Here we are, Marseilles, France, our last port of call.
Sadly, Marseilles was my least favourite port - as in, I should have just stayed on the ship. We were aware of the transit strike prior to arriving in Marseilles. It wasn't going to affect our excursion, but many other Carnival excursions were cancelled. In hindsight, I wish ours had been cancelled as well.
None of the excursions really stood out to us in Marseilles, so this was another last minute decision for us. We ended up choosing Top 10 of Marseilles. I know, I don't know why. I had said the Top 10 excursions felt too rushed, but this was a short one (4 hours) so we figured everything must be close together (which we were mostly right about) and it was also cheap ($70). Our tour guide had a very heavy French accent and a deep, hoarse voice. Most of the tour group had a hard time understanding her.
Marseilles is a large industrial port, and the tour started off with our driver not being able to find an exit. Due to the strike, several port exits were closed. So we circled around to find another exit, it took us about 15-20 minutes to get out. Not a great start.
Our first stop was Palais Longchamp. The building is centered on the beautiful chateau d'eau fountain in the middle of the park. There are two wings, both of which are museums. The panoramic view is magnificent. During this photo stop, our tour guide stayed on the bus. There were two other buses on this particular tour, and I saw the other two tour guides walk with their tour group, and explain the history of Palais Longchamp. I was very disappointed that our tour guide didn't bother to do so.
From there, we drove to Notre Dame de la Garde. As we drove up the hill, we could see the bell tower from afar. On top of the bell tower, we could see the infamous gold leaf statue of Mary carrying baby Jesus. Notre Dame de la Garde is located at the highest natural elevation in Marseilles, and there are about 170 steps to climb to get to the entrance of the basilica. Our tour guide did get off the bus this time to walk us up to the basilica. There were a lot, and I mean a lot, of people during our stop, so foot traffic was moving quite slowly. The view on top of the basilica is just truly breathtaking. You can see all of Marseilles. We also took a quick walk inside the basilica. The exterior of the church reminded me of the cathedral in Florence, but the inside of the basilica was decorated with mosaic with lot of marble. Unfortunately, we didn't a chance to visit the crypt due to time constraints.
Look at this gorgeous panoramic view from Notre Dame de la Garde!
Our tour continued on the scenic coast along the beaches until we reached our final stop in Old Port. For such a short distance to drive around, and the fact that there was not much traffic due the strike, it sure took a long time. We were dropped off at a mall, and given 45 minutes of free time, with no map. Our tour guide wasn't helpful at all, she pointed in one direction and said "Souvenirs that way," and another, "Restaurants that way." None of us had any clue as to where we were going. A lot of passengers were angry. The boyfriend and I walked towards the water for some pictures, and turned back to look for a snack. We found a busy street with many shops, and a few coffee stands, so the boyfriend grabbed a few croissants while I took a quick look at a nearby shop. I really wanted to try on a few things but we were short for time. We turned back, and ended up at a different entrance at the mall, so we decided to take a quick look inside. It was the loneliest mall we had ever seen. More than half of the mall was under construction and inaccessible. We found a busy bakery on the other end, so we bought some more pastries to hold off our hunger.
Because of the strike, we didn't want to take a chance with finding our way back on our own. We walked back to the motor coach, and back to the ship we went.
As we headed inside the terminal, we spotted a Carnival shuttle bus that was going to Old Port. We approached the tour guide at the bus, and asked if there was a fee for the bus. She replied €15. Crazy! No thanks, we thought. As we walked away, the girl called us back. She had seen our excursion stickers, and told us it was free of charge for us. At that time, more people were coming back to the ship than leaving the ship, so we waited for about fifteen minutes before the shuttle left with us and two other people. The bus dropped us off right at the entrance of Old Port.
We wandered into the side streets, and found a few corner stores, and a supermarket! We both have a sweet tooth, and we love buying candy from abroad. This supermarket had all the best candy. I stopped by a Mango outlet and Leonidas chocolates. The pier is where you want to buy your souvenirs. There are a lot of soap shops; soaps are a popular souvenir in Marseilles. After grabbing some soap, postcards and souvenirs, we took the last shuttle back to the ship.
Our last supper... the boyfriend had French onion soup to start, prime rib for his entree and carrot cake for dessert. I had the beef carpaccio, beef stew and fruit. Our dining staff serenaded us with a rendition of "Leaving on a Jet Plane."
We stopped by the Liquid Lounge to take a quick peek. A band (jazz, I believe) was performing a variety of music from rock to pop, and classical to country. Unfortunately, it was time to get ready for disembarkation so we rushed back to our cabin to pack up our luggage. We ended our night at the comedy club. We just made it about five minutes into Steve White's last show. Before we headed back into our cabin, we stopped by Guest Services to close out our accounts...
What a bittersweet feeling! Thank you for continuing to read my trip report on the Carnival Vista... my next entry will be Disembarkation Day, then our three-day stay in Barcelona. Stay tuned!
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