Why go to Bordeaux?
This stunningly beautiful port city has no shortage of world-class historical sites
Very large ships must dock at a port about 90 minutes' drive from Bordeaux
This world-famous wine destination features historical treasures surrounded by heavenly vineyards
Bordeaux Cruise Port Facilities?
If you're lucky enough to be in Bordeaux, make the most of it and get going - you're very close to the cobbled, car-free streets of Old Bordeaux and within a hop, skip and jump of the Place de la Bourse, which you'll see as you dock.
There's no terminal building at Port de la Lune, but tramlines run along the docks. So, if you want to see the city by tram, just head to the nearest station. (See Getting Around, below.)
Bassens is mainly a cargo port, so there's nothing to do there but get off your ship and onto a shuttle bus or a tour coach. It'll take you about 15 minutes to get into the city center of Bordeaux via the Chaban-Delmas Bridge.
If your ship calls only at Le Verdon, you'll need to book a tour or a "Go as You Please" transfer if you want to see Bordeaux, which is a 90-minute drive away. On the other hand, Le Verdon is well placed for vineyard tours, as it's only 30 minutes away from some of the most imposing chateaus of the Medoc region.
A third option, if you've been before and done all that, would be to spend a day at one of Le Verdon's fine beaches. But note, there is no public transport at this port, so you'll have to take a taxi (all three ports have metered taxi ranks).
If it's your first trip, however, it's worth it to get to Bordeaux.
Good to Know?
Tram inspectors will issue a fine if you lack the right ticket or haven't validated it. French law insists that everyone carries personal ID, so carry your passport or a driver's license with a photograph. Also, beware of over- enthusiastic cyclists!
By Tram: The tram system, installed in 2003, is a good way to get around. It's quite simple to use because there are only three main lines. It's also more environmentally friendly and easier on the eye than most tram systems because it's powered from the ground, not from ugly overhead lines.
You'll find ticket machines and maps at every tram stop, and the machines take credit cards and issue multi-use day tickets for maximum flexibility. Just remember that when you board a tram, you need to validate your ticket at the yellow machine onboard.
By Bike: Bordeaux features a citywide network of cycle lanes and a bike hire scheme that offers 1,500 cycles installed at more than 100 stations around the city. So, if you like to get about on two wheels rather than two legs, you can join the city's VClub cycle scheme for the day for around one euro (you then pay two euros per hour after the first 30 minutes). As with the trams, you'll find clear multilingual instructions on what to do at each bike station, and can use your credit card.
By Walking or Bus: Your ship will almost certainly have Bordeaux Tourism reps onboard, and it's worth asking about daily walking or bus tours run by them or checking these out in advance if you don't want the ship tours (more information below).
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Currency is the euro. For the latest exchange rates, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
Bordeaux contains plenty of exchanges bureaus and banks with ATMs. You'll find ATMs at the main railway station, Gare de Bordeaux Saint-Jean, and all around the city center. You'll also find banks with machines on the rue de l'Espirit des Lois, which runs inland from Quai Louis VIII.
Major credit cards are also widely accepted. Carry some cash just in case.
Note that France applies VAT (value-added tax) to most goods and services at the rate of 20 percent, which adds a hefty whack to restaurant and shopping bills. As a tourist, you can claim a tax refund on any goods bought for deportation, so keep all receipts and be prepared to present them -- possibly with proof that you are taking the goods out of the country -- at a VAT refund station. You'll find these at airports, railway stations with international links and most tourist offices.
English is widely spoken and understood in Bordeaux, particularly at tourist attractions. But don't assume everyone speaks it because the French can be prickly with people who carry on as though English is the universal language.
Where You're Docked?
The Port de la Lune terminal on the Garonne River lies close to the heart of the city at Quai Louis XVIII, near the Bourse Maritime (Maritime Exchange). River cruise ships dock there, as do small luxury ships or vessels.
If you dock there, you'll find a tram terminus at the dock, with most of the main attractions within a 15- to 30-minute walk. The Bordeaux Tourist Office is efficient and will usually send representatives onboard to issue maps and point you in the right direction.
Larger ships dock farther along the river at Bassens (a cargo terminal located about a 10-minute shuttle bus drive from Bordeaux). But the closest really big ships can get to Bordeaux is to stop at Le Verdon sur Mer, which lies at the mouth of the river about 90 kilometers (or about a 90-minute drive) away.
This is bad news if you're desperate to experience Bordeaux, but it's a good location for beach lovers. Le Verdon is a sleepy seaside resort with two gorgeous beaches. Plage Saint-Nicolas faces the Atlantic, and Plage de la Chambrette overlooks the Gironde estuary.