Excitement was building in our home as we finalized all of our preparations for our AMA Waterways River cruise up the Rhone River. As some of you know, I always invite friends to travel with us so we are in essence “a group” and are entitled to group rates. It was no exception on our AMA Waterways cruise on the Rhone.
Some in my group were doing the pre cruise in Barcelona with AMA while others joined us in Marseille for our own pre cruise. Ito be honest, I wasn’t overly confident about our stay in Marseille and we were only going there for two reasons. Since we weren’t doing the pre cruise, this was the closet airport to Arles where we would board our ship and secondly, we were able to use our Club Carlson points to reserve a room at the Radisson Blu on the Waterfront. I had booked this hotel before their devaluation of points in May 2015. I booked 2 nights under my name and in essence paid for only one night with points with the other night being “free”. We thought that this would be a good opportunity to explore Provence a little with some tours from Marseille.
With that in mind, I began searching through Trip Advisor for tour guides. Being frugal is always our traveling motto though we do not want to miss a unique opportunity for our frugality – it’ s a fine balancing act that we walk. As we were going to be in Marseille with another couple we wanted to do things that all of us could enjoy and do. The husband of the other couple enjoys bike riding as does Blogger Hubby. I knew that they would enjoy going on an E-bike tour while the wife and I would do the HoHo bus around town. My friend has some mobility issues so we didn’t want to be walking all around town. The other two tours we booked were with Provence Xplorer to go to Aix en Provence on market day and spend part of the afternoon in Cassis. The next day we were booked with One Day in Provence to go into the small villages, a winery, St. Remy and what ever our tour guide suggested. For the Provence Xplorer, the 4 of us would be doing a shared excursion, joining others and for the One Day in Provence, the 4 of us would be doing a private tour. More about those later.
We flew Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic into Heathrow and then British Airways to Marseille. A concern we had was that we would have to pick up our luggage in Heathrow and then check them in to British Airways for the flight to Marseille. Luckily when we asked the Virgin Atlantic ticket agent at departure if they could Interline them. He said ” yes” and put a luggage tag on them requesting them to be transferred over to BA. Nevertheless, I took a photo of our bags just in case they should get lost. According to him, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic don’t like to play nice with each other but we had no problem.
I was not overly impressed with the Virgin flight although the flight attendants were very nice, friendly and helpful. The cabin seemed crowded and very little room to move around and, to me, seemed like there wasn’t much storage in our pod. The food, for airplanes, was fairly decent. I had a steak and I actually ate most of it.
With the entertainment system along the wall to my left, I had to pull it out and swivel it to be in front of me. With the food tray fully engaged, if made if very difficult getting in and out of my seat. I also thought the cabin was warm and was glad I wore a tee shirt under my top.
Would I fly VA again? Probably not. It was okay but not the experience I was looking for. I’m not sure what I am looking for and it may not exist on a transatlantic flight or if it does, perhaps I’m too frugal to spend too many extra points for it. Nevertheless, it was fine.
The short flight to Marseille was no different than a domestic flight in the U.S. Once again we were business class but what that means is that you are in a row with 3 seats and they put a tray over the middle seat so you do not have someone sitting next to you To reserve your seats ahead of time, you need to pay $49 per ticket. I did not do that. If you go online 24 hours prior to your flight, you can reserve your seats for free. When I went on, they had the two of us together and in good seats. I made no changes. It was interesting to me that a flight as short as this one we were still able to be served a hot lunch. Why can foreign airlines do this but American Airlines can not? As we were closer to Marseille we could see the Rhone River out the window and then closer to landing, we could view the cliffs and the calanque (a narrow, steep-walled inlet that is developed in limestone, dolomite, or other carbonate strata and found along the Mediterranean coast).
To get to our hotel we could either take a taxi which would cost about 52€ or we could take the city shuttle bus from the curb outside the airport to the central train station for about 8€ each and then either take a cab to the hotel or a bus. The shuttle was perfect and saved us a lot of money. We opted for the cab once we got to the train station since it was very hot and we were tired. The taxi which was about 22€ to go to our hotel, the Radisson Blu Waterfront in Marseille.
As we rounded the bend and got our first view of the waterfront, we were taken back at how beautiful it was. This was not the grimy port city that I was expecting; instead there were hundreds of sailboats of all sizes around this rectangular shaped harbor. Our hotel faced this harbor. After we settled in, we went exploring. Along all 3 sides of the harbor there were restaurants, pubs and shops. Along the harbor, it was an expanded sidewalk that was well lit with dark sky approved lights. I felt very safe. There is even a ferry that crosses the harbor for 1 €.
One of Blogger Hubby’s concerns in traveling to France is that neither of us speaks French. For that matter we don’t speak any other foreign language but his lack of French bothered him. Our first restaurant we had to pull out the English-French-English dictionary but as time went on, we were able to read about half of the menu. Most French people that we met spoke a little English but to me they spoke quite a bit.
The hotel, in addition to the beautiful view, was very nice with a restaurant attached that had good reviews on TripAdvisor. Nevertheless, we didn’t eat any meals there. For breakfast, we were on our own because when we booked the hotel on points it did not include a breakfast. As usual, Blogger Hubby offered to go out early and find a bakery to bring back some delicious just made pastries. Our room overlooked the secluded pool area,and the harbor.
We went to bed a little early so we could catch up on our sleep and be ready to explore Marseille and Provence.
Hope you enjoyed our photos.