In September of 2012, my daughter, Mary Polly and I went on a Mediterranean cruise on the ship, the Carnival Breeze. This post is about our first stop.
Cruise Port: Monaco.
We had attended our cruise director’s lecture on the highlights of the cruise port Monaco and he was not lying when he told us that at the first glimpse of the port, we would be dazzled by its old world elegance.
The sun was shining in through our little porthole windows when we woke up. We waited in our room for our cue that we could leave the boat.
(Note: Being at the very bottom of the Carnival Breeze had it’s advantages on port days, as the exit was just around the corner from our room (1215). We didn’t have to wait for the elevators or climb the stairs after long days of sightseeing. We could pop right in and out of our room.)
The port of Monaco is U-shaped, and all the places you want to see are set into the edges of this enclave. The Old Town, referred to as Monaco-Ville is on the southern side of this U (to the left of our boat as we exited or the port side), and the famous Monte-Carlo casino is on the northern side (to the right of the boat or the starboard side).
As soon as we got off, we began to climb towards Monaco-Ville along this curving (sometimes steep) path to the Palace Square. There were buses and excursions that would take you all around, but we walked. The whole town of Monaco is very walkable if you are in reasonable shape, and you get to see so much more.
I was so glad we found this stone pathway, because the views all the way up were so lovely.
The path winds through old ramparts, lookouts and terraces. We were both squealing around every corner, Look at this!
The whole country of Monaco is like a fairytale. The second smallest country in the world, bordered by France and the Mediterranean Sea, it is ruled by Prince Albert III under a constitutional monarchy.
Monaco boasts the world’s highest GDP (and is well known for being a tax haven), which for us meant the cleanest streets I have ever seen, perfectly maintained grounds, and zero crime.
We wandered in and out of pastel colored alleys up the hill until we reached the Prince’s Palace Square.
We sat at the top taking in the views and the morning sun for a while before going to tour the palace.
We bought a combination ticket for the Palace, the Napoleon Museum and the Aquarium (Palais du Prince, Musée des Souvenirs Napoléoniens et Archives Historiques du Palais and Musée Océanographique). It cost 30 euros for both of us, 1 student and 1 adult.
We toured the Prince’s Palace first. There is a changing of the guard every day at noon, just like in London. We enjoyed the tour of the inside and of the Napoleon museum (where they have his actual hat), but none of it compared with the views from the Palace Square.
The Port de Fontvieille is on the southern side of the palace square, which is the only part of Monaco we didn’t walk through. So pretty though!
We exited the square just across from the Palace to see the Cathedral next.
The Monaco Cathedral is the final resting place of the Grimaldis, the ruling family of the Principality of Monaco. Prince Rainier III, Princess Grace (wife of Prince Ranier III), Prince Louis II (grandfather of Prince Ranier III), and Prince Albert I (father of Prince Louis II) are among those buried there.
We enjoyed walking through the building and finding the names of the famous rulers of Monaco. Princess Grace‘s part of the vault was covered with flowers.
Our very favorite stop in Monaco was the aquarium, the Musée Océanographique.
It is perched right on top of cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean and is as amazing on the inside as it is on the out. I have so many pictures from this stop that I’m going to save it for its own post.
But we definitely loved it and spent the bulk of our morning and into the afternoon touring it.
By the time we finished with the aquarium, it was well after lunch and we were only halfway back down the hill to our boat. We knew we wanted to make the trek up the other side of the port to see the famous casino, Monte-Carlo, but it had warmed up a lot and we were hungry.
So we decided to go back to the boat for lunch and to change clothes. I think Monaco is the only port on our cruise where we could do this, and it was so nice. Being our first stop on the cruise, we were also carrying more than we needed to, so we could readjust and throw off a few things.
The boat was not leaving Monaco until 7pm, so we had plenty of time after lunch to explore Monte-Carlo.
In the hot afternoon sun, we headed back out. This time we climbed from the starboard side of the boat. The walk up the hill (also the Grand Prix, I believe) was intense, and Mary Polly would tell you that we walked way too much this day, but again, I really loved seeing the port this way.
We were always looking back as we got higher and taking pictures of the Carnival Breeze, which dwarfed all the other ships in the port.
We approached the Casino from the back.
From this side, it overlooks the sea. We sat on the stairs behind the Casino and rested from our climb, before we walked around to the front and found a gelato stand, something we did at every single cruise port.
The front of the Monte-Carlo Casino is impressive. You have to be dressed up and 21 to enter, which we knew ahead of time, so we didn’t try to go in.
We walked the grounds around it, took more pictures, enjoyed our gelato and then walked back through the city.
We loved this chapel and the ruins in the walls behind it.
The stones along this road were my favorite ones we saw all day.
More walking on lovely streets.
When we finally got back down to our boat, we were both beat.
We sat outside on the concrete dock, and watched while several people actually swam in the sea just off the dock.
Mary Polly dipped her toes in the water, but it was too cold for us.
Sitting in the sunshine by the sea was the perfect way to end our dreamy day in Monaco.