Colombia's cruise ports are hosting increasing numbers of day-visitors from 27 cruise lines, according to a report by Proexport Colombia, the country's tourism, foreign investment and export promotion agency. Well over a quarter-million cruise passengers came ashore at Colombia's three main ports – Cartagena, Santa Marta and San Andres Island – during the 2012-2013 peak winter season, the agency said. That number was up substantially over the prior season, and it's expected to jump even higher in future reports as a result of increasing ship arrivals in Colombia coupled with the recent addition of Bahia Solano to the country's cruise ports.
Founded by Spanish colonizers in 1533, Cartagena offers what's been called “a total immersion into Old-World Spain in a New World setting” among numerous other attractions. Santa Marta, ideally nestled between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the white sands of the Caribbean, is one of Colombia's top resort cities. San Andres Island is known for its world-class diving and sports fishing, as is the newly added port of Bahia Solano.
Colombia's increasing popularity as a cruise destination – ship arrivals there soared by some 13 percent in the most recent season – was spotlighted at the 20th annual conference of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), held recently in Cartagena. Executives of 15 major international cruise lines met with travel wholesalers and international cruise experts to explore industry trends and future marketing opportunities during the four-day conference.
FCCA President Michele Paige said the conference was a great opportunity for Colombia to showcase its attractions to cruise and travel marketing professionals looking for "new opportunities, new ideas, new tours ... and what exactly can be offered in order to bring new ships and additional passengers."
Among international cruise lines stopping in Colombia are Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises and Pullmantur Cruises.
Colombian ports hosted first-time arrivals in the 2012-2013 season by luxury lines Paul Gauguin Cruises and Kristina Cruises, and by the Japanese cruiser Asuka II. Also, Colombia welcomed the return of Disney Cruise Lines to Cartagena in the past season.
First-time arrivals in the coming 2013-2014 season will include stops by the cruise ships Sea Dream I and the Minerva.