Felicity Long
Felicity Long

InsightAnyone who has ever taken a Med cruise with a call at Villefranche-sur-Mer on France’s Cote d’Azur can testify to the popularity of nearby Monaco. Passengers tender into Villefranche's port, and many immediately board waiting buses for the famous principality, about 5 miles away.

What’s the draw? FelicityLong 

Although grand and picturesque, Monaco is not necessarily prettier than the French villages that line the Riviera, and in fact, it is a good deal more built up than some. It does, however, come equipped with its very own royalty, gorgeously tony hotels, miles of beautiful beaches, the glamour of the Monte Carlo casino and an intriguing blend of French and Italian cultures that bespeaks centuries of embattled history.

Another thing Monaco offers that its competitors can only dream about is the annual Grand Prix car race, and it's hard to overstate its importance to the tiny destination. For Formula 1 fans, this race is a must-see event because of the difficulty: the course essentially runs through the city streets.

It takes place in spring, and if you think it’s too early to book for 2014, think again. Hotels, especially those like the posh Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo that offer terrace views of the race, fill up fast, often more than a year in advance.

One solution is to search for properties in Nice, Cannes, Menton or Saint Tropez, where visitors can daytrip to Monaco and enjoy the considerable charms of these French destinations by night.

Another option is to nab a spot on one of Windstar Cruises’ Grand Prix-themed yacht cruises. There are two options: a Grand Prix of Monaco voyage on May 21 onboard Windstar’s newest yacht the Star Pride (the former Seabourn ship), and a Grand Prix excursion package on the Wind Surf's May 20 Yachting the Riviera cruise.

The Star Pride itinerary not only is hosted by John Bisignano, a former Formula One pit reporter, but it includes grandstand seats during qualifying and finals races and various themed gala events in Monte Carlo. The Grand Prix excursion on the Wind Surf also includes grandstand seats. Both voyage sail roundtrip from Rome.

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