While most people have taken a cruise vacation, they are mostly familiar with the traditional and very popular mass market ocean cruises. However, river cruising is quickly gaining popularity and is becoming a hot trend in vacation travel. If you think you do not like cruising – or you’re ready for a different kind of cruise experience- read on and learn some of the basic differences between river and ocean cruising. See which one floats your boat!
Mass market cruise lines carry anywhere from 2000 passengers to over 6,000 passengers. Multiple cabin categories and cabin sizes from small interior cabins (no window) to 2-story loft suites.
River: Luxury lines carry 90 to 140 passengers. Fairly small cabins – 140 square feet cabins with porthole windows to 200 square feet suites with full sit-out balconies.
Ocean: Caribbean islands, Hawaiian islands, Alaska, the Mediterranean, Australia, South Pacific, Asia, South America, Antarctica…. just about anywhere in the world!
River: Mostly Europe – Inland cities and towns along rivers such as the Rhine and Danube – big cities such as Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest to small villages such as Bergerac and St. Emillion in France; Southeast Asia, China, and India itineraries are also offered by several river cruise lines.
Ocean: Wide range of excursions from dolphin swims, zip lining, snorkeling in the Caribbean to whale watching and salmon bakes and train rides in Alaska.
River: Small-scale walking tours with individual headsets that allow everyone to hear the local guides. Excursions focus on sightseeing, history, and culture of the area.
Ocean: Multiple dining venues; many types of cuisine; multiple seating times. You may or may not get to know your waitstaff depending on your dining preferences. Relaxed dress code. Room service.
River: One main dining room and one or two smaller venues. One seating time period for each meal. No room service. Seating is open seating. Table sizes vary, so you can sit with your own traveling companion at a table for two or with a group at a table for 10. Dress code is relaxed. Most people dress casual-dressy dinner attire. Wait staff is very attentive. Service is personable and genuine.
Ocean: Night clubs, Broadway shows, variety shows, comedians, concerts, casinos, pubs.
River: pianist in lounge, local talent such including singers and classical musicians
Ocean: Water slides, cigar bars, ice rinks, 4-D cinemas, rock climbing, zip-lining, bowling, full service spas.
River: Libraries, sundecks, small fitness centers, 24-hour coffee bars, free Wi-Fi. And not a kids’ play area in sight.
Ocean: Cabin, meals in main dining areas and cafes and a few other venues, tap water, coffee, tea…and on-board entertainment.
River: All meals, beer, wine, soda, specialty coffees and teas, bottled water. Some lines include liquor, transfers, and gratuities. Also included on all river cruises are the daily sightseeing excursions in each port. AmaWaterways even has their own bicycles for guests to use in port.
SO, WHO MIGHT LIKE TO RIVER CRUISE?
Those who enjoy sightseeing, culture, art, history and unique experiences.
Those who been there, done that on ocean cruises and want a different type of experience.
Those who prefer a slower pace and calmer experience without the glitz, non-stop action found on many ocean cruises.
Those who enjoy a luxury, cultural experience without having to pack and unpack every couple of days as on an escorted bus tour.
Those who like phenomenal service and attention. With small group sizes, the river cruise staff are able to completely cater to the guests and truly aim to please. The staff become friends!
Those who enjoy meeting others and making friends. You can certainly keep to yourself, but when there are only 100 or so passengers on board, it is very easy to meet others and make new friends – should you want to! River cruising is especially wonderful for solo travelers!
WHAT ABOUT KIDS?
Generally river cruising appeals to an older clientele. There are no organized kids programs or night life for teens on most ships. However, starting in 206, Disney has partnered with Ama Waterways cruise line and is European river cruising vacations. This may be just the ticket for your family. With the Disney touch, the river cruising experience will be much more family friendly.
Don’t wait till the last minute! With ocean cruising you may find a great deal if you wait till the last minute. That won’t be the case for river cruises. These ships are small and fill up very quickly! If you want to take a cruise next summer, put down a deposit now…or at least by January. If you wait too long, you may find your desired itinerary and ship already booked up.