Your next cruise shouldn’t just start and stop at your ship’s gangway.You’ll make the most of your holiday by extending your cruise before you board and even after you disembark.
Here are some pre- and post-cruise extension moves for every smart cruise traveler.
1. Buffer Day
Arriving at least one day before your cruise embarks doesn’t even qualify as a pre-cruise extension.It’s just common sense.
Most cruises sail away in the late afternoon, with all aboard no later than mid afternoon.It really doesn’t leave much time padding if you have any travel hiccups along the way.
Even the slightest same-day flight or luggage delay puts you at risk of missing your cruise departure or sailing away sans luggage.
No one wants to start a vacation with the stress of sorting out transportation to the first port of call where you can pick up the ship (and miss enjoying your first port of call as you use the time boarding the ship and getting your delayed arrival sorted out.)
Furthermore, if your luggage doesn’t make it with your flight, airlines can often restore it to you by the next day.The logistics of having your luggage catch up with you are much easier if you’re at a land-based hotel the day after your flight, not already in the next port of call.
Giving yourself an extra day ensures your cruise embarkation will be smooth sailing.
2. Two of your cruise’s ‘ports of call’
The number one reason travelers choose cruises is for the destination.And you’ll likely make plans for each of your cruise ports of call.
It only makes sense to treat your ports of embarkation and debarkation like the fascinating ports of call on the rest of your cruise.
Most ports of embarkation and debarkation are major cities that merit at least a ‘long weekend’ / 3 day stay to get an overview of the city and then dive deeper into some of the activities, cuisine, events and neighborhoods that give the destination its unique character.
Think of exploring the contemporary art, Art Deco, mid-century and modernist design and Cuban culinary scene in Miami before a Caribbean cruise. Afternoon tea, Royal Family landmarks, and museums of London before a Trans-Atlantic Crossing. Or a long weekend in Paris before your cruise along France’s Seine river to Normandy.
Cruise lines are getting into the pre- and post-cruise extension act too, offering, and sometimes including, at least one, with an option for more, nights before and after you actually board their ships.
3. Launching pad
Pre- and post-cruise extensions can also allow you to use your ports of embarkation and disembarkation as starting points for intensive exploration of the region.
This is a great opportunity on cruise round trips when your cruise begins and ends at the same port. Arriving a few days ahead of your cruise allows you time to immerse yourself in the embarkation city.Then when you return, it’s a launching pad to experience more of the surrounding area.
You can make independent plans for your cruise extension, but you don’t have to. Travel advisors can help you pair cruises with land-based tours complete with expert guides, hotels and transportation so you can easily transition from ship to shore journeys and double the holiday experiences and memories.
Imagine continuing your immersion into the magnificent wilderness with a train ride through the Rocky Mountains before or after your Alaska cruise roundtrip from Vancouver.
4. Cruise + land tour
Cruise lines are now often offering land tours bookending their cruises as well. Like putting icing on the cake of a northbound cruise to Alaska with a land tour of the state’s famous Denali park. Or exploring exquisite Prague before your river cruise on the Danube.
Not only do a cruise line’s land tours make the transition between ship and shore logistically seamless, where your luggage and transfers are handled with minimal effort on your part without awkward delays around things like hotel check in times.
But - especially at the luxury level of cruises - land tours mirror the service levels and unique features of the cruise line you’ve been enjoying on the water, so instead of feeling like you’re taking two trips back to back, you’re enjoying the same travel experience in different surroundings.
A special variation on this theme is land tours that take place mid-cruise, like an overnight excursion to Angkor Wat from a Mekong river or coastal South East Asia cruise.
Pre- and post-cruise extensions are the perfect proof that when it comes to cruise trips, more is really more!
By: Lynn Elmhirst Producer and Host, World's Greatest Cruises
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