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Ocean Cruise vs River Cruise

When it comes to taking a cruise on river or ocean, it’s pretty tough to go wrong. We like to say that ocean cruises go TO countries, river cruises go THROUGH them. Both offer incredible views, luxurious amenities, and the opportunity to explore interesting ports.

But each one comes with its own unique perks and you might find that one is a slightly better fit than the other. So what are the major differences?

A big difference can be summed up in one word: intimacy. River cruises tend to be much smaller (190 max vs. up to 6,200 on the largest ocean cruises), and as a result, you’re much more likely to be interacting with other passengers and crew members.

That smaller scale translates to all areas of the river cruise. Dining is often handled as open-seating and wine is typically included in the price of the cruise. Instead of 50 different things to do on board, amenities tend to be more modest — think libraries, a workout room, cultural programs, and free Wifi vs. kids’ playrooms, glitzy Broadway shows, and a skydiving simulator. There tend to be fewer kids on river cruises, making them popular for couples seeking quiet and relaxed time together.

You stop at a new port almost every day on a river cruise, often for walking tours through quaint towns with little tourist traffic, and you’re always in view of land. An excursion is typically included in each port. With ocean cruises, you can go days without seeing land, and ports of call and excursions tend to be more exotic and high-adventure. Luxury ocean lines often include a menu of shore excursions, while mass market and premium lines offer them a la carte.

Because of their larger size, ocean cruises offer plenty of options for many ages and they are usually more able to accommodate a wide variety of special health needs. For this reason, they tend to make the best option for multi-generational family gatherings that include young children. For the traveler who is into high-octane adventure, ocean cruises provide a wide variety of activities on board, as well as exotic and daring excursions.

River cruises do tend to be more expensive per person — but that price also includes more components. Ocean cruises have a lower sticker, but you’ll spend more to add beverage packages, excursions, special activities and other amenities.

As always, I’m here and would love to discuss your next cruise. We can look at all the moving parts of your upcoming trip — what you need, what you want, what your dream is — and together we can come up with a cruise you and your loved ones will remember fondly for years to come.

Curious about river cruise itineraries? See a sample.

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