How old are your children? I hate to mention another website, but on CruiseCritic someone has a daily blog on their Disney cruise which had a stop in Marseille. They had a tour of the city but thought it a bit boring. There is a Cathedral sitting on the hillside which you take a funicular up to get to, that can be fun. There are a lot of shopping streets around the Vieux Port. I am not sure of specific kid's activities though. We were just there on HAL Prinsendam and we went on our own by train to Nice. You can also go to Aix. Also beware, you will definitely need to take the shuttle from the port to the Vieux Port or center of town as it is a LONG way (or a 20 euro cab ride).
Interested in hearing more from culater as to their day in Marseille (Nice). Will be off of the Rotterdam in Aug and have gotten the impression that Marseille is just not that interesting. How long did it take to get to Nice and what did you do while there?
I just got back from Marseille and I must say that it was our least favorite stop. We took the little train on a tour and it lasted approx. 40 min. with a 20 min. stop at the Notre Dame Cathedral. The shopping at the port was not good. The little market set up is mainly a fish market....we went back to the ship and remained there the rest of the day. Sad...we were in port for a total of 12 hours and there was nothing to do.
I never responded to your original post because you never answered the question about the age of your children. But, most experienced travelers to that area use Marseille as a gateway to the wonders of Provence. Its relatively easy to get to places such as Aix en Provence, Arles, and even Avignon from Marseille. However, there actually are things to do and see in Marseille such as taking a boat over to the Chateau d"If (the place from the Count of Monte Cristo) and just exploring the streets of old town, sipping some wine at one of the outdoor cafes near the harbor, enyoing a nice lunch and perhaps sampling bouillbaise which is a world famous dish from Marselle, etc etc. Reading your sad post reminds me of a good friend who recently took his first trip to Paris and, after he returned home, told us he didn't like Paris because it was so old. As to shopping, the reality is that shopping is not very good anywhere in Europe because of the very weak dollar and the high VAT taxes (Gibraltar is the exception because its a duty-free port). In fact, many Europeans now come to the states to do their shopping because they can buy most European goods for less money in the USA than in Europe.
your posts are most informative. thanks. We love your thought about trip to Provence (some wine!?) we're taking Insignia from Barcelona to Rome with stops in Palma de Mallorca,St. tropez, Monte carlo, Portofino, Livorno, Olbia, Sorrento and Amalfi. any thoughts on any of these with which you may be familiar?
Funny thing is that I just finished dinner with perhaps too much wine! But, we have been to all the ports on your itinerary and you are going to be very very pleased. I love it! You are going to stop at a few unusual ports...namely St Tropez (very rare port), and Amalfi (not many ships tender to that city). For us, Mallorca is a beach port, St Tropez gives you access to a lot of places along the Riviera and in Provence, Olbia would be our least favorite port...but the Costa Smeralda has some interest, and Sorrento and Amalfi give you tons of options. As to Portofino, its a jet setter place, and as a port (big ships can not go to Portofino) you could treat it as a very "laid back" day. Portofino is absolutely gorgeous, but in reality there is not a lot to do in that port other than to have lunch, go to the boutiques, and take a nice walk up the hillside. By the way, when you are in Amalfi you should certainly take a local bus or taxi and go up to Ravello. Oceania does do some wonderful itineraries. I should add that we have loved those ships since Renaissance built all 8 (R1 -R8). For us smaller ship lovers, they are about the only smaller (lets say under 50,000 tons) ships still priced for the mass market cruisers.
I hope this finds you well (and the wine was good with dinner!). Thank you for your response. WE loved the Pter Mayle books and I think we want to tour Provence (with a stop at a vineyard or two!) from either Marseille or St. Tropez? WE're leaning toward Marseille, as it seems less exciting of a port for us. But, we're thinking we'd rather train to Aix en Provence or somewhere and take a 4 hr. (?) tour, rather than a 9 hr. from the port and back? I think we'll take the train to nice from Monaco. We'll take your advice of a leisure day in Portofino? We're a little concerned that we hit Florence on a Monday!? Since we want to follow your suggestion on going to Ravello while in Amalfi, I think we'll schedule our Pompeii/Herculaneum tour while in Sorrento? Please advise as to any other advice you may have. thank you again.
Mike, Well, the Florence on a Monday is an issue if you are a museum person. Monday is actually a problem day throughout Italy as is Sundays in France. I agree with your thoughts about using Marseille as a gateway port to Provence. As to Peter Mayle, there are many who think he helped ruin Provence by making it to darn popular, but we still love the region. "Under the Tuscan Sun" has also done the same thing to Tuscany. You really have to "focus" when you plan your day in Provence because its such a huge area that takes weeks to explore. Aix is a beautiful town, but hopefully you can also get a tour out into the countryside. Nice is nice (can't resist this phrase) and we especially like lunch at one of the outdoor cafes in old town and strolling along the Promanade. If you can somehow get to Eze for a couple of hours (its between Nice and Monte Carlo) it would be a nice change from the larger cities of Nice and Monte Carlo. As to Pompeii and Herculanium in one day, we did this last year (I took my wife on Mother's day) and even though we had previously been to Pompeii the day was a bit overwhelming..but very rewarding. Its a lot of time in ruins, but the two sites are totally different so if you have the energy and interest it can be fun. I don't know if I mentioned this, but they actually sell a combination ticket that includes both ruins (it used to be 10 Euros admission for each place but the combo ticket is 18 Euros). Your trip will leave you begging to return to these wonderful places.
As to Olbia, this has never been a favorite port. I generally go to a beach, but this is a place where you might want to take the Costa Smeraldo boat tour which will probably be offered by your ship. My wife and I usually use Mallorca as a beach day (we like the long beach that is near the airport) but there are a few sites within Palma (this city is walkable) or you could take some kind of island tour. But, Mallorca is popular with Europeans for the sandy beaches..and with good cause.
Hi Hank (or is it "Intimate Connoisseur" now!?)-
Thanks again for the additional info. about our West. Med. stops in 7/08. After two days in Barcelona before departing, we'll find something in Mallorca; will take a tour of Provence (Luberon Villages area?) from Marseille; wander around St. Tropez; take the train from Monte Carlo to Nice for the day; have a "laid back" day in Portofino; train from Livorno to Florence with a Pisa stop on the way back; Costa Smeralda boat tour in Olbia; Pompeii and Herculaneum from Sorrento (can leave ship at 8:00AM & get back late as ship doesn't leave until 5:00 AM next morning); tour Amalfi and go to Ravello; train from Civ for two days in Rome before flying home. Will you be at any of these spots in 7/08? You're helping us narrow down things on our trip and I'd love to buy you a glass of wine and talk.......