Reasons to bookend your river cruise

9 Reasons To Bookend Your River Cruise

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Add Pre-Cruise And Post-Cruise Extensions To Your River Cruising

You’ve read all the brochures, picked a river cruise line, decided on which river to sail, and now you need to tackle logistics. Do you book your own flights or have the cruise line handle the transportation. And the big question — should I add a pre-cruise and/or post cruise extension. Let’s explore the reasons to bookend your river cruise.

I have compiled 9 reasons why I always add a pre and post-cruise extension to my river cruises. Most of the time I book them through the cruise company, but every now and then, I head off the rails on my own. Either way, here are a few things to consider before you dismiss the idea of added extensions.

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The Video

You can read my 9 reasons to bookend your river cruise below, simply watch the video, or explore both.

1 Extra Experiences

reasons to Bookend Your River Cruise
Nice, France

Number one for me, I want to squeeze every last ounce of adventure on every trip. When you book a pre or post-cruise extension, you can spend one, two, or three extra days exploring a city. Some of these extensions are all inclusive, but many only include breakfast and a few tours with local tour guides.

One big advantage of river cruising is your room is simply a floating hotel, it goes where you go. A disadvantage is you are rarely in a town/city for very long. On a recent Saone River cruise through France, we were in Lyon for one day. Lyon is known for its foodie vibe and I was disappointed I didn’t have time to get to even one restaurant. I did, however, add a post-cruise extension through the cruise lines to the French Riviera, Nice to be exact. And, a me-planned post-post-cruise extension to London to visit family.

2 Cruise Director Assistance

reasons to Bookend yor river cruise
My Favorite AmaWaterways Cruise Director

If you book your pre and/or post-cruise extension with the river cruise companies, you will most likely have the services of your Cruise Director. Typically, they are at the hotel when you arrive, arrange a kick-off get together, plan excursions, and have an extensive knowledge of the destination. They are a valuable source of information helping you use your free time wisely.

Booking with the cruise lines is like extending your river cruise itinerary to land. Most river cruises offer pre and/or post extensions on the majority of their cruise itinerary options. The extensions are often small groups and are in or near the embarkation port.

3 Save On Airfare

Reasons to bookend your river cruise
Lyon, France

When you add extensions to your trip the biggest monetary advantage is you maximize the value of your flight. When we sailed down the Danube River, we added a pre-cruise extension to Prague. I probably wouldn’t spring for the airfare to visit Prague for a few days, however, the difference in the price for departing three days earlier was negligible, we barely had to pay extra.

Sometimes I simply add a day or two on to the river cruise right where we embark and disembark. Typically they are larger cities so there is lots to do. Recently, some river cruise companies will work with you on airfare when you extend your trip in the same city, allowing you to still work with the cruise lines on airfare rates.

4 Immersion In The Local Culture

Reasons to bookend your river cruise
Paella Class, Barcelona, Spain

I tend to stack pre and post river cruise extensions when I can navigate (plane, train, automobile) easily. If I book my own extension, I have control over where I stay, dine, and explore.

Many years ago we took our first river cruise down the Rhine River — a classic first timers cruise. We began our journey with three days in Paris on our own itinerary. The morning before our cruise, we took the train to Basel, Switzerland and overnighted within walking distance of our ship. Basel has a charming old town center, lovely cafes along the Rhine River, and fabulous shops along winding cobbled streets. We would have missed exploring Basel if we didn’t add one extra night to our getaway.

5 Included Pre-Cruise And Post-Cruise Extensions

Reasons to bookend your river cruise
Eze, France

Many cruises are adding included pre and/or post-cruise extensions as a special sales event. When you sail with the same cruise line regularly, you receive benefits and upgrades as you move up the “preferred customer” ladder.

We will be snowbirding this winter on an ocean cruise around South America. Our preferred ocean cruise company is Oceania. They offered a free, three night pre-cruise extension in Rio de Janeiro — as you can guess, I jumped on that deal. I am happy to let them plan all the details. We receive three nights at a four-star hotel on Ipanema Beach, tours with local guides, a wine tasting (one of my favorite things to do) and a few meals. It was an easy decision.

6 Missing River Cruise Ships Embarkation

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Major cruising horror — missing your embarkation. The way airline travel is these days, flight delays are commonplace and missing connections can be a nightmare when you are on a time schedule. It is so difficult to catch up with your ship once it leaves. Sometimes you need to navigate between countries, complicating the entire process. It is even more difficult if you booked your flights independent of the cruise line.

On a recent Mediterranean Cruise that departed from Barcelona, one of the guests missed their connection flight in Paris. They made the embarkation time with minutes to spare. What did not make the ship was their luggage. It took almost four days for their suitcases to reach the ship since the one day one city cruising style makes connections difficult. Arriving one night before embarkation would have mitigated some of their issues.

7 Visit Bucket List Cities

Czech Pilzner, Prague, Czechia

We cruise to explore bucket list destinations. However, river cruise itineraries have quick, one day shore excursions. Once in a while, the boat will dock for two days, but that is more typical on a longer journey.

By adding a tour extension, you can explore cities you have been excited to see but might not be on your sailing itinerary. Rome is an amazing city, but river cruises dock in the coastal town of Civitavecchia. While it is a beautiful part of Italy, it is over an hour drive to central Rome. If your bucket list city is Rome — and if it isn’t on your list it should be — you will only get to dive deep into one or two ruins with a ship’s shore excursions. You need to add Rome as a pre-cruise or post-cruise extension to enjoy many of her beautiful gems.

8 Bond With Other Passengers

Skillings River, Bar Harbor, Maine

If you use the river cruise ship extensions, the Cruise Manager typically organizes a welcome event plus a city tour and other excursions. This is the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with other river cruise guests before you even get on the ship. Even having fellow passengers to simply wave at makes you feel like you have a new group of friends.

On small river cruise ships, the pre and post land adventures are a cozy, intimate size group. It is easy to get to know your fellow passengers before you get on the boat. I have met some of my new best cruise friends on these pre and post river cruising extensions.

9 Embark Refreshed And Relaxed On Your River Cruises

Wine Tasting, Riquewihr, Germany

No one wants to be that person so tired and jet lagged, scrambling up the gangplank trying to keep it all together. You can pick those people out from a mile away — bickering, frazzled, and completely worn out. Embarking on a beautiful vacation cruise should be enjoyable, relaxing, and joyful.

Whether you are on a charming river cruise ship or sailing on ocean cruises, you will benefit from adding even one day to the beginning of your adventure. You will quickly come to understand how much more you will enjoy your next destination. What are your favorite reasons to bookend your river cruise?

Happy Travels,


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Reasons to bookend your river cruise


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  1. We are planning a trip through the Mediterranean and are hoping to bookend our cruise with some time to Rome. We save on airfare and get to experience more of the culture! Win, win!

    1. We just did a Mediterranean cruise last summer. It was one of my favorites — of course, I do love the Riviera! Bon Voyage.

  2. These are all good reasons for booking pre and post cruise extensions. I’m intending to do a European river cruise next year and I’ll odo this!

  3. Oh! A river cruise isn’t something that I would have thought about for a vacation but it sounds lovely! I might have to look into these going forward.

  4. It is good to get to the destination early for sure! I had a friend miss their embarkation day and couldn’t get on the cruise for 3 days. That would be a nightmare!

  5. Bookending is a perfect way to explore additional areas and extend that river cruise. It’s always a plus when you can save on airfare!