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Ocean or River – The Main Differences

Ocean or River Cruises

Passengers now have more options than ever on what type of cruise holiday to book. River cruising is the fastest growing sector in the cruise industry. They are a great option if you want to relax and avoid the masses.

Whether it is the Rhine, Danube, Nile or the Amazon, river cruises are perfect for close up encounters in towns and villages. There are many differences between river cruising and those on the ocean.

Take a look below to see which type will be a good fit for you.


Arrival and departure

There are no huge port terminals and long queues to stand in with thousands of your fellow passengers. Embarkment procedures are quick and easy. Whilst docking, simply walk off the vessel and into the town. Once the journey is complete, there’s not too much trouble with your luggage either.

Itinerary and location

River cruises are better for those that want a slow and relaxing holiday. The ships often make stops right in the centre of smaller cities, towns and villages; allowing you to get a real feel for the area instead of arriving at a not so nice commercial looking port and getting on a coach to view the attractions.

More intimate

River cruise ships are not mega ships and are designed differently than a traditional cruise ship. They are narrow and not so deep which allows them to navigate the shallow waters. The advantage for those who enjoy meeting new people, is that you will get to know nearly everyone as the numbers onboard are very small compared to an ocean going ship. Cabins are designed for two people and many come with French style balconies.

Dining and entertainment

Mealtimes are designated at the same time each day on a river cruise ship. Entertainment can sometimes be based on the most recent port of call. Regional music is frequently played in the lounge and enrichment programs with lecturers are very common.


A huge advantage is that most river cruise lines include some free excursions. There are also for-a-fee premium tours, but no matter where the vessel calls at, there will be a freebie too. Prior to reaching a designated destination, you can attend a destination guide or seminar the day/night before to pick up some knowledge of the culture and points of interests.

Child free

Whilst river cruises don’t ban families with children, most cabins on river cruise ships can only sleep two and there’s not much to keep younger children entertained. For the time being, a river cruise is attractive to couples and older passengers who don’t like the idea of children running about.


More choices

An ocean cruise holiday offers much more choice in terms of destinations, the number of cruise lines and ships. Because of the vast amount of passengers, prices tend to be lower on an ocean voyage when compared to a river cruise. Great deals are available all year round.


Last minute bookings are common and are usually great value especially if you are not fussy about the cruise line or destination. River cruises sell out very quickly simply because each ship can take so few people. With an ocean cruise, you can head out on impulse for the most part.

Non-stop activities

Ocean cruise vessels are enormous when compared to river ships. This means that your floating hotel can be an all inclusive holiday filled with a never ending amount of activities and entertainment. From full service spas, swimming pools and even a mini golf course or rock climbing wall, a holiday on an ocean cruise ship really does have something for everyone.


For foodies, nothing beats an ocean cruise. Besides main the dining room, passengers have more alternatives with specialty venues, casual dining and extensive buffets nearly all day long. For many passengers dining is one of the most important parts of their cruise holiday.


Extensive entertainment options from West End shows to Las Vegas extravaganzas to chamber music performances are found on a sea going cruise. Whilst river cruises focus on views and destinations; the ocean cruise experience offers much, much more.

Family Oriented

Ocean cruises have children’s centres that are popular for not only the kids but their parents too. There are children’s camps which give parents a break to head to a casino or have a meal in a specialty restaurant for instance. There are many activities that offer good family quality time. These may include aqua parks, bumper cars and bowling, depending on the ship.

Written by Veronica Shine

Been on an Ocean or River Cruise? Tell us which you prefer below!

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