A Dozen Differences Between Ocean And River Cruises

Comparing the differences between ocean and river cruises, there are a number of significant differences for would-be cruise travelers to wrangle with, much like there are differences between different ocean cruise lines. Still, knowing the unique parts of both cruise travel styles is important so we don’t get stuck on the wrong ship.

  • Port Cities Are Not Overwhelmed By 190 People. Stack up 5 ships in Grand Cayman and thousands of passengers could potentially come ashore. Checking in with website Cruise TT which counts such numbers for us, on January 9, 2014 Independence of the Seas, Mariner Of The Seas, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Paradise and Celebrity Equinox will all be in port with a total of 17,390 passengers. Surely, not all 17,390 passengers will come ashore. Many will stay on their feature-heavy ocean cruise ship, enjoying the day with far fewer passengers to compete with. But at other ports, more passengers will come ashore. On the river, we have more often than not been the only ship in port.
  • Docking Your River Cruise Ship- A notable difference here, river ships dockside by side on the river. Those on all ships docking after the first one will walk through the other ships to get to shore. It sounds odd, not really a big deal.
  • Free Internet Is The Way The World Should Be– Seriously, that ocean cruise lines still charge for Internet access is bordering on ridiculous these days. On the river, Internet access is complimentary. That does not make it any faster, river cruise Internet systems are still satellite systems using line-of-sight technology. But ‘slow and free’ are a world away from ‘slow and I’m paying by the minute’.
  • Culturally Curious or Here For The Party? Not to judge either group but culturally curious travelers will find a direct line to what feeds their addiction faster on a river cruise ship than on an ocean vessel. Swing through the Caribbean a few times and your ocean ship darn well better have plenty of onboard features because attractions at the ports visited will play out rather quickly. On the rivers of Europe, Russia & Ukraine, China & Southeast Asia and (in growing popularity) North America, river cruise travelers often walk right off the ship in front of iconic landmarks too numerous to experience in a lifetime.
  • A River Not A Body Of Water– While the ocean is a great big thing we sail in to get to places, major rivers have been the lifeblood of the areas they flow though (or communities they have been directed to) for centuries. Sailing on those rivers, we are within sight of stunning countryside, spectacular cities of today and ancient towns at all times. In the Summer, the river banks are lined with locals out for a stroll, camping, enjoying the day and more, much like they have for hundreds of years. Both have had their allure throughout time but today both are distinctly different to sail on.
  • Worried about the ship sinking? River ships are rarely in water deep enough to cover them if they touched the river bottom. Ocean cruise ships; a different story.
  • Motion discomfort a problem? There is little rocking and rolling on a river ship. Ever.
  • She Saw The Sea Shore-Does ‘getting away’ means seeing nothing in all directions of the ship, like on a day at sea? Choose the ocean, the shore is always in sight on a river ship.
  • The Balcony Obsession– On an ocean cruise with days at sea, balconies are often a must-have accommodation. Smokers especially liked this upgrade in the past, until being all but banned from their private outdoor space. I know, I was one of them. On the river, balconies are nice but surely not required to ‘getaway’ from the crowd. There is no crowd.
  • The Inclusive Nature Of A Cruise Vacation. By the ocean or river, cruise vacations are inclusive by nature. River cruises are more inclusive. Most river cruise lines include beer, wine, soft drinks, and coffee drinks during meal times. Internet access, as mentioned, is included as well as a shore tour at every stop along the way.
  • A Very Nice View- Both ocean and river cruises boast that travelers unpack once and see a number of different places. That statement is accurate but it means more on a European river cruise where ships dock at picturesque locations, often staying late or overnight. In Budapest, we shared our overnight view with a nice Intercontinental Hotel located on the shore of the river Danube.
  • My Kind Of Pricing- While Ocean cruising prices may be all over the board, making when to buy a difficult decision, river cruises are a different story. Not all that long ago, ocean cruise companies gave the best pricing to those who bought far in advance. Today, while getting the first pick at stateroom availability is still a virtue of early booking, ocean cruise pricing may not be and that can cause a great amount of frustration to buyers who are paying attention.

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