MSC SplendidaMarseille is a superb starting point for a cruise holiday. It’s easily reached by air, road or high-speed rail. It's a fast springboard to some of Provence's loveliest spots. And there are many terrific attractions in Marseille itself.

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If you are interested in river cruising, click here for our guide to tourism along the mighty Rhône.

In 2017, 1.5 million tourists passed through Marseille. Growth had slowed temporarily but is now taking off again. And the city still retains its status as one of the top 20 cruise ports in the world and one of the five busiest cruise ports on the Mediterranean.

The aim is to attract two million visitors a year by 2020. So it's with some justification that Marseille claims to be the fastest expanding port in the world.

This page surveys the current choice of international English-language cruise holidays departing from Marseille in 2018. These are known as "en tête de ligne", or "turnaround" cruises in industry jargon and account for just under a third of all cruise passengers in Marseille.

We have also included some itineraries where the city is one stop in the middle of the route, but not companies aimed mainly at the French-speaking market. Click here to read our guide to travelling though Marseille's cruise ship terminals.

Instead of just being focussed on midsummer, many cruises now run from mid-March to the end of November. In fact May, June, September and October have become the most important cruising months, as ships head here from Northern Europe in search of warmer spring or autumn weather.

Two cruise companies, MSC and Costa, even continue to offer Marseille departures throughout the winter - and this can also be a very attractive time to visit Provence

The flurry of activity in the region during 2013 as part of the Marseille-Provence European Capital of Culture programme continues to enhance the image of Marseille as a tourist destination.

In particular the MuCEM has been a huge attraction for boutique luxury cruise ships such as Silversea which dock at the adjacent, new J4 (Joliette) Terminal.

If you want to tour the wider region during your stop-over, we can organise private day tours by limousine or mini-van to some of the most popular and beautiful destinations.

These include Aix en Provence, Cassis, Saint Rémy de Provence, L'Isle sur La Sorge, Avignon and Les Baux de Provence. (You won't be able to visit them all in one day, of course!)

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And, if you are planning to rent a car yourself in Marseille, please consider our comparison search engine for all grades of hire car from Smarts to 4x4s and limousines.

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As an important naval base which must always remain open for military reasons, Toulon is less vulnerable to strike action than Marseille (on occasion visiting cruise ships have been re-routed there).

And its two cruise ports have the additional advantage of being out of the main path of the Mistral, the fierce north-west wind that can cause havoc with sailing conditions.

On the other hand, Toulon has fewer major tourist attractions and is a less convenient base from which to explore the main destinations of Provence.

Moreover Marseille has tackled the Mistral problem by extending the breakwater at the entrance to the cruise terminals, so that ships are now protected from even fairly high winds. The reopening in 2017 of the very large Forme 10 maintenance facility (the largest dry dock in Europe) has been an added attraction for cruise operators.

Cruises Starting in Marseille in 2018

The cruises starting from Marseille are strikingly different in mood and flavour, and you’ll need to inspect the companies' programmes carefully to choose the one right for you. Over 30 companies pass through the city, but the English-speaking market is dominated by two names.

The MSC fleet has a number of cruise ships and prices are amazingly competitive, especially for early and late season departures.

In 2017 MSC launched Meraviglia, one of the biggest cruise ships in the world. It sails from Marseille weekly until Easter 2018 on eight day circular cruises around the Western Mediterranean.

After that MSC unveils a new top-of-the-range ship, the Seaview, on much the same route. Slightly smaller than the Meraviglia (4000 passengers), it describes its main selling point as "the highest ratio of outdoor space per guest at sea", and includes a 360 degree seaside promenade.

The MSC Seaview sails from Marseille weekly from June 2018 and two other MSC ships, the Opera and the Divina, also offer week-long cruises through the summer. Pictured top left, the MSC Splendida is another of the larger ships in the fleet.

Costa DiademaA growing trend in cruise tourism is for holidays of varying lengths and in the shoulder season (spring and autumn / fall) a more flexible range of shorter and longer routes is available. Website for MSC Cruises

Costa Cruises is Marseille’s most loyal customer: the company has been offering cruises starting here for over 20 years. Pictured, the Costa Diadema continues to ply routes around the Mediterranean throughout the winter.

Once spring arrives a small fleet of other ships arrives to help out. While the midsummer months (June-August) are dominated by seven day cruises to Spain and Italy, Costa’s programme becomes much more flexible and wide-ranging outside that period.

At the far extreme, it has a round-the-world trip departing from Marseille in January that lasts a full 101 days! Website for Costa Cruises

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have both discontinued their cruises starting in Marseille, although their ships continue to call here in the main season.

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Royal Caribbean's monster Symphony of the Seas (5479 passengers) is in Marseille every week between April and October 2018 as part of its eight day tour of the Western Mediterranean. Website for Royal Caribbean.

Norwegian Spirit is stopping by too on a ten day itinerary. Its programme is based on what it calls "freestyle cruising" aimed at younger passengers and families with children.

It features plenty of activities on board, a relaxed approach to dress code at dinner and flexible eating options.

It was described to us recently by one executive as a "party ship", which may or may not be an attraction! Website for Norwegian Cruise Line.

Another family option is Disney Cruise Line, which is calling by Marseille on a handful of dates for the first time in 2018. Website for Disney Cruise Line.

Finally, two companies at the high end of tourism are worth a look. In May, Crystal Cruises offers a ten-day trip with an unusual itinerary: it starts in Marseille, loops around the Iberian peninsular and ends up in London.

In October a seven-day Crystal cruise to Barcelona takes in the Western Mediterranean and several other cruises over the summer include Marseille on their routes. Website for Crystal Cruises.

Silversea's ships take between 300 and 500 passengers. And, apart from the added intimacy this allows, their small format means they can dock at the J4 Terminal in central Marseille. It’s much more convenient than the Môle Léon Gourret right on the edge of the city where the larger ships have to go. Website for Silversea Cruises.

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