After sailing around 500 nautical miles, we arrived in Cartagena, Colombia, our first port in South America. The sun was up, bright and shining as usual, which sets for a perfect condition to make a stroll across the shore.
Unfortunately, I did not find time to leave the ship because I was still duty-bound, which is kind of saddening considering the opportunity I am missing. Our supposed stay in Colombia is not meant to be long which makes the chances of me exploring the place being zero and is close to impossible.
But on the bright side, I managed to take a beautiful photo of the city skylines as the ship approached port early morning. Arising from my inability to explore the place first-hand, the picture I took was my one and only souvenir in Colombia.
While I did not manage to set foot in Colombia, our next destination which is Colon, Panama was an exciting prospect. Free from the demands of my work, well at least for few hours, I had the time spent for leisure. I spent some quality time strolling ashore which was indeed a welcome and priceless experience after some time of being cooped up in the ship.
I intended to make the most of our arrival in Colon. However, as much of the region’s tourist spots are farther away from the dock, it severely limited my supposed adventure to just the nearby duty free shops in the commercial area regarded as Colon’s “Free Trade Zone.”
Despite its name, entry into this commercial space is not as free as the malls or similar stores we are used to. If you are a foreigner, you must show your passport in order to gain passage or if a crew member as myself, a crew card is necessary. As for the passengers who were aboard the cruise ship, a cabin card is required.
If you are looking for perfumes, electronics, clothes, and other interesting stuff, in here you will find lots and lots of perfectly-lined stores offering a variety of high-quality products. Basically, the goods that can be found in this area are items aimed at being “souvenirs,” so quality is truly imperative.
For more information about the Colon Free Zone, check out: https://www.colonfreetradezone.com/freezone-colon.html.
For reviews, check out: https://www.tripadvisor.com.ph/ShowTopic-g294480-i1194-k4393294-o20-Shopping_at_the_Colon_Free_Trade_Zone-Panama_City_Panama_Province.html
Ship stayed in port overnight, but we departed around 3:30 AM in order to arrive Gatun Lock on schedule. Case in point, we were scheduled to make a transit at the Panama Canal by 7:30 AM, which implied the need to reach Gatun Lock on time. This is also considering that several other ships were scheduled to transit the Panama Canal so arriving on schedule is of utmost importance.