King Francis I established the port of Le Havre in 1517 and this year cruise ship passengers can sail in to enjoy the 500th anniversary celebrations, writes Lesley Bellew
Cruise customers can revel in Le Havre’s 500th anniversary celebrations this year.
A record 150 ship calls are planned for the French port’s 2017 cruise season and highlights include the christening ceremony of MSC Cruises’ new generation ship Meraviglia on June 4.
The 5,700-passenger Meraviglia (the name means ‘wonder’ in Italian), is set to become the largest cruise ship afloat in terms of passenger capacity.
Cunard’s recently remastered flagship Queen Mary 2, built in Chantiers de l’Atlantique, St Nazaire, is also joining the celebrations
with an eight-night transatlantic crossing from Le Havre to New York on September 14.
The cruise, marketed as ‘Transatlantique Historique – 500 passengers for 500 years’ has captured so many cruise-lovers’ imaginations that Cunard has confirmed almost 700 passengers have now booked.
Eric Baudet, director of communications at Le Havre’s tourism department, said the port is arranging a ‘magnificent send-off’ when Queen Mary sets sail to New York.
He added: “From May 27 to October 8, close to the cruise terminal, passengers can also view the exhibition ‘French Line: A poetic journey’; it features Europe’s largest collection of transatlantic cruise line archive material.”
The Tall Ships Race, Rendez-vous 2017, joins the celebrations by stopping in Le Havre on the final leg from August 31 to September 3.
Princess Cruises’ Sea Princess will sail in on July 9 and guests can look forward to seeing giant puppets from the Royal de Luxe theatre company.
The theatre company is set to transform Le Havre into one huge theatre space and giant mechanical marionettes are expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city on July 6-9.
Stay in the city
Many cruise passengers use Le Havre as a gateway to visit Paris, Monet’s garden at Giverny, the port of Honfleur and historic Rouen – but the smart money is on staying Le Havre.
From the newly renovated Southampton Quay there is direct access into the city and visitors can explore the cultural gems and landscapes that have inspired artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers over the centuries.
Le Havre suffered heaving bombing by the British during the Second World War and the city’s reconstruction, by architect Auguste Perret, is now recognised by UNESCO.
Fans of the brutalist style can revel in the grace of his concrete apartments by visiting a show flat at Maison du Patriomoine, 181 rue de paris (admission 3 euros, visit email@example.com).
St Joseph’s Church, in Boulevard Francoise 1er, built as memorial to the 5,000 civilians who died in the conflict, features a 107-metre tower with 12,768 pieces of handmade stained glass and is considered Perret’s masterpiece.
Cinema, theatre and music lovers can also visit Le Volcan, the city’s iconic Maison de la Culture, designed by avant-garde architect Oscar Niemeyer.
The old transatlantic terminal hosts daily artistic events and at night it turns into a club where the Art Point M Collective plan four electro music weekends.