There’s more than one way to cruise, and both ocean and river cruises are terrific vacation options. If you haven’t tried both of them yet, you may be surprised by how different they are. Both types of cruises will put you on a well-equipped ship with an attentive crew, but that’s about as far as their similarities go. Many travelers love them both, but some prefer one or the other.
To help you choose river or ocean for your next cruise, let’s take a look at the features of each. A break down comparing river and ocean cruises to help you choose!
|River cruise ships are designed to fit through small locks, under low bridges, and into shallow-water docks in city centers. These low-lying ships hold 100 to 200 passengers, providing a much more intimate atmosphere than most ocean ships. Many have a cocktail lounge, a salon, a gym, a hot tub or even a small pool. However, the focus of a river cruise is not what you can do on board, but what you can do on shore. If you like a low-key atmosphere and getting to know your fellow passengers, this is for you.
|There are some smaller luxury ships on the high seas, but ocean cruise ships generally accommodate 1,000 to 5,000 or more passengers, plus crew. They have expansive decks, up to 16 of them. There are pools (some even have mini-waterparks), sport courts, spacious spas and fitness centers, theaters that can accommodate Broadway-style shows, and other large-scale entertainment and recreation spaces. In short, an ocean cruise ship is a destination in itself, akin to a floating resort. If you like having lots of onboard activities, this is for you.
|Expect lovely staterooms with luxurious furnishings. Designed with the moving scenery along the river banks in mind, most staterooms have sizable windows: floor-to-ceiling windows that can be opened are quite common, and some lead to a small balcony.
|While river ships don’t have much variation in stateroom size, ocean ships may have up to 30 different sizes (or categories) to choose from. These range from tidy, windowless “inside” cabins to multi-bedroom suites the size of a small condo. Depending on the cruise line, furnishings range from comfortable to the height of luxury.
|River cruises call on a new port every day, so there’s always something new to see and do. If you find that you need a day of rest, you’re always welcome to stay on the ship and relax, but you probably won’t want to miss a port of call.
|Ocean cruises travel across a considerable amount of water to reach fun and exotic ports, which means you may have more than one day at sea in a row. “Sea days” are a great time to relax and enjoy the amenities of the ship; plus, there will be games, tournaments and other activities to keep you busy.
|River cruise cuisine tends to be gourmet, and frequent port calls provide opportunities to bring on fresh, local ingredients, which translate to dishes that reflect the region you’re sailing through. There’s usually a single dining venue with set times for service; some ships have cocktail lounges where you can grab a late-night snack.
|Many ocean ships still have a formal dining room with scheduled seatings, but an increasing number of ships now offer multiple restaurants that range from casual bites to high-end specialty cuisine. The variety can be fun and helpful if you are cruising with family members of different ages and food preferences.
|River cruises welcome guests of all ages, but tend to attract adults who enjoy the atmosphere and social life of a river cruise. You may meet a family group on a river cruise, but there are no family-style staterooms or special programs for children.
|A great variety of people enjoy ocean cruising: singles, couples, retirees, multi-generational family groups, girlfriends, bachelor parties, special interest groups…you get the idea. Many ships have activities designed for children; some have quiet adult-only spaces, too.
To find out about river and ocean cruise fares, itineraries, dining and more, talk with an agent who specializes in cruising.