ABOVE: The Regatta is moored at the
Quai de la Douane in Bordeaux, right next to the city's historic center.
Port of Bordeaux
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Thirty to 40 cruise ships a year call at Bordeaux, a city of 213,000
inhabitants that lies more than 60 miles or 90 km inland from the Bay of Biscay. The
journey up the Gironde Estuary and the Garonne River takes at least six hours. Much of the
estuary is so wide that it feels like an inland sea, but the river narrows
during the final hour or two, when green countryside gives way to industrial
docks. The city appears after the ship passes under a high suspension bridge and
rounds a bend that leads to a retired French naval ship (the cruiser Colbert)
and the pier along the downtown riverfront.
The word "pier" may be a misnomer, because cruise ships simply tie
up along the riverfront promenade next to a pedestrian and bike path. As the Regatta
tied up between Hapag-Lloyd's Hanseatic and the Pont de Pierre, bicycle
commuters detoured around the truck crane that was waiting to lift a gangway
into place. The 18th Century palaces of the Place de la Bourse and the busy
pedestrian zone of the city's old town were literally across the street from the
One oddity of Bordeaux is the extreme variation between high and low tide.
The differences are so great that the main gangway leading to deck 5 varied from
almost flat to perilously steep, depending on the time of day, forcing the Regatta
to use a secondary gangway on deck 3 when the tide was near its maximum.
Powerful tides are also the reason why the river is so muddy: Thanks to the
twice-daily churning by the tide, sediment in the river's bottom is held
permanently in suspension like puréed beans in a soup.
For more information on the Port
of Bordeaux, see:
Port Autonome de Bordeaux
Bordeaux shore excursions