My fellow crewmembers and I used to call it “Sudden Death Sea Day,” although it isn’t as alarming as it sounds. Frequent cruisers have experienced the collective groan of the passengers when the Captain announces over the P.A. that a port of call has been cancelled due to the weather, illness, or safety concerns. This is when the Staff and Crew jump into action to create a program of onboard activities and events to placate angry guests who had their hearts set on going ashore. This is the tempestuous nature of Ship Life: for better or for worse, every day is different!
The more desirable alternative to a cancelled port is to be rerouted to a different port of call. It was by way of re-routing that I discovered a lesser-known darling of the Côte d’Azur – the seaside resort town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. Our ship was sailing west, bound for the historic mainstay of Marseille, when we encountered some heavy weather conditions that would have prevented a safe arrival in port. The Captain decided to seek shelter in the France’s glamorous southeast corner! Though just a stone’s throw from Nice and Monte Carlo, Villefranche-sur-Mer has a more laid back, romantic, intimate atmosphere than its often-deluged neighbors.
Villefranche does get its fair share of cruise ships, which usually provide excursions opportunities to Nice, Eze, Grasse, and Monte Carlo. The train station is a five-minute walk from the tender pier if you prefer to explore the region on your own. The greatest appeal of this village, however, is that it offers the over-stimulated cruiser respite from the tourist mayhem during peak season. Villefranche-sur-Mer is comparatively quiet, even in the summer months, and so very BEAUTIFUL!
Old Town (Vieille Ville) Villefranche begins as you exit the tender pier. Perched on a meandering incline, the Old Town is a maze of pedestrian backstreets, traditional homes, shops, and churches. It’s great fun to get lost amidst the cobblestone streets and vaulted passages. When you find your way back, be sure to stop off at the waterfront for crêpes and café crème, before heading to the long sandy beach at the end of the waterfront.
On this particular visit many of our guests found Villefranche-sur-Mer a welcome reprieve at the end of a ‘Humanities-heavy’ itinerary. Mediterranean cruises, by nature, are rigorous and stimulating; most travelers come to this part of the world for the history, architecture, and culture, which is a fathomless wellspring of sights and sounds. The constant stimulation of this type of travel can be exhausting and desensitizing. That’s when you know it’s time to stop and simply reflect on the bounty of your journey. Then, eat a croissant and jump in the water!
For more information visit: http://www.villefranche-sur-mer.fr/tourism/
Côte d’Azur Train information: http://www.sncf.com/fr/trains/ter
Book a cruise to Villefranche-sur-Mer: http://www.cruisecritic.com/cruiseto/cruiseitineraries.cfm?portofcall=84&sort=shipname