Danube River cruises afford the opportunity to see some of Europe's most iconic scenery, while getting a taste of its big city culture. For a closer look, cruisers can tack an extended stay onto the beginning or end of their itinerary. Most river cruise lines do the work for you -- putting together two- to three-night packages that include hotel accommodations, and sometimes even tours and a few meals. (Note: Some packages are already part of the cruise fare, while others cost extra.) Whether you prefer to make your own plans or stick with the line, here are the five best cities for pre- and post-cruise stays on the Danube River.
What was once two separate communes -- Buda and Pest -- is now one of Europe's most prominent capital cities, where Old World charm meets a bustling, modern vibe. A pre- or post-cruise stay in Budapest is the perfect way to explore both sides of the river. Make it a point to visit the Buda Castle, take a dip in one of the many thermal pools and visit the "Ruin Bars," derelict buildings that have been converted into trendy watering holes.
Who would love it: Night owls, spa-goers, foodies (Budapest has a strong cafe culture and the pastries are to die for)
Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, CroisiEurope, Crystal, Scenic, Tauck River Cruising, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Emerald Waterways
Prague, Czech Republic
A maze of cobblestone streets connecting art galleries, eclectic bars, romantic theaters and hidden gardens, Prague was made for getting lost. Just make sure you end up at one of its many microbreweries; some argue the city is home to the best beer in Europe. Other must-sees? The Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and Old Town Square -- and further inside, it's Lesser Town, lined with quaint medieval houses, churches and palaces.
Who would love it: Art lovers, beer drinkers, history lovers
Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Tauck River Cruising, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Scenic, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways
Photo: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock.com
Stroll through the streets with an apple strudel in hand, catch a show at the opera, people-watch at a traditional wine cellar -- the ways to experience Vienna are endless. Notable sites like Schonbrunn Palace, City Hall and Prater amusement park are musts, but consider spicing up your trip with a Viennese Waltz lesson, wine tasting in Austria's countryside or a cup of coffee and Sacher torte in one of the city's famous cafes.
Who would love it: Classical music lovers, opera buffs, pastry fans
Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Tauck River Cruising, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Scenic, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Crystal River Cruises, Vantage
Oktoberfest might be Munich's claim to fame, but the Bavarian capital is worth spending a few days in any time of year. The city has a laid-back, intimate feel despite its size; you can get almost anywhere by foot -- including landmark sites like the English Garden, St. Peter's Church, Nymphenburg Palace and picturesque Isar river (great for long walks and biking). Of course, in typical German fashion, it's inevitable you'll end up in a beer hall clinking weizen glasses with everyone around you.
Who would love it: Beer drinkers, active types, castle lovers (Neuschwanstein Castle is a popular day trip)
Which cruise lines go there: AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Scenic, CroisiEurope, Uniworld, Viking River Cruises, Tauck
Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com
If we had to describe Bucharest in three words, we'd go with vibrant, quirky and unassuming. The city is full of hidden beauty, but finding it requires a bit of digging. During a pre- or post-cruise stay, spend some time in Bucharest's Old Town, the Village Museum, the stunning Carturesti Carusel bookstore, and its many parks -- such as Herastrau, which provides a scenic path to the monster Palace of the Parliament. Bucharest is also a convenient steppingstone to Transylvania and the intriguing town of Snagov.
Who would love it: Bookworms, history buffs, "off the beaten path" travelers
Which cruise lines go there: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Tauck River Cruising, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Grand Circle Cruise Line, CroisiEurope, Scenic, Emerald Waterways, Uniworld. Tauck
Photo: Razvan Ionut Dragomirescu/Shutterstock.com
We wish there were a magic elixir you could whip up to get a free or low-cost cabin upgrade on a cruise ship. We'd be chugging it all the time. But sorry -- no can do. Before you sit by the phone, waiting for the upgrade fairy to call, there are a few basic things to know about cruise ship cabin