You wouldn’t think that simply finding your river cruise ship’s docking location could be a source of frustration, but in some cities – and circumstances – it can. In fact, unlike ocean cruises, which tend to dock clustered around one or perhaps two ports, major cities like Budapest or Vienna can have dozens of docking locations in completely separate areas.
How can you be sure you always find your ship with a minimum amount of stress? Here are some handy tips that we always try to follow:
1. Book the Transfer
River cruise lines will nearly always offer transfers from the airport to your ship as an additional cost option that can be purchased when you book your cruise – and they’re a good idea. Be sure to see our post, Airport Transfer Fees: Which River Cruise Companies Include Them In The Fare?
While there are some advantages to simply coming out of the arrivals hall and hopping in a taxi, language barriers and changing docking locations can sometimes present problems that jet-lagged guests (that’s you and me) might be unequipped to deal with.
By booking the cruise line’s transfer service, you’re taken on a motorcoach directly from the airport to the ship. In some cases, you might even get a narrated city tour along the way. But it’s the peace-of-mind that’s worth the price of admission.
2. Don’t Assume You Know Where Your Ship Will Be
Have you been to Budapest before? Super! Think you know where your ship is after three or four voyages to and from the city? Fabulous! But the truth is, you might actually not know where your ship will be, even if you’ve sailed from there previously. We know – it’s happened to us. One month you’re docked in the shadow of the famous Chain Bridge, and the next month you’re hoofing it back to the center of town from a docking location that’s a 20-minute walk away. You know the old saying about what happens when you assume? It’s accurate, even for frequent river cruisers.
3. Print Out (or Bring) Your Documents
It’s amazing how often people simply don’t bring their documents with them, either because they’ve forgotten them or because they don’t believe they’ll need them. And with river cruising, you arguably don’t – your name is on a manifest that’s checked off anyhow. But your documents will contain one very important piece of information: the address of your expected docking location. Rip that page out and carry it with you – you can always show it to a taxi driver to return to your ship.
4. Go With the Flow
We can’t emphasize this enough. Experienced travellers know how to be flexible, and being flexible helps you to deal with any unexpected issues that might arise. Docked halfway out of town in Vienna? Don’t worry – you can still reach the city center. River cruise lines are excellent at providing continuous shuttle service to and from major attractions; you won’t be trapped outside the city limits.
Sometimes, it may be necessary for your ship to undock and shift positions with other ships, so be sure to check the name of the ship that you’re embarking on. This can be hugely helpful when sailing with Viking River Cruises, as many of its Viking Longships are similar in appearance both inside and out – but their individual names are printed in frosted lettering on the ship’s glass doors.
Do you have any special tips and tricks for finding your river cruise ship? Let us know!