Marseille is France's main cruise ship port and this branch of tourism has been growing extremely fast: over 1.15 million cruise passengers passed through the city in 2013.
Click here to book a hotel in Marseille
At the height of the season, 16,000 cruise tourists from a wide range of countries visit Marseille in a single day. This figure, too, is expected to increase 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 sort of facilities to expect there. Click here to read our page about the cruise operators offering holidays starting in Marseille and here to read our guide to Marseille's ferry terminals.
Marseille is a big city - the second-largest in France - and it can be tricky to find your way around, particularly since the terminals are somewhat out of town and many cruise ships dock here for just a few hours.
To make the most of your visit, we can create a customised full- or half-day accompanied tour with an English- and French-speaking guide who will help you make the very best of your time in our exciting, beautiful, fast-changing city.
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.
Click on the image, right, to see a detailed large-scale map of the whole of Marseille's port area, including all these terminals and the onward land transport connections. Scroll down below the main map to see area maps showing pedestrian and vehicular access to the individual terminals.
Note: this very large file may not display correctly in certain browsers. If this happens, try reloading the map using a different browser.
The cruise terminals are are located in two different areas, both labelled "9" on this large-scale map. Two berths 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, the Môle Léon Gourret, right at the northern end of the port 4.5 km / 6 miles from the Old Port.
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 1,600 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 adjacent building is being renovated and will eventually offer even more capacity.
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). Note, however, that the English-language areas of both these websites are somewhat restricted.
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 is nearby. Alternatively, click here to pre-book a holiday taxi to or from 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 from the train station instead.
If you are arriving by car and your cruise is leaving from the J4 (Joliette) Terminal, take exit 3 off the A55 motorway. 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 croisière, at the end of the Môle Léon Gourret near the Marseille-Provence Cruise Terminal. Tel: (+33) 4 91 03 01 15.
Be advised that the charges for this car-park are fairly steep and space is limited (though the car-park is being enlarged). It's not possible to reserve a space in advance. 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
The terminals at Gate 4 are located eight km / five miles from the Old Port of Marseille, pictured, which is the place to head straight for. Click here to read more about what to do and see in 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: the glimpse you get from the cruise ship terminal of its scrubby northern outskirts is not terribly inspiring. But 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 until recently has been bus no. 35 which leaves from outside Gate 4, the entrance to the Môle Léon Gourret. It will take you to Joliette, from where you can take a fast tram (line T2) to the city centre.
However in June 2013 the Port of Marseille (GPMM) introduced a free shuttle bus between the Môle Léon Gourret and Joliette station, an interchange near the city centre with plenty of excellent onward tram, metro and bus connections.
We're assured that the shuttle is to continue throughout 2014, even if you may find that your cruise ship is not keen to publicise this competitor to its own, paid shuttle buses.
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) 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.
Note that trains on this line are rather 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 both the 35 bus and the metro and tram stops, as well as to 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. Visitors could even easily walk right into the centre of Marseille.
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Facilities at Marseille's cruise port terminals and other useful information
There are no left-luggage offices at the cruise terminals. 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 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 the Insider visited in November 2012.
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' 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 and a slightly more upmarket Suite Novotel can all be found in the Joliette area near the J4 Terminal and a short bus ride from Gate 4. The backstreets 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 new InterContinental Hôtel Dieu, just off the Old Port.