Toulon is a Mediterranean cruise port and France's principal naval base. The city has population around 165,000, ranking it France's the 15th largest city and the country's 9th largest urban area (around 560,000 inhabitants. On the Mediterranean coast, Toulon is France's 3rd largest city - following Marseille and Nice.
Despite post war reconstruction, Toulon's traditional charm survived amid the narrow winding streets of the old town behind Vieux Port and the waterfront. Places of interest include 11th century Romanesque church of Saint Marie Majeure, the church of Saint Louis, and a large military hospital. Forts dating from 17th century are found in the hills surrounding Toulon. Tourists are able to enjoy the fine views from Mont Faron and the flower market.
The town was strongly fortified by kings Henri IV (1553-1610) and Louis XIV (1638-1715). In 1707, during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1715), the town withstood the allied fleets of England and Holland. During the French Revolution, in 1793, the Royalists handed over the control of the city to the Anglo-Spanish naval force.
Toulon also has a military port which is French Navy's principal base. Here are most of the country's naval forces (over 60% by tonnage), including the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier and all nuclear submarines. The military port is divided into 4 main zones, each with its own Mediterranean Sea access. The main (Castigneau) zone has 2 main entrances - one located next to the civilian port, and one at the west entrance to downtown Toulon.
Toulon, being a naval port, remains open the whole year round, Cruise ship tourism in the region has quadrupled since 2008, when Var Provence Cruise Club (abbrev VPCC) was established. VPPC grouped several large French Mediterranean ports and intensively promotes and developes the Mediterranea cruising vacation travel in the region, resulting in increased cruise shipping traffic in both port Toulon City and La Seyne sur Mer.
For season 2017, the cruise port had scheduled a total of 100 ship visits and handled about 280,000 passengers. These numbers showed a decline over 2016 - 33% less calls and 10% less passengers. In 2016 was inaugurated the new cruise terminal in La Seyne sur mer. Also in 2016 was completely refurbished the ferry / cruise Terminal in downtown Toulon.
Toulon cruise terminal
Cruise ships to Toulon dock at 2 ports:
- Toulon cruise port is located in the city's centre
- La Seyne-sur-Mer cruise port is located to the southwest (across the bay). It is regarded the French Mediterranean's most sheltered harbor port, being well protected in the winter from the Mistral wind. Mistral is strong and cold northwestern wind blowing into the Gulf of Lion from southern France. Sustained winds (most common during winter and spring) often exceed speeds of 66 kph (41 mph), with the strongest winds (between seasons) reaching speeds of 456 kph (283 mph).
- A new cruise ship terminal at La Seyne-sur-Mer was inaugurated in 2016.
At both cruise ports, VPCC (Var Provence Cruise Club) has a welcome desk with professional hostesses who provide disembarking cruise ship tourist with information, advice and maps. The club also started a "cruise friendly" campaign by which arriving tourists are given maps of participating in the campaign restaurants, bars, shops, tour operators, transport providers, art galleries, museums. All businesses and establishments participating in this program are open during cruise ship visits and give passengers discounted deals, free gifts, special services.
Toulon Center Cruise Terminal
Toulon cruise port is located in the city centre and can accommodate 3 smaller-sized cruise vessels at a time, Additional ships are anchored in the bay. The port's terminal buildings also serve the ferries to the islands of Corsica (France), Sardinia (Italy) and Elba (Italy).
At the terminal there are welcome desk, snack bar, public phones and toilets, vending machines, large-scale city map (showing most popular points of interest), small craft market.
Outside the terminal there are 3 car parks with total capacity up to 75 tourist (shuttle) buses. At the terminal there is also a board showing taxi ranks and another one listing taxi prices to nearby destinations (flat fares are offered exclusively for cruise ship passengers).
This cruise port has 3 quays / docking areas:
- Quai Fournel - length 345 m, max draft 7 m, ground area 7000 m2, bollards (17)
- Quai Minerva - length 165 m, max draft 7 m, ground area 3000 m2, bollards (8)
- Corsica Quai - length 184 m, max draft 6,4 m, ground area 8300 m2, bollards (7)
- The max LOA length allowed is 300 m (984 ft).
La Seyne-sur-Mer Toulon Cruise Terminal
At the La Seyne port dock large-sized cruise ships. The port's terminal buildings were extensively refurbished in 2016. The port now features an enlarged car parking and bus parking areas, free wi-fi service, craft market. A large leisure complex is planned to be build in the terminal's area.
The Seyne cruise terminal's facilities include Comptoir office ((multilingual hostesses, reception, tour and city information), cruise line desk, accessible toilet, drinks dispensers, seating areas.
The options to go from La Seyne-sur-Mer to Toulon include:
- Private boat shuttles leave from the cruise ship terminal (about 15-min ride).
- Public water buses (line 8M) leave from a bus stop located at ~5 min walking distance from the cruise ship terminal.
- Enter La Seyne to catch public bus (lines 8 or 18), The ride to the city takes ~1/2 hour.
- Other options at the terminal include car rental or bicycle rental.
The La Seyne cruise terminal is located at ~20-min walking distance from the town centre. Bus line 81 goes from the terminal to the city, and there is a small tourist train too. The train also visits Les Sablettes (beach area).
Toulon tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
Since 2017, Toulon cruise port offers a new shore excursion - guided tour of the racing circuit Paul Ricard and an outdoor go-kart ride on Karting Test Track (KTT). The tour can be combined with a Le Castellet village visit.
- The Circuit Paul Ricard racing circuit was opened in 1970, welcoming 14 F1 Grand Prix of France, 22 Bol d’Or and 12 Moto Grand Prix.
- The cruise excursion includes guided touring of the racing circuit, Paddock, Pit Building Hall, Track Video Control Room, Telemetry Room, Medical Centre, the security lane, as well as a ride on the Karting Track, followed by lunch at ‘High Speed Club’ Brasserie.