Our hotel, the Best Western New York Nice (check prices), was in a great location, but we never could get the room as cold as we would have preferred. However, a cool shower helped, and we dropped off to sleep, ready to explore Nice the next day. The hotel staff were exceptionally helpful, especially the desk clerk who helped us find the Variety Voyager's docking location the next afternoon.
We got up early on Saturday morning, ate breakfast at the hotel, checked out of the hotel, stored our bags, and set off to explore Nice on foot. I had been to the city a couple of times, but had never had time to explore on my own. Maggie and I did a walking tour of the old city, which was just a few blocks from our hotel. She was quite thrilled to see the house that the French artist Henri Matisse lived in for 17 years. It's right next to the marvelous (and stimulating) city market, with flowers, foods, souvenirs, and a little bit of everything else. Fun.
We finished our walking tour a little after 10 am and caught a local bus to the Matisse Museum on the north side of the city (too far to walk). The Nice buses are 1 euro for 75 minutes of travel, and you can buy tickets from the driver (as long as your bill is not too large). You just have to remember to validate (time stamp) the ticket after buying it. There is a stop called "Matisse Musee", so you can't miss it.
The museum was in an old chateau in a lovely park setting. Matisse is one of Maggie's favorites, and she was thrilled to be able to get so close to many of his works. The museum had a nice selection of the paper cut outs he is famous for, along with sculptures, paintings, and many unfinished works donated by the family. We spent about an hour in the museum and then took another bus to the Marc Chagall Museum for another euro. (We certainly liked the price after our taxi ride the night before.)
The Chagall Museum is in a modern building, also with a nice grassy area surrounding it. Unlike the free Matisse museum, this one cost 9.5 euros per person. We spent about an hour looking at the many Chagalls in the museum. Most of them had a religious theme. More interesting than the Matisse to me, but who am I to know--I'm just an accountant turned travel writer!
After touring the Chagall Museum, we rode the bus back downtown, and Maggie and I found a nice outdoor spot to each lunch (pizza and beer). The pizza was delicious, and since Nice is very close to Italy, the signature pizza of the restaurant seemed very Italian--thinly sliced ham, tapenade, pesto, cheese, onions, tomatoes. Never had tapenade (ground olive spread) on a pizza, but it was delicious.
After lunch, we still had some time before going down to board the Variety Voyager, so we walked along the large Promenade next to the beach. We even went inside the most famous (and expensive) hotel, Le Negresse, to take a peek. The walk did us good, and we were back at the hotel a little before 3 pm.
Back at the Best Western New York Nice hotel to retrieve our bags, I asked the desk clerk to call the port agent for Variety Cruises to get the exact docking location of the ship. The cruise line had suggested we do this before arriving at the ship since the docking location is not known in advance. However, the phone number printed on our cruise documentation wasn't a working number. The resourceful desk clerk went online, found the phone number of the Nice Port Authority, and called and asked them where the ship was docked. How helpful! She also called us a cab, and we paid another exorbitant rate (30 euros) for the ride to the pier.
The taxi driver spoke very little English, and she stopped and asked a port worker where the ship was when we didn't see it at the dock. Of course, I didn't understand the reply, but we got out of the taxi and started walking in the direction they pointed out to us. We had been instructed to arrive between 3:30 and 4:30, with the ship to sail "soon after". Maggie and I got there at 3:30 and quickly found a covered area with a bunch of our fellow guests sitting. The Variety Voyager had been at the dock in the morning to disembark passengers, but had to move out into the harbor for a ferry that was delayed. The ship sat anchored in the harbor until the freighter left, which was after 4:30. So, our embarking group sat either outdoors under a tent or inside a slightly air conditioned cruise terminal until the ship came back to the pier. Maggie and I were glad we didn't get there early, and learned from our fellow passengers that everyone had problems finding the ship, some more than others. We were lucky to have such a resourceful and helpful desk clerk at our hotel. However, everyone made it to the ship on time, although some were very upset over the inaccurate telephone number we had been provided.
Like many small ships, boarding the Variety Voyager was very easy, and we were soon onboard and in our cabin. We only had 59 onboard, and the ship holds 72. Our cabin had a nice window, but no balcony (no one else has a balcony either). It had fantastic air conditioning, which we really appreciated, along with one of the most powerful showers I've ever experienced!
We unpacked, went to the lifeboat drill, and attended the overview of the first three ports. Dinner was at 8 pm, and we ate with two women from Florida. The first night's casual dinner was a buffet and very good. The selection of salads and fried spring rolls were my favorites.
While we were dining, the Voyager sailed from Nice to St. Tropez, and we arrived about 9:30 pm. Many of us went ashore in one of the two Zodiacs for an hour or so to see the town. Several of my shipmates were very reluctant to board the Zodiacs in the dark and motor into town, but they overcame their anxiety due to their eagerness to see famous St. Tropez in the evening. The small town didn't disappoint, although we didn't see anyone famous. It was packed with people and large yachts. Very interesting. Maggie led the way as we hiked through the town (most places were closed except bars and restaurants). At least we can say we've "been" to St. Tropez!
Exhausted, we fell in bed before the anchor was pulled up at midnight for the sail to Calvi, Corsica.
Variety Voyager "Romantic Rivieras" Cruise Travel Log: