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When in Cartagena, just find Sandy!

The cruise business is up in Cartagena this year, which means the shore excursion business is up, and we think it's all because of Sandy Cuadrado, who three years ago was decorated by Princess Cruises as "tour guide of the season."

Friends of ours just returned from the Colombian city on the Caribbean Sea. On Sandy Cuadrado-1xour recommendation, they tracked down Cartagena's friendliest tour guide, whom we'd met on a cruise we took through the Panama Canal (Cartagena is often one of the stops en route to or after traversing the canal). We were on a Celebrity ship, by the way, not Princess.

This was a part of last week's email from our friends:

"We had a great time with Sandy, including many jokes."

In the big picture, Colombia's most popular city for tourists (tourists tend to avoid the drug cartels in the jungle and even the capital, Bogota) is expecting 400,000 cruise passengers in 2014. That's an estimated $45 million revenue hit. That's no joke although Sandy can turn anything into one.

In the last two years, cruise-ship activity is up 13 per cent and, according to statistics compiled by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association. This weekend alone, there were six cruise ships in Cartagena…and almost 16,000 more tourists. Estimates are that each tourist spends $98 in the port.

And Colombia is ambitious. The country's president, Juan Manuel Santos, hopes 32 cruise lines will visit the country by 2017…more than a million tourists.

And in our world, it all starts with Sandy Cuadrado.

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
February 16, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon CayOcho RiosGrand CaymanKey West
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.hollandamerica.com

What Would You Have Missed If…?

This week, the U.S. government issued a travel warning for Americans who planned to be in Europe. As you have undoubtedly heard, it’s pretty vague. However, given the number of cruise ships in European waters and given that Americans have to fly to get there, it’s worth noting.

On the other hand…

If we were afraid to visit a country known for its drug lords, we’d have stayed on the ship in Cartagena, Colombia, and never met the nice man who showed us the sights of his city, Sandy Cuadrado (right).

If we feared muggers, we’d never have walked in Central Park.

If we had refused to fly after 9/11, we’d have missed the Burgess family in England, the McConnells and Jean-Marie Berge (left) in France, Mona Lisa in the Louvre, a wonderful winery called House of Morande in Chile.

If we wanted to make sure we could never be caught in a hurricane, we’d know less about the joie-de-vivre of the French Quarter, the origin of Who Dat?, the fascinating swamplands near New Orleans.

If we never went where earthquakes have been, we wouldn’t have golfed in the Coachella Valley, visited a coffee plantation in Guatemala, flown into or out of LAX.

If we never went to a country with political upheaval, we wouldn’t have heard the sweet songs of an indigenous woman (right) on a bus in Ecuador.

If we didn’t want to risk a chance — however small — of contracting the norovirus, we would never board the gangway of a cruise ship…and we wouldn’t be writing this blog.

The point is, do we want to live our lives in fear? The government isn’t recommending that we do, only that we be diligent, and use common sense.

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