Marseille 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 2016.
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And so facilities are expanding to meet the demand, especially from passengers starting their Mediterranean cruise in the city:"en tête de ligne", or "turnaround", as the industry calls it.
This page is a guide to Marseille's cruise 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 and includes the ferry terminals serving Corsica, Sardinia, Algeria and Tunisia, freight terminals and dry docks as well as the cruise line terminals.
Scroll down below the main map to see area maps showing pedestrian and vehicular access to the individual terminals.
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The cruise terminals are are located in two different areas, both labelled "9" on this large-scale map. A berth for small and mid-size luxury cruise ships can be found at the Joliette (J4) Terminal 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, pictured.
Called the Môle Léon Gourret, it is right at the northern end of the port 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 two more piers, is about 1600 metres / 1 mile further on, right at the other end of the jetty and is marked on the map as a small purple square. The building across the other side of the car-park has been renovated and reopened as Terminal B.
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 outside the entrance to the airport departure lounge for Terminals 3/4, 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).
Here, you should find a cruise passengers' car-park, or parking croisièristes, with 850 spaces 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, a shuttle bus should, in theory, be available to transport you there.
How to travel between the cruise terminals and central Marseille
It's worth noting, by the way, 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 of Marseille's scrubby northern outskirts is not terribly inspiring. Don't let that put you off exploring what is, in fact, a beautiful city.
It's too far to walk 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 into Marseille, the only public transport option is bus no.35 which leaves from in front of Gate 4, the entrance to the Môle Léon Gourret. 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.
We're assured that the 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, too, that the schedule varies according to the time of year and number of ships expected in port.
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.
In 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 between Marseille and Miramas and you will need to change trains at Saint Charles if you want to travel on to Aix or Avignon.
Trains on this line are infrequent, so you will need to 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 Mareille are spartan.
There 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, including a cafeteria, Tourist Office information point and several cash dispensers / ATMs, are better in the more modern MPCT than in the rather bleak Terminal 19, pictured, though this was being refurbished when we were shown round in 2012. It may be more welcoming now!
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 spring 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.