Ocean vs. River cruising: Which one is right for you?

Picture comparing river and ocean boat sizes


When it comes to taking a cruise on river or ocean, it’s pretty tough to go wrong! Both offer incredible views, luxurious amenities and the opportunity to explore new and interesting ports.

Each cruise comes with its own unique perks.  Depending on your dreams and desires, you might find that one is a slightly better fit than the other.


So, what are the major cruise differences?

One big difference can be summed up in one word: Intimacy.  River cruises tend to be much smaller (190 max vs. up to 6,200 on the largest ocean cruises).  As a result, you’re much more likely to be interacting with other passengers and crew members.

That smaller scale translates to all areas of the river cruise. Picture of steward offering wine to diners eating outside on a river boat cruiseYou dine on a regular schedule at tables with other passengers (wine is included in the price of the cruise). Instead of 50 different things to do on board, amenities tend to be more modest with river cruises.  By modest, I mean libraries, a workout room, cultural programs and free WiFi.  Whereas, ocean cruises seem to sport ten kids’ playrooms, glitzy Broadway shows and a skydiving simulator. There tend to be fewer kids on river cruises, making them popular for couples seeking quiet and relaxed time together.


Where’s land and civilization?

You stop almost every day at a new port with river cruises, often for walking tours through quaint towns with little tourist traffic. Most river ports have numerous cultural and historical sites with magnificent architecture.

picture of a super fun water park aboard NCL ocean cruise boatWith ocean cruises, you can go days without seeing land. Generally, ocean ports of call and excursions tend to be more exotic and high-adventure. Because of their larger size, ocean cruises offer plenty of options for many ages, from young kids to octogenarians.  They are often more able to accommodate a wide variety of special health needs. For this reason, they tend to make the best option for multi-generational family gatherings that include young children. For the traveler who is into high-octane adventure, ocean cruises provide a wide variety of activities on board.   They can also provide exotic and more daring day excursions.


When you factor in the costs….Picture of passengers from a river cruise boat using the bicycles that are kept on board

River cruises do tend to be more expensive per person but that price also includes more things. Multiple daily excursions, touring bikes, complimentary wine and unique culinary specialties are just a few of the inclusions.

Ocean cruises have a lower sticker price per person but you are generally charged extra for alcohol, excursions and other amenities.  However, there is such a vast array of on-board family type amenities that are included.


When you’re getting ready to plan your next “on-the-water” trip, here are a few questions to consider:

  • How many people are traveling? What are their ages?
  • What time of the year do you want to travel?
  • Do you need the amenities of a mega ship — spas, gyms, a dozen restaurants and many activities? Or are you looking for something calmer, more intimate and easy-paced?
  • Are you seeking authentic inter-cultural experiences? Or do you prefer more familiar settings?


As always, we’re here and would love to discuss your next cruise. We can look at all the moving parts of your upcoming trip — what you need, what you want, what your dream is — and together, we can come up with a cruise that you and your loved ones will remember fondly for the rest of your life.  Contact us HERE.

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