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Monaco (Monte Carlo) (Photo:ostill/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Jana Jones
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Monaco (Monte Carlo)

Arriving by ship into the Monte Carlo harbor is an amazing experience. If your docking time is before dawn, you'll see the lights of the principality twinkling throughout the mountains that surround the harbor and the beautifully lit Grand Casino at center stage. If you arrive during daylight hours, you are faced with the sight of one magnificent yacht after another vying for space in the little harbor.

About Monaco (Monte Carlo)


Landmarks such as the Monte Carlo Casino and Prince's Palace are all within walking distance


The city is expensive, and its posh, affluent vibe might come across as pretentious to some

Bottom Line

You don't need to book a shore excursion to see most of the city's major attractions

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Monaco is a self-governed sovereign nation under the protection of France. It has been ruled by the Grimaldi family for the past 700 years (with a slight diversion during the French Revolution), and its 1918 treaty with France decreed that if the prince -- any Grimaldi prince -- failed to produce a son, the territory would be ceded back to France upon his death. This was changed in 2002. If Albert II, the current prince, fails to produce a male heir, the throne will be passed to his sister Caroline.

Monaco, which comprises a miniscule 485 acres in total, and is Europe's smallest state after the Vatican, is barely west of the Italian border and surrounded by France on all sides except for the 2.5 miles of coastline. If you are looking at Monaco from your ship in the harbor, you can't tell where the principality ends and France begins. (Hint: Somewhere around the Middle Corniche.) As tiny as it is, it contains five sectors, of which Monte Carlo is the best-known. The principality, which is home to the most millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world, has no natural resources; its national economy is based on tourism and banking.

The two go hand in hand in this idyllic slice of the Cote d'Azur. The wealthy Europeans who do their banking here expect -- no, demand -- the best, and cost be damned. This makes it harder for workaday folks to enjoy a stay (rooms go for an average of $700 a night in a nice hotel), but coming in on a cruise ship for the day gives one a sense of James Bond cool.

If you're lucky enough to be in Monaco during the third week in May, you can actually see part of the Grand Prix Formula One race from the comfort of your cruise ship. We were surprised to see that the track is actually in the middle of the city and goes under an overpass within direct view of the cruise ship dock.

However, whenever you are fortunate enough to visit Monaco and the dazzling district of Monte Carlo, you'll find plenty to do. In fact, these 485 acres offer so much, you'll need to come back to explore again.

Where You're Docked

Opened in 2003, the modern cruise ship pier (Nouvelle Digue de Monaco) is located next to the yacht harbor in the Port of Monaco (Hercules Port), just east of the Palais Princier, the home of Prince Albert, and just below the sector of Monte Carlo. Although the 352 meter dock can accommodate several ships in port, there will be the odd occasion where it's booked up and tenders will need to be utilized.

Good to Know

Streets are steep, nearly vertical in some places. However, several elevators and "travelators" are available to help negotiate the inclines in the following areas:

Between the Place des Moulins and the beaches; between the Princess Grace Hospital Centre and the Exotic Garden; between the harbor and the Avenue de la Costa; between the Place St. Devote and the area of Moneghetti; between the terraces of the casino, the Congress Centre Auditorium and the Boulevard Louis II; between the Avenue des Citronniers and the Avenue Grande-Bretagne between the highway and the Larvotto Boulevard.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency in Monaco is the euro. There is a bank (and ATM) on nearly every corner. For updated currency-conversion figures, visit oanda.com or xe.com. Traveler's checks must be exchanged at banks or at one of the two bureaux de change -- Compagnie Monegasque de Change (Parking des Pecheurs, Avenue de la Quarantaine) or Monafinances (17 Avenue des Spelugues) -- because most businesses will not accept them. Banks are generally open from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with some staying open during lunchtime. Credit Foncier de Monaco, located near the casino, is open daily -- including Sundays and holidays -- from noon to 11 p.m.


The official language of Monaco is French, but because of the international nature of the place, and its proximity to Italy, Italian, English and Spanish are all widely spoken and understood. There is also a Monegasque dialect, derived from Italian and spoken by around 20 percent of the population.


A casino chip from the Casino Monte Carlo or a coaster from the famed Cafe de Paris.