Marseille cruise ship terminalMarseille is France's main cruise ship port and this branch of tourism has been growing extremely fast: over 1.6 million cruise passengers passed through the city in 2017.

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And so facilities are expanding to meet the demand, especially from passengers who are starting their Mediterranean tour in the city: cruises "en tête de ligne", or "turnaround", as the industry calls them.

This page is a guide to Marseille's passenger terminals: where they are, how to get to and from them and what to expect there.

Click here to read about the cruise operators offering holidays starting in Marseille, here to read our guide to Marseille's ferry terminals and here to read our guide to the cruise ship ports in Toulon and La Seyne sur Mer.

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Marseille's port sprawls a long way along the city's northern coastline. It includes the ferry terminals serving Corsica, Sardinia, Algeria and Tunisia, freight terminals and dry docks as well as the cruise line terminals.

marseille cruise port map smallThe cruise terminals in Marseille are located in two different areas. Click on the map to enlarge the image.

A berth for small and mid-size luxury cruise ships can be found at the Joliette (J4) Terminal to the right of the map. It's very close to the city centre.

But most cruise companies have vessels too large to use the J4 Terminal. Instead, they dock at the piers located on a jetty to the left of the map.

Called the Môle Léon Gourret, it is 4.5 km / 6 miles from the Old Port and can receive up to seven big cruise ships simultanously.

Terminal 19, with two piers, is found just after the entrance to the jetty: it's the long purple-and-white striped rectangle on the map.

The newer Marseille-Provence Cruise Terminal (MPCT), with more piers and terminals, is about 1600 metres / 1 mile further on, at the far end of the jetty. The cruise passengers' car-park are also in this area.

Click here to find the website for the Port of Marseille and here for the Club de croisière de Marseille-Provence (Marseille-Provence Cruise Club).

HOW TO GET TO THE MARSEILLE-PROVENCE CRUISE TERMINALS

If you are flying into Marseille-Provence airport at Marignane, a cruise ship shuttle (navette croisières) may be provided by your cruise company.

The office for this shuttle bus is located in a small cabin by the entrance to Terminal 1 (Hall B), and the bus-stop itself is nearby. Alternatively, click here to pre-book a holiday taxi between the airport and the Marseille cruise terminals.

Or you can catch the airport shuttle bus to Marseille Saint Charles station and continue according to the instructions below. Note that this route is roundabout, complicated and not recommended, especially if you have a lot of luggage.

If you are coming to Marseille by rail or coach, you will arrive at Saint Charles train and bus station. From here, take the metro (line 2, direction Bougainville, stop Joliette). Click here for our full guide to Marseille's public transport system.

Unless your cruise liner is leaving from the Joliette (J4) Terminal, you will then need to catch an onward bus (no. 35, direction L'Estaque, stop Littoral Gourret).

And, after all that, the 35 bus stop is about 800 metres / 875 yards from Terminal 19 at the beginning of the Môle Léon Gourret, and about 2 km / 1.2 miles from the Marseille-Provence Cruise Terminal at the far end of the Môle. You may well decide it's worth treating yourself to a taxi instead.

If you are arriving by car and your cruise is leaving from the J4 (Joliette) Terminal, take exit 3 off the A55 motorway. There is a very large underground public car-park right next to the terminal.

Take exit 5 off the A55 if you are heading for the cruise terminal area at Porte 4 (Gate 4).

You should find a large cruise passengers' car-park, or parking croisièristes, at the end of the Môle Léon Gourret near the Marseille-Provence Cruise Terminal. Tel: (+33) 4 95 04 14 91.

Be advised that the charges for this car-park are fairly steep. If your cruise leaves from Terminal 19 right at the other end of the jetty from the car-park, a shuttle bus should, in theory, be available to transport you there.

HOW TO TRAVEL BETWEEN THE CRUISE TERMINALS AND CENTRAL MARSEILLE

The Old Port of Marseille, pictured, is the place to head straight for when your ship arrives in town. Click here to read more about what to do and see in Marseille.

The Old Port of MarseilleIt's worth noting that at some cruise destinations the views from the moorings are instantly spectacular. Sadly that doesn't apply to Marseille.

If your ship is sailing along the Côte Bleue (Blue Coast), you will be treated to some lovely views of the northern calanques as you arrive.

But the glimpse you get from the cruise ship terminal itself of Marseille's scruffy northern outskirts is not terribly inspiring - although this area is currently undergoing intensive development and modernisation, and will eventually be quite impressive. Don't let that put you off exploring what is, in fact, a beautiful city.

Unless your ship is docking at Joliette, it's too far to walk from the cruise terminal to the Old Port, especially if time is limited. In addition, the route will take you along a busy road and so it's not a particularly attractive one.

If you want to avoid paying for the cruise shuttle or a taxi, there are two options. Bus no.35 leaves from in front of Gate 4, the entrance to the Môle Léon Gourret. You can buy a ticket from the driver, if you have small change.

It will take you to Joliette, from where you can catch a tram (line T2 or T3), bus or metro (line 2) to all points within the city centre. A ticket on Marseille's public transport system entitles you to one free transfer per hour between the bus, tram and metro networks.

Terrasses du PortIn addition the Port of Marseille (GPMM) offers a free shuttle bus service exclusively for cruise tourists. It runs roughly every half hour between the Môle Léon Gourret and Joliette station, stopping at the huge new Terrasses du Port shopping mall, pictured, along the way.

Bonus: the bus takes a route inside the port authority area, thereby avoiding any traffic jams there might be on the public road.

We're assured that the free shuttle is to continue indefinitely, even if you may find that your cruise ship is not keen to publicise this competitor to its own, paid shuttle buses. Note that the schedule varies according to the time of year and number of ships in port. Expect long queues on busy days.

If you are planning to take a train out of Marseille to Aix en Provence or Avignon (though the latter is rather far for a day trip on public transport), take the metro (line 2, direction Sainte Marguerite Dromel) from Joliette to Marseille Saint Charles train station.

cote bleue train at lestaqueIn 2014 a new train station opened a little nearer the cruise terminals: it's called, rather cumbersomely, Euroméditerranée Arenc and is in the Joliette area.

This station is on the Blue Coast Line, pictured, between Marseille and Miramas and you will need to change trains at Saint Charles if you want to travel on to Aix, Arles or Avignon.

Trains on this line are infrequent, so check your timings carefully. Click here to read about the Blue Coast Line, with a link to the current train timetable, and here for our full guide to Marseille's public transport system.

Cruise passengers disembarking at the Joliette (J4) Terminal are in luck as they will be close to several bus routes and a short walk from the Joliette metro and tram stops.

They will also be just yards from the MuCEM, the Musée Regards de Provence, the Villa Méditerranée and many of the other exciting museums and other new buildings which sprang up in this part of town during the Marseille-Provence Capital of Culture programme.

Also close: the Cathedral and the upscale new shopping area and food hall in its vaults. The Old Port itself is just round the corner.

 

FACILITIES AT MARSEILLE'S CRUISE PORT TERMINALS AND OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION

Compared to the two cruise terminals in Toulon, which have both been recently refurbished, facilities in Marseille are fairly spartan.

Marseille cruise ship terminalThere are no left-luggage offices. If you need to deposit your baggage before or after your trip, do so at Marseille Saint Charles station or Marseille-Provence airport. At the airport this service is only available to travellers holding a valid air ticket departing from Marseille.

Generally speaking, the facilities are better in the more modern MPCT, which has a cafeteria, Tourist Office information point and several cash dispensers / ATMs. The rather bleak Terminal 19, pictured, was under renovation when we were being shown round. It may be more welcoming now!

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If you decide to stay on ship for the day but still want to buy some local souvenirs, you should find a marché des croisièristes, or cruise passengers' craft market, on the quayside.

And if you need to spend the night at a hotel before or after your cruise, Les Gens du Mer, an Ibis Hotel, a slightly more upmarket Suite Novotel and the four-star Golden Tulip (which opened in 2016) can all be found in the Joliette area near the J4 Terminal and a short bus or taxi ride from Gate 4.

The back streets such as rue Mazenod contain many smaller hotels. And, should you want to splash out, the luxury hotel on this side of town is the InterContinental Hôtel Dieu, just off the Old Port.

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