Making the most of river cruise shore excursions
By Cruise International | 1 Feb 2016
Without question, one of the most fortuitous aspects of booking a river cruise is the innumerable amount of destinations you’ll encounter during your trip atop the waterways. While standard ocean voyages necessitate a great deal of time be spent out at sea sailing from place to place, river cruises stumble upon new port calls seemingly everyday — making them ideal for those interested in the travel, discovery and exploration aspect of cruising.
But with so many stops in so many exciting destinations, it’s important to plan ahead and decide what’s worth seeing in each port on your tour’s itinerary. To help you do just that, here are some top tips on making the most of shore excursions on a river cruise.
See a little or a lot
Those who have previously enjoyed a city break will attest to just how tiring and time consuming — albeit, thrilling — exploring a vast metropolis can be. By trying to squeeze too much into a single day, it’s easy to burnout and lose interest, so plan your time well and only sign up to what you think is an achievable number of activities, trips and excursions.
Depending on how much time you like to invest at any given visitor attraction, this may mean that you end up seeing a little or a lot of a particular city. For instance, if you’re cruising through Paris and want to spend the day among the plentiful artworks of the Louvre or the Musée National Rodin, this might not leave a lot of time for other excursions — so schedule your time accordingly.
Book certain excursions in advance
Just like with seafaring cruises, it’s often a good idea to book or reserve your place on an excursion, trip or tour ahead of your arrival into the port in question. Doing so affords less stress and hassle, and means you won’t be stuck waiting in any queues upon arrival. Often, booking in advance also means you can pay any admission fees in advance, too, so there’s no need to set any of your holiday budget aside to pay for trips and activities.
Remember, however, that booking in advance is only necessary for excursions taken independently of your river cruise tour operator. Some river cruise companies provide complimentary daily excursions in each port.
Sign up for boutique and escorted excursions
For those weary of booking escorted tours and excursions for fear of sharing the experience with dozens of your fellow travellers, a boutique excursion is the way to go. Comprising of small groups of no more than twenty five of your cruising peers, these escorted trips offer the insight and intrigue of a guide-led excursion without excessive numbers of hangers-on. Plus, boutique trips are often highly exclusive affairs — from behind-the-scenes tours of Regensburg’s Weltenburg Abbey to Beaujolais wine tasting experiences — giving you unparalleled access to historic gems across the globe.
Scenic, who specialise in providing exclusive excursions and flexible included activities on their luxury river cruises as part of their Enrich and Freechoice programmes, offer this advice for those planning activities and excursions: “Specialist tours and daily excursions offer complete flexibility and choice, so you can see exactly what you want to see, but ensure these are included in the price of your river cruise as most operator claim to be fully or all-inclusive but actually only include a limited number. Before booking your river cruise, discuss specific tour options, and find out exactly which ones are included in the total price of the holiday.”
Know your way around
It might sound obvious, but it’s important to do your research and understand exactly where you’re going in each town and city in your cruise itinerary — particularly if you plan to go it alone without the help of a guide. Many of the historic destinations at which river cruises stop are notoriously difficult to navigate (we’re looking at you, Bruges), and getting lost could scupper any activities and trips you had planned during your visit.
To make the most of every minute spent ashore during your upcoming river cruise, invest in a guidebook or city map for each destination you’ll visit during your cruise and plan your routes accordingly. Alternatively, download a navigation app like CityMaps2Go and use GPS tracking to get from A to B without the hiccups.
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