France cruises allow vacationers to enjoy the diverse coastal communities of France without the hassle of unpacking and repacking. For many travelers, there are two distinct categories of ultimate, romantic vacations: cruises and European getaways. With a cruise to France, it is easy to combine both for an exotic and luxurious voyage that will be truly unforgettable.
When to Take a Cruise to France
Depending on the type of cruise, there are different times when France cruises are exceptionally popular. Most European voyages occur during the summer months, typically between May and October, though a limited number of cruises are available outside that busy season. For a more laid-back atmosphere with fewer young children aboard, choose a voyage in May, September, or October, outside the typical summer holiday season. Naturally, longer voyages are more selective and have fewer departure dates than shorter itineraries.
There are three basic types of voyages that call on France: Mediterranean cruises, northern European cruises, and transatlantic cruises. Mediterranean and northern European voyages typically last 7 to 10 days, though longer itineraries may expand to Scandinavian countries, Russia, or the Greek isles, leading to voyages of twelve days or longer. Naturally, transatlantic cruises are lengthier, typically starting at about sixteen days (five of which are just to cross the Atlantic Ocean). Because a European vacation is often once-in-a-lifetime, many cruise passengers choose to extend their cruises through a variety of land-and-sea packages that add several days of sightseeing either before or after the voyage. These "cruisetours" allow visitors the opportunity to experience more destinations in depth or visit attractions further from the coast that may be inaccessible during the time a ship is docked at a single port.
Most major cruise lines offer a variety of cruises that visit France, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America, and a variety of luxury lines such as Crystal Cruises, Cunard, and Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. Specialty cruise lines that operate only in Europe are more likely to offer shorter itineraries with ports of call in France, though most American travel agents will be less familiar with those lines.
Embarkation Ports for France Cruises
Depending on the type of cruise, there are several embarkation ports for voyages including French ports of call, including:
- New York, NY: A cruise hub for northeastern departures, many transatlantic voyages depart from New York on eastbound journeys.
- Fort Lauderdale, FL: Home to many luxury lines, discriminating passengers can find transatlantic cruises from this south-Florida port that will eventually call on France.
- Miami, FL: The cruise line capital of the world, Miami offers one of the widest ranges of cruise itineraries, including occasional transatlantic voyages.
International embarkation ports for Mediterranean cruises that include ports of call in France include:
- Rome, Italy
- Barcelona, Spain
- Lisbon, Portugal
Exotic, northern, and western European cruises often call on France's western coast, and embarkation ports for these cruises include:
- London (Harwich), England
- Athens, Greece
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Many longer European cruises are one-way voyages, and prospective passengers would be wise to work with an experienced travel agent to arrange airfare as well as transportation to and from the cruise port.
Ports of Call for France Cruises
Depending on the specific cruise itinerary, there are several potential ports of call in France that focus on cultural, historic, and romantic excursions.
- Cannes: Home of the world-renowned International Film Festival each May, Cannes offers luxury shopping opportunities as well as pristine beaches on the glistening Mediterranean Sea. Shore excursions are often offered to nearby Monte Carlo, Monaco.
- Nice: The fifth largest city in France and just twenty miles from Cannes, Nice has a wide variety of quaint chapels, art museums, and interesting architecture making it well worth a guided shore excursion. As in Cannes, day trips to Monte Carlo are usually offered when a ship stops at Nice.
- Marseille: Further west beyond the French Riviera, Marseille is a less popular but still fascinating port of call. Several history museums trace the shipping port's varied past, while watersports and shopping are always popular pastimes.
- Le Havre: "The Harbor" is the most popular port of call along France's western coast, with many shore excursions to Paris, just a three-hour drive away (closer than many cruise passengers will get otherwise). Le Havre itself does not offer much for sightseeing tourists, and visiting the beaches of Normandy or a walking tour of Rouen are more appealing options.
Depending on each voyage's itinerary, some cruise ships do pass through the Straits of Gibraltar and offer passengers ports of call on both the southern and western shores of France, particularly for longer cruises. Before visiting France from the decks of a cruise ship, travelers should acquaint themselves with their upcoming ports of call as well as local customs and simple French phrases that will make acclimating to the amazing environment just a bit easier.
The seagoing romance of a cruise and the exotic, foreign romance of a trip to France are perfectly blended aboard a Mediterranean, European, or transatlantic cruise. Though no cruises departing from the United States offer stops in France alone, many itineraries include time in several European nations, including days along the French Riviera or a tantalizing drive to Paris. Cruising to France is a true romantic voyage, perfect for honeymooners, couples, or anyone interested in French culture and the luxury of a cruise.