Cruise itinerary extensions grow in popularity

Nicole Edenedo

Combining a river cruise with a land or a rail tour, or even with an ocean or expedition cruise, is not a new concept, nor is it a surprising one. But the fact that a number of river cruise companies launched a slew of new combination cruise itineraries this year, with more slated for 2023, does hint at a trend that’s possibly here to stay for a while.

Riviera River Cruises launched an itinerary in the spring combining one of its existing cruises through the south of France with a land tour extension to Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps.

The 11-day Burgundy, River Rhone and Provence tour features a seven-night cruise that starts in Avignon on the Rhone and ends in Lyon on the Saone. From there, guests now have the option to add three nights in Lake Geneva in either Lausanne or Montreux, Switzerland. Walking tours in Annecy, cable car rides to the peak of the Vaudois Alps and even a short but scenic train ride aboard the Golden Pass in Gstaad are what travelers can find when looking to extend their vacation.

“I will always suggest train additions on pre- and post- trips for cruises,” said Barbara Boone of Direct Travel Houston, adding that a number of her clients had never thought of adding a rail trip to their river cruise and that many now welcome the idea when she does.

American Cruise Lines began offering pre- and post-cruise land tour packages to three national parks earlier this year for its river cruises in the Pacific Northwest. The company found so much success with the initial run of the program that it decided to permanently add the national parks land tour as part of the river cruise itinerary.

The new 15-day National Parks & Legendary Rivers itinerary will launch in 2023, operating between Portland, Ore., and Jackson, Wyo., on the Columbia and Snake rivers onboard the American Harmony. The eight-day cruise disembarks in Hells Canyon on the Washington-Idaho border, where guests will then begin their seven-day land tour visiting Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton national parks.

Casey Smith of AAA Colorado says that most of his clients who are looking to add onto their river cruises are “looking for something outside of a guided tour via motorcoach” and value extensions that offer flexibility and don’t follow a strict itinerary.

Another cruise line that has been heavily investing in cruise combinations is Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. The river cruise operator launched its cruise and rail program in Europe in 2021, partnering with Golden Eagle Luxury Trains to operate the rail tour portion of its itineraries.

The company’s two current itineraries — the 12- and 14-day Milan, Venice & the Swiss Alps and the 12- and 13-day Castles of Transylvania and Enchanting Danube — have seen enough demand and success that Uniworld will launch its third cruise and rail itinerary next fall. The 16-day Sacred Ganges & the Maharajas’ Express itinerary in India has its first departure on Oct. 28. Guests will first experience a seven-night cruise from Kolkata to New Delhi along the Ganges before boarding the luxury overnight train in Mumbai for six nights to traverse India’s famed Golden Circle.

“Train travel is efficient, more cost-effective and certainly comfortable,” Boone said. “River cruises pre- and post-vacations have driven this demand. While you are there, why not add an extra town or an extra few days in a quaint village before or after your river cruise?”

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