top of page

10 Differences Between Ocean and River Cruises

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

What you’ve always wanted to know!

🎧Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Most people know about ocean cruising—it’s been around a long time, and it’s a super popular way to travel. But there are a lot of misconceptions about river cruising, and after going on an ocean cruise, you may have wondered whether a river cruise is right for you. Hopefully this info helps you decide if you’d like to look at river cruising—or if an ocean cruise is your favorite.

1. Size:

Ocean cruises typically accommodate thousands of passengers, while river cruises have a more intimate setting with fewer passengers.

2. Destinations:

Ocean cruises cover a vast range of destinations worldwide, including remote islands and continents. River cruises, on the other hand, focus on rivers and waterways in specific regions or countries.


River cruises offer stunning views of landscapes, picturesque villages, and historical landmarks along the riverbanks. Ocean cruises provide vast open-sea views and breathtaking sunsets.

4. Port Accessibility:

River cruises can dock in smaller ports and city centers, allowing passengers to easily explore their destinations. Ocean cruises often dock in larger ports and require additional transportation to reach city centers.

5. Onboard Amenities:

Ocean cruises tend to have more extensive onboard facilities, such as multiple restaurants, pools, theaters, and entertainment options. River cruises provide a more intimate setting with fewer amenities but still offer comfort and relaxation.

6. Itinerary & flexibility:

Both ocean and river cruises follow a set itinerary with pre-determined ports of call. River cruises often explore more than one destination per day. Ocean cruises offer days at sea, to enjoy the many onboard offerings, combined with days in port. Both river and ocean cruises allow the freedom to enjoy excursions, or explore the destination on your own.

7. Activities:

Ocean cruises offer a wide range of activities, including water sports, fitness centers, casinos, and nightlife options. River cruises focus more on cultural and educational experiences, with activities such as guided shore excursions and onboard lectures.

8. Sea Conditions:

Ocean cruises can sometimes be affected by rough seas and motion sickness, particularly during storms or when crossing open waters. River cruises, being on inland waterways, provide a smoother and more stable sailing experience.

9. Cabin sizes and types:

Both ocean and river cruise cabins range in size and type. Ocean cruise cabins have three main types: inside (no windows), ocean view (picture window), and balcony. River cruise cabins have two or three main types: window, French balcony (no step-out balcony, just a sliding door), and balcony. With both cruise types, cabin size varies by type and location.

10. Value:

Ocean cruises usually have a lower upfront cost and often include a greater variety of onboard activities. River cruises often have a higher upfront cost but include more personalized experiences, such as guided tours, fine dining, and cultural immersion.

If you’d like to find out about more, including details regarding service, embarking and disembarking, laundry, Wi-fi, and the cruise personnel onboard, let me know! There are so many more differences than I touched on here. I’m happy to have a conversation anytime; I’ve cruised on both rivers and oceans!


bottom of page