Our first port of call on our 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Norwegian Gem
was Monte Carlo, Monaco. As this was our first visit to this part of Europe, we decided
to book a shore excursion that would enable us to see as much as possible. And, that
it did—and a lot more. The tour was called, simply, Nice, Eze, & Monaco. Although
we traveled less than 30 miles round trip, there was so much to see in each place
that the tour was scheduled for—and lasted—just under 8 hours. Therefore, it took
up pretty much all of our time in Monte Carlo.
Approaching Monaco on Norwegian Gem
Located on the southeast coast of France, Nice is a combination of modern city (population
nearly one million) and charming Mediterranean resort. The city was founded by the
Greeks in 350 BCE, according to some accounts, and became part of France in 1860.
Nice was the first stop on our tour. After obtaining our tour stickers in the main
show lounge, we exited the ship and boarded our bus. We traveled along the coast
on our way to our first stop, Nice, France. From the bus, we saw the St. Nicholas
Russian Orthodox Cathedral (1912), but did not stop. We drove a little further to
Old Nice where we were let off the bus for about an hour to explore on our own. We
saw beautiful architecture, including the Opera House (built 1885), walked by an
outdoor market, and strolled along the promenade along the Mediterranean. The narrow
streets were charming, as well as very steep in some places, yet we all handled them
well. We discovered a bakery on one of these streets, where we enjoyed a fabulous
Russian Orthodox Cathedral (left) and Nice Opera House (right)
Outdoor market (left) and Promenade (right)
After reboarding our bus at the appointed time, it was off to the restored Medieval
hamlet of Eze, France. It was a trek getting up the stairs that ran throughout, yet
well worth it for the stunning views that awaited. We could have gone up further
to see the ruins of the old fort and the beautiful Jardin d’Eze (Eze Garden), yet
the steepness of the road and a tired teen made us decide to turn around.
There were plenty of stores on the way up (and down), mainly art galleries and perfume
stores. We also passed by an impressive water fountain built in 1930—which provided
running water to Eze for the first time—and the Eglise Notre Dame de l'Assomption
that dates back to 1764. Overall, I would say we were glad to visit Eze yet see little
reason for a return trip as there’s very little to do.
Eze fountain (left) and Church (right)
Views from the top
The Principality of Monaco was our final, and most extensive stop. Monaco is tiny—less
than one square mile in area—yet has much to see. There are four districts in Monaco—Monte
Carlo, Old Monaco, La Condamine (where we docked), and Fontvieille (an area developed
in the 1970s; we drove through it on our way to and from France).
Once back in Monaco, we stopped first in La Condamine, where we walked along along
part of the Formula 1™ race route, where set-up was in progress for the event that
was one month away. The way people drive around here was as if the race was already
in progress! We then walked to Monte Carlo—a very short distance but very steep hills—where
we were given some free time near the Monte Carlo casino and the square on which
it is located. We used this opportunity to take photographs of the beautiful buildings,
including the casino and the stunning Hotel de Paris. Because our son was underage,
we could not go into the casino, but we did find some great ice cream nearby!
Race track (left) and stands (right)
Monte Carlo Casino (left) and Hotel de Paris (right)
Monte Carlo plaza reflected in globe
Our next stop was Old Monaco, or “The Rock,” where we saw the Royal Palace, the cathedral
where Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier married (although we didn’t go inside either
one), and more narrow streets with lots of shops.
Old Monte Carlo Square (left) and Royal Palace (right)
Old Monte Carlo street (left) and St. Nicholas Cathedral, in which Grace Kelly wed
Ranier III, Prince of Monaco, in 1956 (right)
Our final stop was the world-renowned Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, where we posed
outside with the original “yellow submarine” used in explorations. There were beautiful
gardens here, as well, including an octopus’ garden. Thankfully, there were elevators
and escalators to take us up to this level. I highly suggest comfortable shoes for
Overall, this was a good tour, although I must mention a few caveats. First, one
must be in excellent shape for walking, particularly in Eze and Monaco, much of which
was up steep hills and uneven roads. It’s also important to note that this is a highlights
tour. For example, Nice was beautiful, yet required more time and narration for a
first-time visitor. Eze was clearly just for tourists, and its steep hills tuckered
us out for the rest of the day.
Yet, Monaco was spectacular—we learned a lot about the municipality. Next time, however,
we will go on our own tour, probably via the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus we saw, so that we
may visit the interiors of buildings of which time was not allotted on this guided
tour. That said, I would recommend this tour for the first-time visitor who is in
excellent shape for walking.