Our first port on our cruise was Villefracnhe, France, gateway to Monaco, Nice and Cannes. This port represented a couple of things
to me. On one hand I was very much looking forward to seeing Monaco and Monte Carlo. On the other hand I was a bit nervous about this being the first port that we would be "doing on
Our plan was well researched (mostly by my wife), and we knew pretty much how we were going to execute our plan. Our plan was to get off the ship pretty early -- but not rush as it was our first morning on the ship-- and catch a tender to the port. From there we had well described directions to the train station, and we would catch the train to Monaco, about a 15 minute ride. Once in Monaco, we were going to take a ride on their tourist train, The Little Train, and then possibly if the little ones were in good spirits check out the Royal Palace. It should have been a pretty simple day, especially compared to what we had planned for our day in Rome.
Well you know what they say about the best laid plans... The first parts went off without a hitch. We got up leisurely, had a nice breakfast, and about that time the announcement came that they had just started open tendering, meaning we didn't need to wait at a meeting point until our turn came up. So we packed up our day bags and headed for shore.
Villefranche is a picturesque little marina town. Cafes and cutsie shops line the waterfront with flower boxes in the windows. There was a small public beach that we thought might be a nice activity after we returned from Monaco. This was one of those times when the pictures we ha seen perfectly matched what we were now viewing with our own eyes!
We found the train station with little trouble. We followed the signs up the stairs to the platform heading in the direction of Monaco. It was about 10:30 in the morning at this point, and we heard that the trains came about every 20-25 minutes. When we made it up to the ticket booth there was a sign in the window saying that the next train to Monaco wouldn't be until 1:30. After
speaking with the Frenchman in the window we were not filled with confidence when he said, "it should be here at 1:30, but it is Sunday so..." Well we knew that as pretty as Villefranche was, it was not going to hold the interest of our 3 and 4 year old for three hours, and the 1:30 train
apparently wasn't a done deal either... So we decided that we would catch a taxi in Monaco. It was less cost effective, but at least our day wouldn't be ruined, and in looking back it worked out well.
The 30 minute drive into Monaco was beautiful! Driving along the French Rivera with sweeping views of the Mediterranean, and our ship anchored at sea. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any photos of it, but you'll just have to take my word for it! The taxi driver took us exactly where we needed to go, and we got his card so we could call him for a pick up in a couple hours.
We bought our tickets for the Little Train, and we had a while until the next departure, so we ventured out to find a restroom. We had heard horror stories of disgusting public pay toilets in Europe, but we were in Monaco, the Beverly Hills of Europe, surely that wouldn't be the case here right? Wrong. Not far from the train was the restrooms. A woman sat out front with a plate full of Euro coins. I figured that the plate was for tips, and it wasn't actually a pay toilet, so I didn't add to the pile. She didn't hassle me, but apparently she hassled some other folks. I'm glad that I didn't pay because the place was dirty and almost stereo-typically, there was no seat on the toilet... You have got to be kidding me!
On the plus side there was a lovely little park across the street with even more lovely views of the water. I did get some pictures here. We had a snack and the little ones ran around for a few minutes before we headed back to the train.
The Little Train tour was everything that the Barcelona Bus Touristic was not. Interesting and only about 40 minutes. It took through Monte Carlo and by all of the major sites. Except for the cheesy background music, it reminded me a lot of the tourist train ride we took in Key West on our Western Caribbean Disney cruise a couple years earlier. After the train ride the little ones were ready to head back
to the ship for chicken and french fries from Pluto's Dog House, and some quality time in the kid's clubs, so we called our cabbie and headed back to Villefranche.
We were greeted at the tender dock with the welcome site of Disney crew members with orange and lemon flavored ice water! It was a nice touch, and you could see the envy in the eyes of other cruise ship passengers in adjacent lines!
The tender ride to and from the ship was nice. The marina in Villefranche had some really nice yachts and antique looking ships. But as always we would be boarding the most beautiful ship in the harbor!
We spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool deck while we waited to see Twice Charmed. I had missed this show on our first cruise on the Magic, so I was looking forward to finally seeing it. It did not disappoint. The show was great, probably my favorite of all the shows I have seen on Disney Cruises.
While Villefranche was not without its challenges, it was a good start to our cruise. Luckily, we would have better luck with train stations in Italy than we had in France. It wasn't as easy as a day as we had thought it would be, but it was a success. We made it where we wanted to go, and made it back! We got a taste of the "high life" in Monaco, but were more than happy to retire at the end of the day, back to our staterooms on the Magic!
Up next La Spezia...