Just Hop a Tender to Villefranche and the Cote d’Azur is Yours

If you make a point of it, it’s easy to avoid the cruise mobs both on and off the ship. For example, in Villefranche on the French Riviera, I skipped breakfast and “tendered” into port as others were hitting the breakfast buffet.

The only time we didn’t actually dock at a pier was in Villefranche, our springboard for the French Riviera. There we “tendered” in with a big shuttle boat that seated about 200. To avoid congestion (as lines to get off the cruise ship onto the tender can be very long), I skipped breakfast, caught an early tender (about 8:30), and found breakfast in Villefranche. I had expected congestion and waiting in line to be a daily part of the cruise routine. But even though our ship was sold out, I never noticed congestion. Both onboard the ship and on shore, if you make a point to get away from the mobs, you can. For example, I enjoyed being all alone on the bow of the ship at night under the moon. After dinner, the top deck was all mine. A few ports (like Dubrovnik) can be inundated by cruisers when several ships are in port at the same time. But in each of the ports on this cruise, I could be on my own — without a hint of the cruise industry — within an hour of finishing my onboard breakfast buffet.

Here is the view from where our tender dropped us off. Thousands of cruise travelers wash in and out of ports like Villefranche daily throughout the season. It’s like a tide bringing in nutrients: the locals make a few bucks and the travelers are free to either glob together in tour-bus groups or get lost on their own. Throughout the cruise, I found a very healthy and efficient “find a need and fill it” energy in ports accommodating the demand for whatever cruise travelers might want: Internet access, taxi service, hats to provide shade, and small shops renting electric cars or bikes.