Cruise TipsDifferences Between Ocean and River Cruises

Differences Between Ocean and River Cruises

Comparing ocean cruise ships to one another often boils down to the difference between cruise lines. One focuses on fun while another entertainment. This cruise line has ships that sail all over the world while that one concentrates on the Caribbean, Alaska or the Bahamas. They all share some common characteristics compared to travel by air or on land as do river cruises. Still, there are some differences between river and ocean cruises that go beyond where they sail and are important to know before buying.
River Or Ocean: Unpack Once, See Many Places

By river or ocean, ships carry their passengers to desirable places, bringing their floating hotel along with them. Add up the cost of a hotel and transportation to just about any cruise itinerary and via ship almost always comes out costing less. Throw in that skipping the hotel hopping and transportation involved gives more quality time when we travel for a bonus.

The Difference:

  • When an ocean cruise ship calls at a port, thousands of passengers could potentially get off the ship, overwhelming what they went there to see. On a river cruise, that number is usually less than 200 if everyone went ashore.
  • River cruise ships commonly visit more iconic landmarks including UNESCO World Heritage sites. Even if there were ten river cruise ships in town (that’s a lot), the total bodies ashore would be far less than the number of people getting off one big ocean cruise ship.

River Or Ocean: An Undeniably Great Travel Value

Compared to land vacations, cruise travel almost always comes out on top. Assuming travelers are matched with appropriate ships for their interests, both ocean and river cruises deliver what they advertise, often exceeding expectations.

The Difference:

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  • On an ocean cruise, most onboard services are available to all passengers. Those selecting less expensive accommodations naturally end up with a better value. A $499 inside stateroom has access to the same ship features as a $1499 balcony stateroom.
  • River cruises include more for the price, increasing the value of all passengers, regardless of their accommodations. Shore excursions are commonly included as are beverages paid for on an ocean cruise.

River Or Ocean: Getting There

Cruise travelers sailing from North America have a distinct advantage over river cruisers; they can often drive to the port. River cruisers (except those who sail on the few river ships available in North America) have to fly a long distance. The difference between a tank of gas and a plane ticket to Europe is real

The Difference:

  • Caribbean ocean cruises have a distinct advantage when it comes to getting there. Even if a flight to the embarkation port is needed, competition among airlines for short domestic flights is fierce, resulting in readily available low fares.
  • We think a big reason for the sustained growth of river cruises is that seasoned cruise travelers are tired of the Caribbean and/or do not get into big ship features as they once did. Booking far in advance, river cruise companies commonly offer 2/1 airfare.

River Or Ocean: The Culinary Experience

This is one area where big ship cruises, with all the space they have to add features, really go over the top. Celebrity chefs lend their names to signature eateries. Choices include everything from a hot dog on a bun to fabulous, lifetime-quality dining experiences one would pay far more for on land.

The Difference:

  • Big ships come very close to having something for everyone in a wide variety of dining venues.
  • River cruise ships include breakfast, lunch and dinner in a comparatively small number of venues. On the other hand, they dock more frequently and at places where passengers can get off the ship and dine locally.

Beyond the solid differences noted above, the overall experience of an ocean cruise vs a river cruise is to be considered as well. It takes having your head in two very different places to enjoy either one.

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Chris Owen
Chris Owen
Writer – Chris Owen Chris Owen is a travel writer from Orlando Florida charged with sharing frank, inside information about cruise vacations with travelers. You can visit his website at
Cruise TipsDifferences Between Ocean and River Cruises

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