Port of Cannes
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Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, California: "There's no there there." Cannes, sadly, seems to suffer from a similar character flaw. Consider this arch comment from travelmeister Rick Steves: "Cannes has nothing unique to offer the traveler, except a mostly off-limits film festival. You can buy an ice cream cone at the train station and see everything before you've had your last lick."
Clearly, Steves has no affinity for Cannes' je ne sais quois -- insisting the French Riviera resort offers little to visitors apart from luxury brand shopping and a day at the beach. But given a chance, Cannes does deliver. Granted, the Palais des Festivals, which houses the International Film Festival, looks like a no-name warehouse, and its signature red carpet is absent except during the festival's annual 10-day run in May, so there is a sense of a let-down. But dig deeper and you'll uncover some rich history, fabulous food, a modest and sweet Old Town called Le Suquet, and La Croisette, a glitzy palm tree-lined boulevard that makes up for the missing red carpet.
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Where You're Docked
Cannes is a tender port. Tenders arrive at a terrific location within easy walking distance of everything you'll want to see: shops, restaurants and the historic center of town. You'll find restrooms at the tender dock.
Cannes is an eminently walkable city, very compact, and everything that's a must-see is located within a few blocks. It's as simple as this: Just walk to the promenade from the tender dock, turn right and you'll bump into everything on your to-do list.
The tourist information office is located on the ground floor of Palais des Festivals (1 boulevard de la Croisette), about five blocks from the tender dock. You can pick up a map and brochures there and arrange independent shore excursions. It's open daily: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. the rest of the year. There are no toilets at the tourist office.
Good to Know
Cannes is a tourist town -- and where there are tourists, pickpockets will lurk. Take the proper precautions. Also, much of Old Town is hilly with cobblestones, so wear comfortable shoes.
If you want an alternative to walking, a neat trolley service, Le Train du Cinema, departs regularly from La Croisette, just past the film festival headquarters across from the Majestic hotel. It offers three tours: La Croisette (35 minutes) and Le Suquet (35 minutes) and a combination hour-long ride. The tours, with commentary in English and other languages, depart year-round, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Other transportation options include taxis and the city bus. The taxi stand closest to the tender dock is located next to Caffe Roma on La Croisette across from the Palais des Festivals. Taxis tend to be expensive. A 10 percent gratuity is the norm on top of the fare. The No. 8 bus, on the other hand, is quite cheap. It departs from the dock and travels the seafront until the boulevard ends at Palm Beach and its casino, the oldest casino in Cannes. The roundtrip ride takes about 40 minutes and does not include Old Town.
Passengers interested in do-it-yourself touring outside of Cannes will find two rental car agencies in the town center. Thrifty and Hertz are both located at 147 rue d'Antibes, about a 15-minute walk from the dock. Reservations can be made online. The rental agencies are closed from noon to 2 p.m. for lunch.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the euro. For currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. The cheapest and easiest way to get cash is to use your debit card at an ATM. There is a conveniently located ATM at Banque de France (8 boulevard de la Croisette).
French, of course, though English is widely spoken in hotels and deluxe stores.
Food and Drink
It's hard to go wrong in Cannes when your stomach starts to growl. Local specialties include bouillabaisse, a fish soup; tapenade; aioli, a mayonnaise made from garlic, egg yolk and olive oil; salade Nicoise; and socca, a chickpea flatbread. The French lunch is often a three-course affair. Be mindful that the meal is typically served from roughly noon to 2 p.m.
Auberge Provencale is the oldest restaurant in Cannes, and it's a favorite of media and film people. It's easy to understand why. Auberge Provencale has been known since 1860 for its rustic and traditional French food, and specialties include bouillabaisse for two, slowly cooked duck with a creamy tapenade, and a beef filet with mashed potato truffle and bearnaise sauce. You can order by the entree or select the three-course fixed-price menu. From its timbered ceiling to its stylish paintings, the restaurant exudes charm. One thing is for sure: You won't go away hungry. Prices range from moderate to expensive. (10 rue Saint Antoine in Old Town; open daily, noon to 2:30 p.m.)
Another locals favorite, Aux Bon Enfants, is an old-style cantina near the Forville market that serves traditional favorites like chargrilled veal kidney, grilled swordfish, calf's head and cod with Nicoise sauce in traditional crockery. Wine is served in pitchers. The third-generation eatery offers festive indoor seating, and in summer, its outdoor terrace opens up on the popular rue Meynadier. Prices are inexpensive. Cash only. (80 rue Meynadier; open for lunch from noon to 2 p.m.)
For star gazing, the lobby bar at the Intercontinental Carlton is a good perch. Much of the Grace Kelly classic "To Catch a Thief" was shot at the Belle Epoque hotel, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013. The handsome lobby has nice views of the sea as well as the occasional star. Tea time features tea or hot chocolate and assorted pastries. There is also a robust all-day menu that includes salads, sandwiches and specialties such as duck foie gras and the day's "fresh catch." (58 La Croisette; lobby open from noon to 2 a.m., tea time from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily)
For officially sanctioned souvenirs of the Cannes Film Festival, check out the boutique in the Cannes Tourist Office at the start of Boulevard de la Croisette, just across from the Majestic Barriere hotel. Locally produced items found in the city's many shops include woven baskets, lavender sachets, Provencal fabrics and wines of the region.