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Ever since this ancient town gave its name to that legendary Bogart-Bergman 1942 Casablanca movie, a stream of visitors has come in search of Rick’s Café and a cast of ‘all the usual suspects’. Faced with modern Morocco's main industrial and commercial centre, some find it disappointing and move on. But, thanks to some inspired restoration projects and impressive new buildings, that's all changed. In 2004, Casablanca City even got its own version of Rick's Café, that most famous (if fictitious) gin joint in all the world.
Cruise ships from 11 lines now call here, and passengers are quick to see that Casablanca has so much more to offer than nostalgia for the days of black-and-white wartime romances. ‘The usual suspects’ calling here include MSC, Oceania, Fred Olson, Norwegian CL, Princess Cruises, Holland America (HAL) and the graceful Star Clippers in the full sailing rig, weaving their own romantic spell.
Passengers disembark, often for their first taste of North Africa, from the commercial harbour about three miles from the town centre. (A dedicated cruise port is underway.) There’s a choice of day excursions around town, or further afield for an overnight port stay. Casablanca is also a good place for those wanting to go it alone, as it’s likely that they will, in any case, be visiting the same sites as the tour groups.
Casablanca Cruise Tours, Half or Full Day
Cruise tours for Casablanca always feature Casablanca City centre, where most of the town’s attractions are to be found. Designed by the French in the 1920s glory days of Art Deco, this is one of the most pleasant town centres in North Africa. Fans of Art Deco will find much to admire, in the wide, tree-lined boulevards and the relaxed French/Arab café culture. Highlights of cruise tours are likely to include:
Themed Casablanca Tours for North African Culture, Rick's Café and Morocco Beaches
Casablanca City lends itself to certain themes likely to appeal to a wide range of interests, budgets and age groups:
Tips for Going it Alone in Casablanca
All the above highlights can be reached safely and easily from the ship by grand taxi, or the red petit taxis which are cheaper.
Shopping for Art Deco in Casablanca
Art Deco fans intent on bringing home some original treasures can take a grand taxi from the ship to the working-class district of Hay Hassani (near the airport) and head for Soco Demoina, with its maze of bric-a-brac stalls and scrap yards, for discarded relics of French colonial times, as recommended by Moroccan author Tahir Shah in The Times, (23/02/2008).
For upmarket genuine North African and Art Deco antiques, he also recommends Memo-Arts in Derb Omar, Galerie Athar near Habbous, and the high-end Gallerie Moulay Youssef, 54 Boulevard Moulay Youssef.
Casablanca Out of Town Overnight Tour to Marrakech
Marrakech is the most popular destination if the ship is in port overnight. It is a 4-hour scenic drive through the Atlas Mountains and usually features:
Some ships organise tours to the spectacular Atlas Mountains for a night under canvas or at a ski lodge for adventure-minded travellers according to season.
Casablanca is a good introduction to North African city culture, Islamic architecture and French colonial Art Deco elegance, with a breath of the great Sahara desert beyond. The bargaining and hassle of shopping can be tough but rewarding in this pleasant town which welcomes cruise visitors.