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Colombia Revives Luxury Cruises Across the Magdalena River


Magdalena river
The Magdalena River will be navigated again from 2024 – Credit: Luis Ospino/Colombia One

Starting from 2024, the Magdalena River will relive past times. An American luxury cruise company has announced that it will have two luxury vessels sailing on Colombia’s most important river.

The American company AmaWaterways has announced that it will offer two luxury cruise options along the Magdalena: one on March 30th and another on June 19th. Both will enjoy 7 nights of navigation and will offer different routes. Tickets for the first cruise, scheduled for March of next year, are already sold out.

AmaMagdalena and AmaMelodía

The two ships will be named AmaMagdalena and AmaMelodia. They will cruise the river from Barranquilla to Cartagena, visiting tourist destinations such as the mentioned capitals of the Colombian Caribbean, and Mompox, Palenque, El Banco, Calamar, Magangue, or Nueva Venecia. The AmaMagdalena can accommodate up to 60 passengers, while the AmaMelodía can hold up to 64 people.

Magdalena river
Sunset on the Magdalena River. Credit: Luis Ospino/Colombia One

“Everything, from the design of our two impressive ships to the curated immersive itineraries, reflects our pioneering spirit and our mission to provide our guests with top-notch accommodation, warm and welcoming services, locally inspired cuisine, and enriching experiences that interact with local communities along this fascinating river,” explained Kristin Karst, co-founder and executive vice president of AmaWaterways.

Rudi Schreiner, another co-founder of the company, expressed his satisfaction at adding two new vessels to their current fleet of 26 river cruises. “After visiting and falling in love with this region, we are very excited to now offer our guests the opportunity to discover the vibrant culture, unique traditions, and natural beauty of Colombia,” Schreiner said during the presentation of the Magdalena routes.

The Magdalena River as a Waterway

Since time immemorial, the Magdalena River has been a vital artery in Colombia’s history, playing an essential role in transportation and trade. Its winding waters have witnessed the evolution of navigation, from pre-Hispanic canoes to 19th-century steamships. This river has been the backbone of communication and the exchange of goods throughout the years.

Navigation on the Magdalena River began in pre-Columbian times, when indigenous communities used wooden canoes to travel. However, it was in the 19th century that navigation took a monumental turn with the introduction of steamships. These iron giants revolutionized river transport, allowing the passage of people and goods on an unprecedented scale.

River routes became key trade corridors, connecting riverside cities and providing access to previously isolated regions. The elegantly decorated steamships, equipped with cutting-edge technology for the time, carried passengers of diverse social classes as well as cargoes of coffee, minerals, and other products.

Magdalena river
Mompox will be one of the visits of the Magdalena River cruises – Credit: Luis Ospino/Colombia One

However, as roads and land transportation developed in the 20th century, navigation on the Magdalena began to decline. The construction of roads and railways provided faster and more efficient alternatives, gradually relegating the river to a secondary role in passenger transport. By the mid-20th century, river navigation had significantly decreased, and steamships were no longer a common sight on its waters.

End of the River’s Golden Era

Although the golden era of Magdalena River navigation came to an end, its legacy endures in Colombia’s history. The river remains an important water resource and an essential waterway for cargo transport today. The history of navigation on the Magdalena serves as a reminder of how rivers can shape a nation’s identity and development over centuries.

Starting from 2024, Colombia’s most important river will, even if only for a few days, relive its most memorable era when it connected the country’s distant regions in journeys that, for example, were echoed by Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Magdalena river
Watercolor of the past navigation of the Magdalena River by Santiago Cortes Sarmiento – Credit: Public Domain

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