I like both ocean cruising and river cruising. I went on my first river cruise in December of 2016 and then more recently in April of 2017. First let me say that cruising is in my humble opinion a great way to travel because I get to unpack once and see lots of ports or cities along with food, beverage, and entertainment. The type of cruising depends on you personally and what you want to experience. Lately river cruising is experiencing a boom; they are definitely today’s latest trend. Let me outline for you some of the differences between river and ocean cruising.
The first difference is in the size of the ships. Smaller than ocean vessels, river cruise ships accommodate approximately 190 passengers, and have a maximum of 3 levels so they can go under all the river bridges. The largest ocean liners can accommodate up to 5400 passengers and have as many as 13 levels.
River cruise passengers tend to be well-traveled, retired (55 years or older) with disposable income, while ocean cruise passengers tend be younger and more family oriented. Though typical river cruises do not allow children, there are a few exceptions like the family-themed river cruises offered by the partnership of Disney and AmaWaterways. Most ocean cruises do have children’s programs.
Another difference is in dining. With only 80-190 guests on a river cruise, everyone can be seated in the dining room at one time, usually at 7 p.m. Ocean cruises typically have two timeslots for dinner, early or late. On the ocean cruises you have access to food 24 hours a day, so you can dine when you want to; this is not true on the river.
Ports of Call
On a river cruise, you can usually walk from your river ship right into the heart of the city or town. If the mooring happens to be a little too far to walk to town, there is usually a complimentary bus to whisk you into town. Ocean cruising usually involves another mode of transportation to get you to the excursion sight or the city. Excursions are included in the price on river cruising, while ocean cruise excursions require you to pay extra money.
Smaller ships equal smaller accommodations. There aren’t many condo-size suites on a river ship. Rather than the 1,500 square foot and up luxury suites on cruise ships, river ship suites are traditionally closer to 500 square feet.
Entertainment and Amenities
Amenities are different between river and ocean cruises. River cruises are all, or almost all, inclusive. This means that your bottled water, wine, beer, most or all cocktails and even shore excursions are included. On a river cruise, your evening entertainment will include a resident piano player/singer and entertainers brought on board in the city where you are docked which could include folkloric dance troupes, cabaret singers, and regional historians.
Ocean cruise ships’ larger sizes allow for more onboard amenities and entertainment options, some of which are included and some of which cost extra. This can include some or all of the following:
- Rock climbing walls
- Water parks
- Enormous fitness centers
- Shopping arcades
- Multiple dining options
- Gala production entertainment.
- Disco nights
Pricing is also quite different between the two ship types. There aren’t any $399 seven night river cruises. Ocean cruises run pricing specials quite often; depending on the port you leave from, you can get 7 day cruising for as little at $400.00 for a Bahama cruise. River cruise pricing can begin at $2,000 per person for a seven night cruise and move up several thousand dollars for the longer and/or more exotic itineraries. Mississippi River and Columbia River cruise prices usually begin at over $3,000 per person. Smaller rivers in North America
can fetch an even higher price tag.
At the end of the day, I highly recommend cruising as a way to travel. I feel people will enjoy river cruising if they have “been there done that” on the ocean cruises. History buffs, retirees, and those looking for a slower pace without the glitz, non-stop action, and mega crowds found on many ocean-going vessels will also appreciate river cruising. You are not cruising with 3000 people who make for long queues to get on and off the ship. However, if you are looking for large crowds, food offered 24 hours a day, 2 or 3 swimming pools, hot tubs, and Vegas type of nightly entertainment then ocean cruising is probably for you.