top of page

8 big differences between ocean and river cruises

Is a river cruise the right fit for you?

You’ve probably heard me talk about river cruises, but today I’m going to take a step back and give you more of a high overview. What exactly ARE the biggest differences between ocean cruising and river cruising? There’s definitely something for everyone when it comes to both, but you’re probably a lot more familiar with ocean cruising (whether you’ve heard of them or have actually been on a cruise or two). So let’s settle in and talk about the differences, so you know what to expect and whether it’s a good time for you to start looking into planning a river cruise.

River cruise fact 1: No big line-ups

With ocean cruises, there are just a lot of people. With river cruises, there aren’t. So forget about the frustrating lines and finding a spot by the overcrowded pools. Exchange that for getting your food and drinks in no time, and not waiting for much of anything.

River cruise fact 2: Personalized service

River cruises offer a unique level of personalization because they have a high passenger-to-staff ratio. You’ll be welcomed aboard in an environment where the staff strives to create experiences tailored just for you: they know your name and your preferences, and it’s an effortless way to sail. Ocean cruises often have good service, and often your room steward or waiter will become your favorite person onboard. But on a river cruise, you’ll get to know many more than those couple of people, and they’ll soon feel like family.

River cruise fact 3: Get on and off the ship in seconds

Boarding day will leave you speechless. Seriously. No more 15-step and 3-hour long check-ins. You and your luggage will both be on board within minutes. On port days, you can easily breeze on and off the ship as much as you want. Ocean cruising is always more of a wait, because of the number of people who are traveling on the ship with you. Both ways of cruising are safety-conscious, requiring you to scan your room key card on the way in and out, so they know who’s on board and who’s off, at any given time.

River cruise fact 4: Locally sourced foods

Sailing along the riverbanks gives you the opportunity to experience the unique flavors of the region. Because you’re in port every day, the chefs get to shop for the foods you’ll be eating on a daily basis. Ocean cruises have to have everything stocked in pantries and freezers before departing, and have no opportunity to buy fresh ingredients during the cruise, for thousands of people.

River cruise fact 5: Excursions are included

On an ocean cruise, you pay for the cruise and then add on the excursions you want to do. Many river cruise lines include the excursions in your cruise price! River cruise excursions include walking or biking tours, food tours, visiting local museums, cathedrals, and castles, and more. Ocean cruises also have some great excursions to offer. Both ocean and river cruise ships allow you to not have any excursions scheduled, but to get off the ship and do your own thing.

River cruise fact 6: Free connection

River cruises offer complimentary WiFi. You can easily keep in touch with family back home and share experiences along your journey. Ocean cruises offer WiFi for a fee.

River cruise fact 7: Cabins with a view

Cabin interiors on river cruises are chic and cozy, full of stunning views. There’s no such thing as an inside cabin on the river; all cabins have windows or balconies. Ocean cruises have a combination of inside, ocean view, and balcony cabins.

River cruise fact 8: No kids’ clubs

Some river cruises are inclusive of children, but in a different way than ocean cruises. Ocean cruises have pools and programs just for the children onboard. River cruises don’t cater to kids in the same way, although many are happy to have them onboard. Their kids’ programs are more understated, expecting kids to enjoy the river cruise in the same ways the adults do: with excursions and new sights and sounds every day.

River cruise fact 9: Fantastic cruise managers

Chances are, on your last ocean cruise you have no idea who the cruise manager was—or maybe you remember his or her voice over the intercom but that’s about it. On a river cruise, your cruise manager will feel like a good friend. Cruise managers on river cruises have extraordinary attention to detail, and guarantee nothing short of excellence with hospitality and service. You’ll interact with them often throughout the cruise, and will hate to say goodbye at the end.

Click here for more information about our French river cruise! We'd love to have you join us.

Those are just nine of the differences between ocean and river cruises! Let me know if you’d like to have a conversation about whether a river cruise would be the right fit for you. Honestly, if you love the action, restaurants, onboard activities, waterslides and pools that you find on an ocean cruise, then probably you wouldn’t love a river cruise. But if some of the things I’ve mentioned today have piqued your interest, let me know and I’d be happy to give you more information!


bottom of page