"Landing" the River Cruise Vacationer

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To keep clients riding the vacation wave, river cruise companies are creating more and more in-depth pre- and post-cruise options.

According to travelers who have plied the world’s scenic waterways onboard sleek luxury vessels, the most difficult part of a cruise is at its end when those coming down the gangplank experience something akin to withdrawal symptoms.

By its intrinsic peaceful nature, a river cruise alters body rhythms and resets the psyche during long, leisurely, serene days spent watching astounding scenery rolling along the banks. And just like deep-sea divers should decompress before coming to the surface, some suggest that rushing to an airport to wing it home is counterproductive to the restful mood acquired during a river cruise.

They insist that a re-adjustment period—or post-cruise period—is just what both body and mind call for.

Some argue the opposite, claiming passengers—like athletes warming up for the main event—should spend a few days adjusting in exciting and exotic locales to add spice to the cruise.

Consequently, leading companies offer myriad packages to those willing to stretch their vacation, fully aware that the time spent drifting down Asian or European waterways—the two most popular river cruise destinations—will be enhanced by spending a few extra days in foreign surroundings.

avalon waterways Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways, says, “More than two-thirds of our cruise itineraries include additional nights, most providing accommodations such as buffet breakfasts and great sightseeing trips that allow passengers the chance to explore more in-depth the destination of choice—either before or after their cruise.”

At the same time, Avalon has joined with its sister company, Monograms, to offer its clients independent stays in various destinations.

This year, for example, the Taste of the Danube itinerary includes a 3- or 4-night cruise between Budapest and Vienna that also explores Bratislava, Melk and Austria’s enchanting Wachau Valley by land.

According to Clark, “This itinerary has been designed to appeal to independent travelers wanting to sample a shorter river cruise and then add whatever land package they may choose. This is an a la carte approach to European river cruising with pre- or post-cruise hotel stays in Vienna and Budapest, in addition to many other choices.”

He says that travelers on board Avalon vessels may also combine excursions with coach tours by Globus in many European destinations.

Next year, Avalon will offer 15 different pre- and post-cruise packages. “For example,” Clark says, “Monogram’s A Week in Paris vacation is the perfect pre-cruise extension to our Burgundy and Provence itinerary.”

He adds that some packages like its Paris and Nice offering (priced from $1,599), may be combined with a pre-cruise extension that includes Burgundy and Provence. A Vienna, Munich and Berlin package (from $2,429) is ideal for those who want to extend their European adventure with a cruise down the Danube.

According to Steve Born, Globus’ v.p. of marketing, “Booking a Monograms pre- or post-cruise extension is a safe and easy way for agents to not only build business, but also to enhance client satisfaction.”

The choices are as varied as there are rivers in the world and, according to Clark, some bumps along the economic road have led some travel agents to raise doubts about the longevity of the river cruise industry. He sees no need to worry.

“In general, the river cruise market has been growing at an average of 10 percent for the last six or seven years. It’s probably one of the healthiest travel businesses at the moment. Despite the economy, the outlook is so promising that in two years, Avalon will have taken delivery of five new ships.”

uniworld river cruises Clients seeking luxury, pampering and memorable sightseeing should consider Uniworld River Cruises, a highly regarded company due to its wide range of pre- and post-cruise optional packages that include some of the world’s most appealing destinations.

According to Maria Grimardi, Uniworld’s v.p. of marketing, these packages are “the perfect addition to the perfect cruise…[where travelers] can spend even more time in world-class destinations—all while getting even more value out of their international trip.”

She adds that Uniworld carefully reviews the feedback it receives from clients who have participated on cruise extensions on a “variety of levels” and then tailors them to feature the most desirable cities and destinations.