River cruises offer a perfect opportunity to extend your stay either at the beginning or the end of your cruise.
Many travelers like to arrive early, with extra time to settle in before your cruise begins This also adds peace of mind by providing a buffer for any airline snafus while allowing you to adjust to the local time in a more leisurely way. The same can be said of a post-stay, alleviating that typically early morning trip to the airport to meet your return flight.
My Top 5 Suggestions for 2022 and beyond are:
St. Malo: Disembark your ship in Le Havre and, en route to your St. Malo hotel, visit Fourgères in Brittany, known for its medieval fortress, which boasts 13 towers. You'll spend three nights based in this walled city, the history of which is steeped in piracy, with sites like the castle and its towers, the Fort National, partially built by famed military architect Vauban, and the cathedral of Saint-Vincent. You’ll also get to visit the town of Dinard, with its Belle Èpoque villas and beaches, as well as to Dinan, one of Brittany’s most beautiful and best-preserved towns, known for its art galleries and crafts. Finally, discover the magical island monastery of Mont St. Michel, a favorite for photographers.
Prague: A popular extension to a Danube river cruise, you'll have some free time to explore this fascinating city on your own as well as a panoramic tour and guided walk through Prague Castle. In the evenings, you’ll see the city’s monuments, including the National Theater, Prague Castle, and the famous Charles Bridge, beautifully illuminated. Prague’s medieval architecture is a prominent feature, but the city is also a rich repository of Romanesque, baroque, and art nouveau buildings that stir the imagination. You'll have a chance to wander the Old Town or check out some of Prague’s more modern sights such as the Frank Gehry–designed Dancing House, an office building inspired by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Cross Charles Bridge, see the Astronomical Clock, the Lennon Wall, visit the Jewish Quarter, and see the 13th-century Altneuschul, Europe’s oldest active synagogue.
Spain: Before you set out on a Bordeaux river cruise, you can explore the unique area of the Basque country of Spain. You'll typically spend two nights in Bilbao, where you'll visit the open-air market which houses a variety of local specialties, from cheese to peppers to fish and have the option of a walking tour of the city. You'll also travel to the Basque town of Guernica, infamously bombed by German and Italian air forces during the Spanish Civil War – and the subject of one of Picasso’s most renowned paintings. You'll also take a deep dive into the contemporary art within the world-famous Guggenheim Museum.
Known in the Basque language as Donostia, San Sebastián, where you'll spend two more nights, was once a prominent fishing village and was burned to the ground in 1813 after being occupied by Napoleonic troops. However, by 1887, after rebuilding, the city flourished as a popular tourist destination and spa resort. You’ll enjoy some free time in this city renowned for holding the second-highest number of Michelin stars per square meter. You'll make a stop in the French Basque town of Bayonne, en route to your river cruise embarkation in Bordeaux.
Jordan: This pre-cruise extension starts in Amman, where you'll enjoy a guided tour into the city of rolling hills and explore historical sites such as the Citadel and Roman Theatre, and Kan Zaman Castle. You'll also see the city of Jerash, which dates back 6500 years and is considered one of the best examples of Roman influence in the Middle East outside of Italy. You'll then head to Madaba, “The City of Mosaics,” known for its famous reminders of the Byzantine era, and you'll marvel at Mt. Nebo, one of the most revered sites in Jordan where Moses first viewed the Promised Land.
For the next portion of your extension, you'll stay near the ancient ruins of Petra, and have plenty of time to visit its sites, including the Siq, a nearly ¾-mile narrow passageway carved into sheer rock walls, the Treasury, a 4,000-spectator Theater, the Courts, Qasr Bint Pharaoun, Temple of the Winged Lion, and other monuments. With its red-pink sands, stunning natural arches and mountains, and prehistoric rock engravings, Wadi Rum, “Valley of the Moon,” is a romantic and timeless place that you’ll take in on our last day in Jordan. Then, it’s on to the Lawrence Springs named for T.E. Lawrence – “Lawrence of Arabia," for a jeep tour of this oasis. You'll fly on to Cairo to join the start of your next adventure on the Nile.
Swiss Alps: Cap off your northern Italian river cruise with a 4-day train trip to Zurich onboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express, where you'll enjoy some of the finest rail accommodations in all of Europe as well as some of the most stunning scenery on the planet. Highlights include stops in Trieste, Ljubljana, Lake Bled, and Lienz. You'll wind back into Italy's San Candido on a scenic line through Fortezza and over the amazing Brenner pass to Innsbruck, Austria. You'll spend an afternoon in the year-round alpine resort town of St. Anton, travel through Vorarlberg to Buchs, where you will visit Liechtenstein and its capital, Vaduz. Finally, ride along Walensee and the Lake of Zurich on the way to your final stop in Zurich where you'll spend a final night with time to explore.
Pre and post-travel doesn’t have to be booked with the cruise line but there are advantages such as ease of scheduling transfers and having your cruise manager along on the land portions of the trip, acting as your host. Cruise lines sometimes run special offers for land extensions as well, making them even more attractive. As you can see, extensions are quite varied and constantly being updated to include more and more unique opportunities.