Category Archives: France

Corsica, France May 7, 2023

On Sunday May 7 we visited the island of Corsica, population 351,000. It is an island in the Mediterranean and one of the 18 regions of France. A single chain of mountains makes up two thirds of the island. We visited the capital city of Ajaccio. Napoleon Bonaparte was born here in 1769, the second of eight children. This was 15 months after France purchased the island from Italy. 

This was a tender (ferry) port meaning the ship anchored offshore and we had to take a tender boat to shore. If you did not take a ship excursion you had to pick up a tender boat ticket from a staff member between 6:30 AM and 9:00 AM. The earlier you picked up a ticket, the earlier the tender boat you would be able to take to the island. You had to wait until your number was called to board the boat. A bit of a nuisance but not terrible. At one point they had to halt the tender boat operation for 45 minutes while another cruise ship came in and parked.

Eventually our number was called and we were on our way. It was a beautiful day and the ship was docked in a sheltered harbor so the short 15 minute ride to the island was smooth.

From the ship, the town appeared picturesque and quaint. But once in town it felt old, tired and somewhat rundown with some buildings in need of repair. The streets were very narrow, with those by the harbor lined with cafes and many souvenir shops.

The streets were densely packed with tourists eager to do some last shopping since this was our last port of call. It was difficult to make our way along the narrow crowded streets. 

Napoleon’s influence is obvious throughout the town with statues and monuments, including bronze N’s on the streets.

The house and street where he was born is an attraction as well as the church where he was baptized.

The church where he was baptized is especially beautiful and was open.

Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral

This 18th century baptismal font was used to baptized Napoleon.

Another church across town says his tomb was inside. Research back on the ship said that Napoleon’s body is in Paris.

There was a citadel fortress built in 1492 to protect the city from maritime attacks. It was open and free. Very little information was available and what information there was, was in French only. The fortress did not look like any effort had been made to restore it or keep it up as an important historical attraction.

The moat was used one time for a tennis court.

Moat with Tennis Court

We didn’t see much in the way of economy other than tourism. Of the five ports we visited, this is the only port where a young man asked for money. I imagine there is very little employment available in the town.

Bird Landing

Napoleon on Horse with his Four Brother

After wandering around for two and a half hours we were more than ready to catch the tender boat back to the ship. 

Next up: Disembarkation near Rome

Toulon, France May 6, 2023

Saturday May 6 we visited Toulon, France, a port city on the southern Mediterranean coast, population 180,000. The area is home to an important naval base, which is the largest French military port and harbor to submarines and warships. Rugged limestone mountains form a backdrop to the city along the sea. The city of Toulon is experiencing one of the largest increases in cruise visitation in the Mediterranean.

We sailed into the port of Seine and had to figure out how to get into Toulon across the bay. I must say that Royal Caribbean does a really poor job of helping their passengers know details about ports. Other cruise lines we have used, Holland America, in particular, does an excellent job. Before each port, Holland America has a port talk where they talk about each port, what to see and do, and how to get around on your own. Royal Caribbean only talks about their expensive excursions and if you want to explore on your own, they offer no help whatsoever. Another rant about Royal Caribbean is they don’t reimburse you port fees for missed ports of call. We missed Ponta Delgada but they are refusing to reimburse port fees.  Holland America cruise line reimburses port fees for missed ports. Added to that the poor quality of food, I guess it is three strikes and they are OUT! I heard more complaints and griping about this cruise line from fellow passengers on this cruise than any other cruise we have been on. The complaints were mainly about poor communication, lack of information and poor quality of food. We can live with the lack of quality food, but the lack of information was especially annoying. Too many better cruise lines to choose from. 

With that said, between reading about ports ahead of time and talking with other passengers, we figured out there were two ways to get to Toulon, by city bus or ferry. Both bus and ferry pick up places were a three quarter mile walk from the ship. First we tried the ferry since it was only a 25 minute ride, but the line was so long we gave up and walked to the bus stop. The bus arrived quickly and we were on our way. It was a 45 minute ride with many stops, but we enjoyed seeing the area and the bus was full of locals out to do their Saturday shopping, chatting away in French of which we understood nothing.

When we arrived in Toulon we saw a sign for the Toulon Cathedral we wanted to visit and it was a short walk. We noticed many people dressed up and were told a celebration at the cathedral had just ended.

The doors were open and we were able to visit the empty church. Beautiful!!!. The cathedral is a national monument, with construction begun in the 11th century and remodeled in the 18th century.

After leaving the cathedral we found ourselves in the main area of a huge fresh air market full of Saturday shoppers. Everything was for sale from clothes and shoes to fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, olives, fresh fish, baked goods, handmade soaps and beautiful fresh flowers. We really enjoyed walking among the locals as they shopped and chatted. People here do not do a week or two worth of shopping at one time. Instead, these markets are open each day for people to buy fresh produce and meat. Bill and I bought a french pastry to enjoy as we wandered. Delicious!

Squid on the Left and Octopus on the Right

We made our way slowly towards the waterfront where people had gathered at restaurants and cafes for a leisurely lunch.

We decided to try to take the ferry back and this time the line was short and we were able to get on the next ferry. It was a short 25 minute ride across the bay and then the walk back to the ship.

We logged five miles on our watches. A nice day spent in Toulon, France! 

Next up: Corsica, France