Why You Should Add Three Days in Zurich and Lucerne Before a Rhine River Cruise

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Undecided about whether to add a Zurich and Lucerne pre-cruise stay before your Rhine river cruise? This article explains and shows my reasons why you should add these 3-4 days to these two cities to your trip.

Tram in Zurich with snowflakes on a spring day before a Rhine river cruise.
Zurich with a late spring snowfall.

It was only four days in Switzerland but plenty of time to get a feel for two of this country’s most popular (and expensive!) cities.

It’s been several years since I’ve included a pre-cruise land extension in my travels, so I decided it was time. Two nights each in Zurich and Lucerne.

After a smooth 14-day transatlantic crossing aboard Holland America’s Koningsdam and three nights in Rome at my friend Anna’s B&B, I boarded a train to Milan and another to Zurich. Three and one-half hours each, but both seemed to take no time at all.

Plus, the scenery from Milan to Zurich was spectacular. The super-fast SBB train went through the brand new and longest train tunnel in the world, slicing through the Alps in 22 minutes.

Where We Stayed in Zurich, Switzerland

From Zurich train station it was a 10 minute taxi ride to our hotel, Steigenberger Bellerive. For an additional cost, you could upgrade your hotel room from a city/industrial view to a beautiful view of Lake Zurich.

Hotel room in Steigenberger Hotel.
Without a lake view room, you get an industrial and courtyard view.

The first night of any pre-cruise land package includes a meet and greet with your river ship’s cruise manager, who will be with you the entire time, on land and river.

Monika, our cruise manager for AmaKristina, spent a quick few minutes to explain what we’d be doing for the next four days, a rundown of the optional (additional fee) tours and free time.

Bright and early the next morning, after the included buffet breakfast, most of the group (about 45 people) opted for the free city tour via motor coach.

And…almost everyone planned to do the optional tour to the Rhine Falls. A five-hour tour included a boat ride to the face of the falls and a visit to the small town of Stein am Rhein.

Spring flowers in the central downtown Zurich were soon covered in a layer of snow.
Spring flowers in the central downtown area were soon covered in a layer of snow.
A chilly walk along Lake Zurich waterfront.



One of my favorite cities in Europe for its beauty and charm is Lucerne. Surrounded by the jagged edged Alpes, Lucerne is part story-book, part tourist town.


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A two-hour bus ride brought us our hotel and one of my favorites for this city; the Hotel Schweizerhof. The best optional tour, which I totally regret not doing, was a cable car ride, called a “CabriO”, to the summit of Mt. Stanserhorn. Don’t miss it.

One-of-a-kind CabriO cable car up 6,000' to Mt. Stanserhorn.
One-of-a-kind CabriO cable car up 6,000′ to Mt. Stanserhorn.
Beautifully ornate lobby of Hotel Schweizerhof, on Lake Lucerne.
Ornate lobby of Hotel Schweizerhof, on Lake Lucerne
Old Chapel Bridge across the river in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Old Chapel Bridge across the river in Lucerne.
View of Lake Lucerne from Hotel Schweizerhof.

The morning of the fourth day, all packed up, our luggage was outside our doors by 8am. A scenic two hour drive to Basel and our awaiting river ship, AmaKristina.

If you’re planning an AmaWaterways or Viking or any Rhine river cruise between Basel and Amsterdam and if it’s in your budget, I highly recommend the add-on pre-cruise land extension in Zurich and Lucerne.

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  1. Hi Marianne,
    Thank you so much for reading this article (and others!). Yes, definitely do a pre-cruise that includes at least Lucerne. It’s a beautiful and historic city. You’re going all the way to Europe, so if budget isn’t an issue, opt for the pre-cruise extension no matter what river cruise line you choose.

    Have a wonderful time next year! And thank you again for reading my articles and your kind words!


  2. I loved reading about your pre-river cruise Zurich and Lake Lucerne! We have been debating if we should add the pre and post onto our river cruise and after reading your blog, there is no way we won’t add it on now! This will be our first river cruise (May 2024). I loved reading various articles on your website. Marianne

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