If you’re a fan of ocean cruising but haven’t yet sailed on a river cruise, you may wonder how different the two could possibly be: they both involve a ship and water, right?
Yes, and that’s just about where the similarities end.
A river cruise is an entirely different kind of cruise experience. Some cruise fans find that the quieter, more intimate river experience is what they’ve been looking for. Others prefer the open sea and the feature-rich ships that sail it. And, some find that alternating between the two is a perfect mix of vacation styles.
If you haven’t taken your first river cruise yet, here are some things you may not know about sailing the inland waterways of the world:
- River cruise ships are a lot smaller than ocean-going ships. River cruise ships are much lower, too (they have to fit under low bridges). River cruise ships certainly don’t sacrifice any comfort: they are well-appointed and often quite elegant.
- River cruises focus on the ports. The spotlight is on what you can explore on shore, not on the features of the ship. River cruise ships may have two or three decks, but don’t expect big sports facilities, casinos, multiple restaurants, children’s programs or giant entertainment venues.
- The view is more than water. The shoreline provides an ever-changing view, ranging from historic cities to small villages, from open countryside to stunning river bluffs. You don’t get expansive ocean vistas, but what’s on shore is often fascinating.
- River cruises are great if you’re prone to seasickness. Even with their excellent stabilizers, ocean-going ships can move a bit with the waves and wind. Some cruise guests find it thrilling; others simply use a seasickness preventive. But, the smooth glide of a river cruise means there’s extremely little chance of any motion sickness.
- You can be on land every day. Many ocean cruises include one or more days at sea, with no port calls, and some guests love that opportunity to relax. If you would rather wake up in a new port each day, you’ll enjoy a river cruise.
- You’ll step off the ship into the heart of town. River cruise ships can usually dock right in the city center. There’s no need to drop anchor in the harbor and tender in, or to ride a bus for hour to get to the city that’s on the itinerary.
- You can really get to know your fellow guests. River cruise ships usually carry 100 to 200 passengers, so it can be a much more social atmosphere than an ocean-going ship that accommodates thousands.
- You can even get to know the captain. The smaller size of river cruise ships will bring you into contact with the ship’s captain and other officers more often, which can add a nice personal touch to the cruise experience.
- Shore excursions are included in river cruise fares! Walking tours are a staple of river cruise excursions, so bring your walking shoes. Other amenities that are often “extras” on ocean cruises – such as wine with dinner, airport transfers and Wi-Fi access – are often included in river cruise fares, too.
- You can qualify for group discounts with a smaller group. River cruise ships usually begin to provide group discounts to groups of eight or 10 guests, as opposed to the 15+ required by ocean cruise ships.
Options for river cruises are expanding all the time, with new itineraries being introduced in Europe, Asia, South America and the U.S. Let us help you find a river cruise that you’ll love!
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