here.

After walking around for about an hour and a half it was time for a refreshment break. Cartageneros love their seafood and so our stop today would be for some fresh seafood.

Stopping for a refreshment break in the square with our guide Liz. I was not as adventurous as Richard and had a cream ice cream on a stick instead of the seafood.

‘Cocktail Bomba‘ which contained cooked shrimp, squid, clams, with raw oysters which were seasoned with garlic water, lemon, wine, ketchup and mayonnaise. With my shellfish allergy this ‘cocktail’ would have been a nightmare, but Richard ate it all and said it was very delicious and fresh.

One of the highlights of our walk in downtown Cartagena today was the very unique wildlife we got to see in a City park in Cartagena.

A 3 toed sloth known as a Bradypus.

The sloth kept turning his head and I had to keep running from one side of the tree to the other, to try and capture his sweet face.

A clear view of his 3 toes.

Of course it would not be a walking tour of a City where the Catholic Church had a very significant influence in its history without visiting a Cathedral.

The Cathedral of Cartagena de Indias or officially known as the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is located in the historic centre of Cartagena. It is one of the oldest episcopal sees in the Americas having been built between 1577 and 1612.

Statues inside the cathedral in Cartagena.

After visiting the Cathedral it was time to head back to our waiting driver with his Hyundai Accent.

Liz and Richard walking back to our waiting driver.

We were very impressed with how clean and beautiful Cartagena was today and thoroughly enjoyed our very insightful private tour with our guide Liz. We saw some very beautiful doors, decorated to indicate a family’s status and position in society, which was fascinating to learn that “What’s on your door” really does matter!

We’ve even got some decorated doors on the Viking Neptune too!

I guess door decorating really does still exist today! An old ‘Cartagenian’ tradition!

Tomorrow we are in the port of Colon in Panama and will get in line with other marine traffic to traverse the Panama Canal. We have no excursions booked tomorrow as we both have been to Panama before, but I have a massage booked at the NordicSpa onboard and I cannot wait to have a wonderful treatment and share with you some more details on the beautiful spa area in the Neptune!

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Cathy Vee Volpe-Paul
Cathy Vee Volpe-Paul
Dec 28, 2022

Nice job with photos and description. Love the private tour you went on. Jon and I (Cathy Paul) will be doing the world cruise on Viking Neptune next year - out of LA. We enjoy following you on your journey.


Brian William Kohut
Brian William Kohut
Dec 28, 2022

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with all of us following your journey. I love your writing style along with your insights and beautiful photos. We're on Neptune for next year's world cruise and couldn't ask for a better preparation through your eyes and senses. Thanks again.

Brian and Jonathan


Dec 28, 2022

I am loving your blog and beautiful photos. We did FLL to Vancouver last year and certainly did not see as much of Cartagena as you did!


UW Wolfe
UW Wolfe
Dec 28, 2022

Fantastic photos, which help to capture the culture and beauty of Cartagena and its people. Even though few of the locals are in the photos, their presence is obvious in the art and design. It looks like your private tour with Viatours was a great alternative to the included panoramic tour... you were able to gain glimpses of Cartagena and Gethsemane that others didn't and in doing so made the short visit a richer experience.



Dec 28, 2022

What camera do you use? These are the most beautiful, full- of-light photos I’ve seen in a long time! The leaves in the sloth ones look transparent!! Love reading here…we went in the 2019 and the 2022 VWC this year! Connie

Ruth Mcbride
Ruth Mcbride
Dec 29, 2022
Replying to

I shoot with a Fuji XT-4 mirrorless camera with a 18-55XF zoom.

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