February 03, 2014

Boat Trips on the French Riviera

While staying in the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, the Mediterranean Sea was literally at our doorstep. Boats of all sizes, from the tiniest dinghy to enormous cruise ships, moored in the busy harbour so no visit to the French Riviera would be complete without experiencing the Côte d'Azur, France's Azure Coast, from the water.

Balcony View in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Fortunately you don't need to book an expensive Mediterranean cruise to do so. We stayed at the Welcome Hotel on quai Amiral Courbet, only steps from the water overlooking the Gare Maritime, the local cruise ship terminal. Villefranche-sur-Mer is a major stop on the Mediterranean cruise circuit due to its deep harbour.

Hotel Welcome, Villefranche-sur-Mer

Affrètement Maritime Villefranchois (AMV) offers a number of promenades en mer, short boat excursions from Villefranche-sur-Mer:

* a 45-minute tour of Villefranche Bay;

* a 1-hour jaunt around the Cap Ferrat peninsula;
* a 2-hour return trip to Monaco; and
* a 4-hour whale and dolphin expedition. (Follow this link to a great video on YouTube.)

These tours run from June until September, on different days of the week and with varying frequencies depending on the month. Bookings can be made at their office in the building complex adjacent to the cruise terminal.

The Gare Maritime, Cruise Terminal in Villefranche-sur-Mer

We booked the trip to Monaco, which departs Villefranche-sur-Mer at 3:00 p.m. Adult fare is 19 euros. Before boarding the boat we enjoyed a pizza lunch at nearby Achill's where we sipped on our rosé as we watched the passengers lined up at the cruise terminal waiting to be tendered back to their ship.

Lunch at Achill's

The Sirene V

We quickly boarded the Sirene V and settled in for our trip to Monaco. Seating is available inside the boat but we chose to sit outside in the back. We were visiting in late July so we were comfortable in short sleeves but you may want to wear extra clothing for tours taken in June or September.

Boarding the Boat

As the boat left Villefranche Harbour we could see the buildings of the town scattered up along the hillside and the grey stone walls of the 16th century Citadel on the shore. On-board commentary is provided in multiple languages.

Departing Villefranche-sur-Mer

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild crowns the Cap Ferrat Peninsula. The villa is walkable from Villefranche-sur-Mer and the nine different theme gardens are a must-see for gardening enthusiasts.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on Cap Ferrat

As we rounded the peninsula we passed the Cap Ferrat Lighthouse, the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat and a number of luxury seaside villas. This exclusive Riviera neighbourhood has been home to such celebrities as Charlie Chaplin, David Niven, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Cap Ferrat Lighthouse

Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat

British Architect Sir Norman Foster's 'Sail House'

Villa by the Sea

The Sirene V was not the only boat out at sea that day. We were joined by many others, both large yachts and small sailboats with young sailors at the helm.

Heavy Traffic on the Sea

Luxury Yacht

Riviera Sailing School for Children

Upon completing our circuit of the Cap Ferrat peninsula we could see the rugged coastline and the Moyenne Corniche road leading to the hilltop town of Eze Village. This is another easy day trip from Villefranche-sur-Mer by bus.

The Lower (left) and Middle (Center) Corniche Roads

In Monaco, we entered the harbour for a close-up look at some of the super yachts that were moored here, like the Lady Moura owned by a Saudi businessman.

Super Yachts in Monaco

The Lady Moura

Well-known Monaco landmarks we had visited a few days earlier, such as Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium, and the Monte Carlo Casino are easily viewed from the water.

Saint Nicholas Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum on 'The Rock', Monaco

Saint Nicholas Cathedral

Oceanographic Museum of Monaco and Aquarium

The Monte Carlo Casino

Passengers on this tour do not disembark in Monaco. The boat picks up speed for the return to Villefranche-sur-Mer so you should plan your photos for the outbound journey.

Departing Monaco

This parasailer over Villefranche Bay had taken to the skies for his own unique vantage point. I was very happy with my view from below.

Parasailing over Villefranche Bay

The Affrètement Maritime Villefranchois (AMV) web site is in French only but includes photos and up-to-date information on their tours.

More boat trips along the coast of the French Riviera are also offered out of  nearby Nice and Cannes by Trans Côte d'Azur.

Related Posts:

7 Ways to Avoid Motion Sickness
Monte Carlo
Saint Jean Cap Ferrat
Gardens of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Eze:  Perched Village of the Côte d'Azur

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