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European River Cruises - strategy

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We're interested in taking a European River Cruise in 2017. Two of us, early 60s. My husband likes to bike, I'm more of a hiker. I've received various recommendations on cruise lines from friends, and I've looked online and have ordered some catalogs.

My first question is - when is the best time to book? I saw something that said you absolutely do not pay the quoted brochure price. It also said that some of the best prices are from Jan-Mar the year you want to travel. I know I have received many 2 for 1 deals this year for 2016 cruises. Do I wait? Can I get deals a year out?

My second question is - we're generally independent travelers. Some of the cruises I've seen have land add-ons on either end of the trip for a few days. Personally, I'd rather do that on our own, just find a hotel and do what we usually do in a city. Are there any advantages to doing it with the cruise company? I'm leaning towards staying a few days on our own on both ends and just using the cruise company for cruise itself.

Any good resources you can recommend (other than Fodor's excellent forums) would be much appreciated.

Thanks so much -
Alice

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