As destination experts, cruise lines know the hidden secrets of every port, working with knowledgeable guides to master the art of shore excursions down to a science. But did you know that many cruise lines also offer multi-night pre- and post-cruise land extensions? From getting back to nature in Alaska’s Yukon country to discovering ancient temples in Cambodia and game drives in Africa, land extensions are an affordable way to explore destinations in depth before you even board your ship. Here, a closer look at four great options to consider for your next adventure.
Holland America’s 15-Day Yukon + Triple Denali Expedition in Alaska
For years, Holland America has been considered a leader in land and cruise tours of Alaska. This particular excursion begins in Anchorage, where you’ll board the domed rail cars of the McKinley Explorer and head to Denali National Park for three nights. From there you’ll explore Fairbanks’s gold-rush heritage, Dawson City for two nights (including a paddle-wheeler cruise along the Yukon River), and Whitehorse. You'll continue your trip via coach before boarding the historic White Pass Train for a two-night visit to Skagway. Then it’s time to board your ship that will show you Alaska’s Inside Passage at its finest, with visits to Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Vancouver.
Silversea’s 4-Night Pre-Cruise: Victoria Falls and Botswana’s Elephants
This four-night pre-cruise is a fantastic way to jump-start your Silversea Cruises vacation in southern Africa. The adventure begins when you touch down in South Africa's Johannesburg to spend the night at The Michelangelo. In the morning you’ll fly to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where you’ll tour the majestic falls before transferring to Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero, a game lodge in Botswana. Here, you’ll see your first game drives in 4x4 vehicles—with luck you’ll see everything from elephants, buffalos, and hippos to lions, puku, and antelope. A safari cruise along the Chobe River caps off your stay. On day four, you’ll fly to Cape Town for an overnight stay at the elegant Cape Grace hotel. In the morning, you’re treated to a city orientation tour before boarding the ship.
Oceania Cruises’ Angkor Wat Experience
The temples of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat in Siem Reap are a sight to behold, and there’s no better way to see them than on a pre- or post-cruise tour with Oceania Cruises. Offered before and after a variety of cruises, including those departing from Bangkok, the tour includes an airport meet-and-greet and transfer to the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit hotel for an overnight stay. The following morning you fly to Siem Reap, where you’ll meet your local guide as you check in to the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort. The afternoon is spent exploring the Pink Temple (otherwise known as Banteay Srey Temple Complex) and Banteay Samre. The following day, you’ll learn more about the area as you tour the city of Angkor Thom, home of the 12th-century Banyon Temple, the Terrace of the Leper King, and the Elephant Terrace—an incredible sandstone wall carved to depict three-headed elephants and hunting scenes. The tour moves on to the temple of Ta Prohm, known for the giant fig trees that surround it. Finally, you’ll watch the sun set over the Angkor Wat complex.
Paul Gauguin’s Pre- and Post Cruise Stays in French Polynesia
While the cruise line doesn’t offer sightseeing tours as part of their pre- and post-cruise land extensions, Paul Gauguin Cruises does offer excellent pricing on some of the finest resorts in French Polynesia, including InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa and InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora. Other options include the InterContinental Resort Tahiti, InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa, and Hotel Maitai Rangiroa. Arrive in Tahiti a few days before your cruise for some jetlag recovery time before embarking on your cruise.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com, Condé Nast Traveler, Cruise Critic, and other websites and magazines. Her latest book is Tom Petty: Rock ‘n’ Roll Guardian. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.