I’m going to be honest; these blogs are no longer live! A combination of having too much fun and post-cruise illness, COVID, has delayed the writing of the latest posts. However, we are back, fully recovered, and will complete the story of our daily adventures. You might remember that in our first post, we commented that Royal Caribbean never checked we had our “obligatory” pre-cruise COVID test; we now wonder how many people they may have let on who didn’t have the test. On day 3, we stopped at Marseille and visited the fantastic Aix-en-Provence and Cassis.
One of the most convenient parts of cruising is arranging a ship excursion for your port of call. However, it does come at a considerable cost, and often the itinerary isn’t quite correct. This was the problem we encountered in Marseille, costly excursions, and none visited both Aix-en-Provence and Cassis. In addition, many excursions on this itinerary had sold out before the sailing. Faced with doing a tour at a significant cost that we didn’t want to do, we decided to look at alternative options.
We have used private tour operators on previous cruises but have tended to avoid them when visiting countries whose first language isn’t English. I’m not sure this hesitancy over English is justified, as official cruise excursions sometimes have some very poor guides attached. We looked at several travel review sites, including Trip Advisor, and found several companies with good reviews. Many of these companies allow you to book directly on Trip Advisor, but none offered what we were looking for.
Several emails to various companies, and it became apparent most could design a better private excursion for us at a much lower price than a cruise coach tour. Unfortunately, the majority of companies did not have any last-minute availability. However, we did find a few companies that did have availability and went with Provence Amazing Tours, which has good reviews on Trip Advisor. Arranging our tour was straightforward through Laurent, who we assumed would be our guide. However, our guide for the day was someone called Eric. Eric was excellent and very informative but, by his own admission, wasn’t fluent in English. I think Eric’s English was much better than he thought, and he managed to answer all our questions, plus his knowledge of the area was outstanding. Our vehicle for the day was comfortable and could carry up to eight guests.
Our first stop was at Aix-en-Provence. Aix-en-Provence is located approximately 20 miles north of Marseille. The city is a former capital of Provence and today is the home to 143000 people. The city is known for its markets and sophisticated streets. Aix-en-Provence has been described as Marseille’s “rich, cultured, educated cousin.”
There are markets held daily at Aix-en-Provence, but the largest are on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If you have lost track of our vacation, our visit was on a Tuesday. The biggest markets are described as an “everything market,” which isn’t an exaggeration. Everything you could think of was available to buy, including some of the most fantastic fruit and veg I have ever seen. Provence is well known for its cuisine, and it was easy to see why.
Our tour of Aix-en-Provence lasted several hours, exploring the markets, visiting the cathedral, and viewing the various sites. It is a fantastic place, which I would happily visit again.
Next, we visited Cassis, but first, we had some fantastic cliff-top views of the town. The road to the cliff was narrow and windy, and I suspect this is something a coach tour would not be able to carry out. The views from the cliff were spectacular and well worth seeing.
Cassis is a small town and popular tourist destination east of Marseille. It is a beautiful coastal town and a great ” people-watch spot.” We only had around 1 hour to explore, but we viewed the beach, walked around the harbor, and visited a couple of shops. The cafes and restaurants in the town look worthy of a visit in the future.
Overall, we had a fantastic tour and felt we achieved much more than we would on a cruise ship excursion.
Back on the ship and tonight, we ate at the Solarium Bistro. Solarium Bistro is a complimentary restaurant and, in the evening, has a Mediterranean menu. On a previous cruise, main courses were waiter-served, but now everything is a buffet. Although the food was good, I think I preferred the previous setup.
Our day was finished by visiting the show in the Aquatheater. The show “inTENse” has an all-female cast and includes acrobatics, synchronized swimming, and acrobatics. Like all Royal Caribbean’s Aqua shows, the staging is incredibly impressive, but the story is impossible to follow. I enjoyed the show, but I think I preferred the aqua shows on other ships more.
Our next stop is La Spezia, where we will be exploring Tuscany food and drink. Please keep checking back for our latest information from Wonder of the Seas. You can read all our posts by following the link.