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Choose Your Cruise: River vs Ocean

Choose Your Cruise: River vs Ocean

For many years, river cruising has had the fastest rate of growth in the tourist industry. But is it the ideal option for you? Before you board a river cruise to sail through Europe, Asia, or other destinations with smaller ports that are well-suited for river cruising, consider these 5 differences to choose your cruise River vs Ocean.

river cruise

1. Numbers of Passengers and Size

Given the differences between the two bodies of water, river cruise ships are typically smaller than oceangoing vessels. This holds true for both the ships’ overall size and the size of the staterooms. The difference in ship proportion means that there will be fewer travelers on river cruises, which generally accommodate around 200 passengers, while ocean cruises often carry thousands.

As you can imagine, the cabins from a river cruise to an ocean cruise will look different. River cruises almost always have one or more windows in staterooms, whereas, ocean cruises have many staterooms that are considered “inside cabins” that don’t have windows. Just keep in mind that most river cruise cabins will be smaller than those on ocean ships.

As a result of the difference in size, ocean cruises are able to house on-deck pools and other activities like rock walls and games. River cruises, in contrast, are generally too small, though both types of ships usually do have libraries and gyms on board. Fewer passengers mean shorter wait times to get on and off river cruise ships, making it easier for you to make the most out of your time at port. These waits can get long on ocean cruises, where thousands of travelers have to show their passports when getting on and off the vessel.

2. Destinations

Oceans go to countries. Shore excursions will include the area surrounding a port. When the ship has an extended stay in a port, cruise lines can offer shore excursions to cities further away. That may consist of several hours by train or motor coach in each direction. City sightseeing tours are usually included. Some will allow you to be on your own in the city and meet for the return at a given time and place.

ocean cruise

Rivers flow through the heart of countries and stop in the charming towns and cities along the river. There is usually more time in port to explore the sights, culture, and cuisine if the destination calls for it. Other itineraries may include more than one port in a day.

Related: Find Your Perfect Cruise Ship Vacation

3. Entertainment

entertainment in cruise

For many, the type of entertainment offered on cruise ships is key. On ocean liners, you’ll often find a variety of shows and performances — from comedy to song and dance, to magic shows. On a river cruise, diversely, the entertainment is much more low-key. Local musicians will often come while the ship is at the port to put on a show in one of the ship’s lounges, for example, or the cruise might host a cultural program meant to enrich your travel experience.

4. Port and Itineraries

An ocean cruise by nature can have many ports in many countries. Offers the chance to see many different countries on one trip but unpacking and packing only once.

River cruises usually have many ports along the river, which gives you time to enjoy the culture, nature, and cuisine of the locale. Sometimes there is more than one port in a day. River cruise ships usually carry limited numbers of bicycles, walking sticks, etc. at no charge.

5. Cuisine

On both river and ocean cruises, you can expect great food, though they will look different. While ocean liners offer diverse cuisine options and dining experiences, river cruises typically only have one or two dining rooms aboard and offer cuisine that is local to your destinations.

cuisine of cruises

Sometimes, river cruise chefs will even pick up fresh ingredients at local markets when you stop at port! But, as a trade-off, the food options will lack the variety you’ll experience on an ocean liner.

Another important note is that, on ocean liners, food is available around the clock. Variously, most river cruises do not offer 24-hour food service, so you’ll need to come prepared if you’re a late-night snacker.

Choose Your Cruise: River vs Ocean

Related: Europe Cruises Deals- 2023

Cruise Critic