One of the chief issues that often crops up on river cruises is that of what to do in each port of call. Sure, each river cruise line offers a selection of complementary excursions in each port that can range from walking tours to cycling excursions to cultural outings, but how does a first-time visitor pick what they want to do?
It’s a situation I’ve wrestled with on each of the river cruises I’ve taken – even when arriving in a port I’ve already had the privilege of exploring.
Take Budapest, Hungary. The city itself is divided into two distinct sides, separated by the Danube, known as “Buda” and “Pest.” But within each of those sides lies an abundance of activities and events just waiting to be experienced.
You could start with the famous Fisherman’s Bastion monument, or work your way down and across the famous Chain Bridge, which is an essential experience.
From there, you can visit the Shoes along the Danube monument that honours Holocaust victims, or maybe even call on one of Budapest’s famous Hungarian Baths.
The trouble is, not all of this will be included on your ship-sponsored touring – which makes pre-planning essential.
Before any river cruise, I like to Google the place I’m about to visit. Usually, Wikipedia pages, tourist board information, and a veritable cache of informative sites literally lie at your fingertips. To delve deeper, go to your local bookstore and pick up some guidebooks on the places you’re about to visit.
The internet is also a fantastic resource for determining where your ship will dock, and what might be located in the general area. So too is Google Maps, with its satellite photo imagery. Need to plot your way from your ship to a local attraction? Chances are good that Google StreetView will be able to aide in your quest!
But as important as planning is, it’s always best to let yourself go with the flow. Wander down that side-street that looks interesting; explore that square that you see in the distance. And always – always! – duck into that restaurant that looks so quaint and inviting. You will be glad you did!
What do you like to do before your river cruise to help plan your time ashore? Share your ideas with us here on River Cruise Advisor!