So you’re on a river cruise, exploring amazing places on the itinerary you did your homework on before leaving home. Time off the river cruise ship is commonly spent on organized tours, checking off the boxes to see iconic landmarks and their surrounding area. It’s that surrounding area that beckons to wandering travelers.
When the expert local guide says “get your camera ready, coming up is a great photo”, the wanderer looks in the opposite direction, off the beaten path. Some of us have been doing that for a lifetime, others are rather new to wandering. To keep everyone happy, we have some tips that work for everyone but are especially appropriate for wandering travelers.
The Thing On The Hill - There always seems to be an iconic landmark, castle, or structure of some sort perched high on a hill that can serve as a good point of reference, is nearly always noted on Google maps.
In Addition Or Supplementing The Included Tour - When tours depart later in the day, a walk of ten minutes from the ship will fit in quite nicely.
Even On Motorcoach Tour Days – The Austrian capital of Vienna, for example, takes a motorcoach tour first to cover a lot of ground before walking through the city center. Still, where we were docked in Vienna made for a lovely ten minutes from the ship walk.
Drop A Pin - Just as you step off the ship, tell Google maps this is where you parked your car. It’s easy to remember and serves as a homing beacon if you get lost. It’s pretty easy to do.
Free Time After Tours - Generally speaking, when an included tour ends, free time begins. At that point, travelers can wander or go back to the ship with the guide. Directionally challenged travelers might want to go back or at least get specific information from the guide on how to get back. I have seen others with highlighters, asking guides to mark the walking route from that point back to the ship. Not a bad idea really.
On Your Own After Tours - After a tour, if lost and given the choice between walking up or down hill, pick down. Odds are that is where the river is. Your ship will be somewhere around there. Your ship is never on the top of the hill.
Don’t Sneak Off The Ship - One of the security measures in place on as river cruise includes boarding cards kept at the front desk. To go off on tour travelers pick up cards showing their tour group as well as cards with their stateroom number and name on them. If the thought ‘Oh, I’m just going off to wander around. No need for the cards’ crosses your mind, shoo it away. Turn the wrong way and it’s quite possible to get lost in 30 seconds.
Bring A Map - At the reception desk on river cruise ships will be a map of the place where we have docked. Take one of those even if proficient with Google Maps. Also available, what looks like a business card which lists the ship’s exact location. That address will mean absolutely nothing to you but a local cab/Uber driver will know where your wandering began and where it should end.
Chris Owen shares frank, inside information about cruise vacations on ChrisCruises.com