Cannes is the largest cruise destination on the Cote d’Azur with 170 day calls in 2018. It offers plenty for a self-contained visit, ideal for families or older visitors as part of a Mediterranean cruise.
Stroll along the beach-fringed promenade, La Croisette, within minutes of disembarkation, soaking up the glamour of the sun-kissed resort synonymous with cinema.
Cruise port location
The beauty of Cannes is sailing into the heart of the city – no transfers required. The dedicated welcome desk at the cruise terminal, offers free walking-tour maps and advice for new arrivals. However Cannes is primarily a tender-only port, with Crystal Esprit the only ship to actually dock harbourside.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
Definitely. It’s just a short stroll along the marina to the main tourist office, located next to the Palais des Festivals – home to the Cannes Festival. From here, the majestic sweep of the palm-fringed Boulevard de la Croisette opens up to reveal the full glory of the bay with the Lérins Islands beyond.
Cannes is compact with most attractions within easy walking distance of the harbour, making this a good port to explore independently.
Boats for day trips to the Lérins Islands depart from the harbour by the cruise terminal, while petit train (little tourist train), a cinema-themed tour of the city centre with recorded commentary in English, leaves from near the Palais des Festivals.
What to see and do
Cannes lends itself to independent day visits, so unless booking a specific excursion such as NCL’s visit to Grasse and St. Paul De Vence, then better go it alone.
You can even visit the Lérins Islands individually, the boats from the marina running March to October.
What can I do in four hours or less?
Avoid the crowds by starting with the ancient backstreets of Le Suquet, the heart of old Cannes. The steep, old-town streets form the original fishing port, leading steeply upwards to the Musee de la Castre. Formerly a monastery, the museum houses a collection of Mediterranean antiquities. From here, climb to the summit of the 12th-century watchtower for the best panorama across Cannes.
The most popular excursion is the Friday afternoon walking tour through Cannes’ cinematic heritage. The 90-minute guided walk, starting from the tourist office, is open to all and the English-speaking guide shares secrets from beyond the red carpet. The Palme d’Or, the prize for the winning film director since 1955, is based on the ubiquitous palm leaf, the symbol of Cannes.
Finally, the luxury hotels along La Croisette all operate summer beach clubs, which are open to non-residents who buy a day pass. The Carlton Hotel, where Grace Kelly first met Prince Rainier of Monaco, is one of the best with access to the Carlton Beach restaurant and views across its private beach to the Bay of Cannes.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
Cinema fans with more time to explore can pick up a self-guided trail, tracing a route around the 15 film-themed murals on the facades of old buildings across the whole city. The map is available free of charge from the tourist office and the whole routes takes about six hours with regular stops. The best known mural, located near the main bus station, is Cannes Cinema, a fitting celebration of 70 years of movie magic with the Lumiere brothers and Fred Astaire among the giants of cinema depicted.
Alternatively, day visitors can save on excursion costs with an independent visit to one of the Lérins Islands. Trans Cote d’Azur boats depart from the port but you’ll need to go directly from your ship’s tender and time the return before the evening sailing.
Saint Honorat is home to a community Cistercian monks who produce a particularly fruity – and pricey – local wine.
By contrast Saint Marguerite is an oasis of rural tranquility with its Fort Royal, now the Maritime Museum, best known as the place where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned in the 17th century.
What can I do with a bit longer?
Cannes is a rewarding day visit but you could join an organised excursion for a full day trip to Monaco or to Nice, taking a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, and still be back for sailing time. Cruise lines with excursions along the Cote d’Azur include Marella and MSC Cruises.
Eat and drink
The Forville Market on the fringe of the old town is the place to eat socca, a peppery chickpea omelette traditional to Cannes, plus lots of local colour. The morning food market spills out to the surrounding cafés for brunch.
For a leisurely lunch, look to the cafes and shops of Rue St Antoine’s old town.
Don’t leave without…
There’s a handy branch of the perfumier, Fragonard, near the market and plenty of little boutiques for souvenirs along nearby Rue Meynadier.
The haute-couture boutiques of Dior and Prada on the Croisette, selling €2,000 handbags, are better for wistful window-shopping.
Need to know
Flight time from the UK
The nearest flights are to Nice, with a flight time of two hours and a one-hour transfer by coach.
Cannes is a generally safe destination but expect to jostle with around 3,000 day passengers during summer months. Take the usual precautions for pickpockets and avoid large groups.
Best time to go
Spring and autumn offer balmy temperatures without the crowds. Cannes is gridlocked during the annual film festival in May, with heavy security for the visiting A-listers.
Cannes is quieter on Mondays, when some museums and restaurants are closed.
It’s only worth buying a Cote d’Azur Card pass, if you’re staying on. The tourist office next to the Palais des Festivals offers free WiFi to avoid cruise rates.