Ocean Cruises Versus River Cruises: Which is Better for You?
Ocean cruises continue to be one of the most popular options for vacation travel. And for good reason: they transport you to popular destinations in style, with spectacular shows, sumptuous dining, and endless activities onboard to engage you en route. But while ocean cruises take you to destinations, river cruises take you through them. That’s right: more and more ocean cruisers are beginning to consider river cruising, making it the fastest-growing sector of the cruise industry right now. While river cruising has been around for some time, enhanced amenities and attractive itineraries are enticing some ocean cruisers to give river cruising a try.
Keep reading to discover whether ocean cruises or river cruises are a better fit for you.
Ocean Cruises: Abundant Family-Friendly Amenities
Ocean cruises sail around the coastlines of their destination countries and tend to dock in multiple countries on a single voyage. Some of the most popular destinations include the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and Norway in Europe; the eastern seaboard and Alaska in the US; and tropical islands such as Tahiti and Hawaii and those in the Caribbean. Vessels’ size makes it difficult for travelers to experience interior sites in destination countries, and at certain ports, a bus transfer may be necessary. However, adventure seekers will love the shore excursion options, which normally include thrilling activities like scuba diving, zip lining, and ATV riding.
In terms of life onboard, ocean cruise vessels are akin to a floating village in both population and amenities. Ships normally carry between 3,000 and 6,000 passengers. If you’re the life of the party, you may enjoy that the size of the crowd increases the variety of people you’ll meet. Or perhaps you prefer a little anonymity on your travels. While you might not have a sense of intimacy or personalization on board, you’ll find no shortage of amenities to keep you entertained. Ships come loaded with activities ranging from dazzling Broadway musicals and cabaret productions to multiple pools and spas for relaxation to rock climbing walls, flying simulators, and water slides to get your adrenaline pumping. With so many activities and areas to explore, you’re sure to find age-appropriate entertainment for the whole family. When it comes to dining on board an ocean cruise ship, variety is the spice of life. You’ll have your choice of dining venues, often including a main dining room, a buffet, multiple specialty restaurants, and several cocktail lounges. If you need a night away from the crowd, might I suggest room service on your private balcony? Lastly, while ocean cruises are incredibly affordable, with even lower pricing for interior cabins, they can be more complicated to budget for, as they tend to charge separately for various amenities such as WiFi, beverages, and shore excursions. To be safe, you’ll want to account for what you plan to spend onboard and ashore before booking. This is where I can be helpful in sorting through all the options and costs with you.
River Cruises: Intimate Cultural Immersion
In contrast with ocean cruises, river cruises sail along large rivers, taking you through the heart of your destination countries and docking at both quaint villages and major cities. Some of the most popular destinations include those in Europe, along the Rhine, Rhone, Seine, and Duoro Rivers, to name just a few. Beyond Europe, you may river cruise on the Volga in Russia, the Yangtze and Mekong in Asia, the Nile and Zambesi in Africa, and several rivers in the US. Vessels’ smaller size allows for endless scenery, as you’re always close to the shore, and you’ll frequently dock within walking distance of the sites to see. Because ports are closer together and the ship travels mostly by night, there are no days at sea, and you can cover ground quickly—up to four countries in one week. This emphasis on sightseeing and quicker pace means that you’ll need to build in your own time for relaxation. Options for daily shore excursions tend to be culturally and historically focused, while also providing time for self- or tour-guided exploration by foot or by ship-provided bicycles. Because river cruises are more focused on destinations, the experience onboard differs from that of an ocean cruise. River cruise ships hold roughly 150 to 225 passengers, producing more intimate and personalized experiences onboard. The atmosphere is quite social and conducive to making new friends easily, and the vessel’s crew come to know you well, allowing them to cater to your individual tastes. In terms of amenities, you won’t find casinos or big production shows here. Instead, you’ll witness performances by local folk singers and dancers, and perhaps by an onboard pianist or small string ensemble. River cruises offer unique experiences well-suited for adult travelers, such as educational lectures, cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, and trivia. In terms of dining, river cruising, like ocean cruising, never disappoints. While river cruise ships tend to provide less dining options, with one main restaurant and perhaps a few smaller venues for private dining, they often offer delicacies local to the destination and the freshest fish and produce. Breakfast and lunch tend to be served by buffet followed by a multicourse dinner served at set times with open seating at tables of four to eight. Finally, while river cruises tend to be more expensive, the price encompasses much more than an ocean cruise, making it easier to budget for. The cost of a river cruise normally includes a shore excursion at every port, beverages, and WiFi, in addition to other amenities. River cruise cabins tend to be smaller than ocean cruise cabins, but none are interior, and many include panoramic windows or balconies. The journey tends to be smoother because of fewer waves, making seasickness less likely. And if you’re interested in sailing, you may enjoy watching the vessel pass through locks while in transit. Whether you’re an ocean cruiser or a river cruiser, cruises make for fantastic group vacations, with something for everyone in your multigenerational family and sometimes with particular themes like wine that bring together your like-minded friends. My favorite part of cruising is exploring destinations in small groups during the day then coming together to swap stories with all of my family and friends over our delicious evening meal. With all of the cruise options available now, get in touch with me today so that I can help you find the best value and fit for you. Wherever your nautical travels take you, I’m wishing you calm seas and priceless memories.