Marseille, France

Today we visited Marseille in France where we endured a catastrophic shuttle bus, visited a church, and ate wonderful French pastries.

Shuttle Bus Shambles

It turns out that the cruise terminal we used for Marseille is quite a long way from the centre of town. Looking at a map, it definitely doesn’t look walkable. It’s quite far, and there don’t look to be any walkways even if you wanted to.

MSC kindly left us a ticket in our suite allowing us to board the bus by filling it in and signing it. The €16,99 per person return fare would be charged to the stateroom account. I thought this seemed expensive, especially with four people, so we looked at alternatives. Uber quotes around €22 one way. Taxis would have been more. We decided that the ease of having a guaranteed return trip was worth the slight extra cost of the MSC shuttle.

The shuttle bus was an absolute mess. Hordes of people were standing at the dock, some requiring a ticket from the tent there, others already had a ticket (like us) and wanted to board. There was no discernible queue and both the MSC Excursions staff & the bus company representative were indifferent to the chaos surrounding them. People just rushed to the bus. There was nobody to indicate whether the tickets we had were enough to board the bus, or whether we had to exchange them for a different ticket beforehand.

Thankfully there was a continuous stream of buses, so when we finally joined the swarm of pushing passengers and fought onto a bus, we didn’t have to wait too long. Unfortunately the return journey wasn’t as simple.

When we arrived to return, we just missed a bus, so we were almost at the start of the queue to board. And indeed, something resembling a queue did form behind us. And we waited. For a while. Four or five MSC Divina buses (the ship that had arrived later in the day) flew past us before the Preziosa bus finally turned up.

As soon as it did, the somewhat orderly queue fell apart once again and the writhing mass of weary passengers surged forward, pushing their way onto the bus. One man elbowed Alex out of the way and then insisted that his wife be brought from the back to join him.

Neither bus we had the misfortune of travelling on was properly air conditioned either, which is poor given the weather.

MSC could solve this mess by simply training their excursions staff to manage the queues properly. At the quayside and in the city itself, they had flags and other equipment available. A simple rope queue would be easy to implement and, combined with stern staff, would solve the problem entirely.

Marseille, France

When we finally made it to the old port where the shuttle dropped us off, we decided to head to the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooking the city. There is a small tourist road train that stops up there but, determined to minimise the weight gain from our constant overindulgence, we decided to walk up there.

The walk didn’t take too long — around 30 minutes — and rewarded us with outstanding views across Marseille as well as a look inside the stunning basilica which looks splendid after a recent restoration from 2001 to 2008.

We also visited the crypt which is another chapel, albeit a little less impressive. There is a museum which we chose not to visit, as well as a restaurant / café but again we had other food plans!

On the way back down the hill we stopped at Jardin de la Colline Puget before returning to the old port and trying to find a patisserie to enjoy a cake and coffee.

TripAdvisor led us to a wonderful little patisserie where we enjoyed the most delicious cakes and nice coffee. It was a bit out of the way, and Google Maps originally led us though some less-than-appealing streets on the way there, but it was all worth it! We can highly recommend Patisserie Amandine the next time you visit Marseille! Just take the main roads…

Before returning to the ship, we decided to take a wander round some of the touristy shops, and I bought some traditional soap from the region.

Sailaway from one pool deck

We were back on board in plenty of time for a few drinks and canapés on One Pool Deck, the exclusive Yacht Club open deck with bar and snacks. This deck features a small swimming pool and two hot tubs, and is for the exclusive use of Yacht Club guests. There are always plenty of sun loungers, and you can enjoy the prime position at the very front of the ship.

As we sailed from Marseille we passed MSC Divina who arrived and departed later than we did. This was the first time on this cruise we were on the open deck for the sailaway, and so the first time we heard the MSC tradition of Con Te Partiro (Time To Say Goodbye) playing on the ships audio system. Good cheesy fun! Preziosa was sounding her horn and Divina and Preziosa got into a fun little horn-off as they passed.

The sail away was rather nice as the evening progressed, as we passed by some lovely little islands off the coast of Marseille.

Dinner

Dinner again was preceded by our now traditional cocktails and canapes in the Top Sail lounge, accompanied tonight by a wonderful piano/violin duo. We’ve heard them before, but it really gives the lounge a special atmosphere in the evening. I do feel for the musicians somewhat, as tonight they were playing for about 6 people! Still, our group of four definitely appreciated their efforts.

Dinner tonight was the best we’ve had so far. Every dish was a hit! Starters featured a truffle risotto, amberjack carpaccio, beetroot and goats cheese mille-feuille. Main courses included a tagliolini pasta with broad bean & guanciale sauce, and pistacio-crusted rack of lamb. We all finished with an excellent tarte tatin. I really love the food in Yacht Club. The pasta dishes are typically safe choices as they do pasta very well. There have been a few underwhelming dishes, but there’s always something outstanding and the staff will, of course, change anything not to your taste.

We finished the night by going straight to bed, given we had another earlier start in Genoa.

11 thoughts on “Marseille, France

  1. Eileen Farnsworth

    I always enjoy your posts, Duncan! It’s a shame that the shuttle mess put a damper on an otherwise very lovely day!

    1. Duncan Post author

      Thanks! The beard has been around for a couple of years now, but I haven’t cruised in longer! 😱

  2. Sue Cammish aka ilovesunshine

    Your shuttle experience sounds horrendous. Ours was similar the first time we went to Marseilles. You seem to have found more to do than we did but the weather was awful when we were there. Did you see the fish stalls near the marina? I got soaked with fish water from the stallholder emptying her bucket all over me. Not sure if she did it on purpose or not but it put me off Marseilles. We revisited earlier this year on Seaview but decided to stay on board in the Yacht Club rather than face the trials of Marseilles. Enjoy the rest of your cruise and keep blogging.

  3. Kevin

    Duncan, great to see you blogging again and am enjoying your posts. It’s a bit difficult to compare your yacht club trips with your non suite Celebrity and Royal trips as you haven’t experienced the latter. Both Celebrity and Royal also have dedicated bars and restaurants for suite guests. Would be nice to compare like with like to know how you feel.

    1. Duncan Post author

      Thanks Kevin. I shall have to write a comparison of the experiences I have had.

      It’s hard to place MSC Yacht Club in the list. Much of the experience is better than non-Suite Celebrity / Royal though they don’t put on the activities that you’d expect from the latter.

      Comparing like for like is hard, because do you consider ‘like for like’ to be suite vs suite, or do you factor in cost. I’m sure we’ve paid more on Royal or Celebrity in a standard balcony than for this Yacht Club suite. I don’t think I could stomach the suite prices on Celebrity.

      I shall give it some through and try and write my collected thoughts when we get home.

  4. Linda

    Not experienced a shuttle whilst on Preziosa in Yacht Club but when doing ‘Rome on your own’ we were escorted by a butler and boarded coach first. We also had reserved seats at the front but because the sign was covered by the tour guide’s clip board we were unaware! If you’re doing an excursion check for this.

    1. Duncan Post author

      Thanks Linda. I saw this on an excursion we took on Splendida and I think this is standard practice. This was just a continuously running shuttle, but it would have been nice if they’d prioritised YC guests somehow. 🤷🏼‍♂️

  5. Lisa Hubball

    Good to see your blog again Duncan. I followed your blog when you did the Splendida as we were also first time YC on the Fantasia having been lured from Celebrity by the Yacht Club concept. We too loved it and have been on the Divina since and I am about to embark the Meraviglia next Saturday in Genoa with my sister which will be her first time in Yacht club.I hope she loves it as much as I do.
    Glad to see you were able to get the i newspaper. That was our paper of choice on the Fantasia however on Divina when we asked for it we ended up with the Irish Independent! They couldn’t seem to get the i so we had to settle for the Daily Mirror in the end as the other options were the Mail Express and Sun and we had plenty of toilet paper already! Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    1. Duncan Post author

      Thanks Lisa! The Meraviglia should be exciting!

      We had no problem selecting the i newspaper, though I did have to point at the list as I suppose it’s not easy to pronounce well? Funnily enough this morning I ended up with The Sun on my door and felt the same as you – I have enough loo roll!

      I mentioned it to them and they suggested they couldn’t get the Saturday paper, but when I came back to the stateroom this afternoon the weekend edition was laid out for us!

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