If you’re new to cruise, or indeed have always stuck to either river or ocean cruising, you might be curious to know more about the differences between the two. The fact is, both kinds of cruising offer some incredible opportunities, but of course there are many aspects which contrast. Find out more with our overview of river vs ocean cruising.
The Destinations Visited
There aren’t many crossovers when it comes to the destinations travelled to on river and ocean cruising. While an ocean liner can sail across the seven seas transporting you to countries and islands all over the globe, river ships traverse the world’s rivers, from The Rhine in Europe to the exotic Mekong in Southeast Asia. Usually, a river cruise will allow guests the opportunity to be in a new destination every day, with the ship sailing through the night, whereas on an ocean cruise you might find one or more sea days. So depending on whether or not you’re looking to spend time relaxing on the ship, or prefer a port-heavy itinerary, this could sway your decision.
Activities on the Ship
With the above in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that ocean liners will generally offer a lot more in the way of things to do onboard than river ships. You’ll usually find a plunge pool, gym, and possibly spa facilities on a river ship, however on an ocean cruise ship there will this plus a lot more. From F1 simulators with MSC Cruises and ice rinks with Royal Caribbean, to cookery schools and Strictly Come Dancing events with P&O Cruises, there’s no denying that ocean ships offer a lot more onboard activities. This is one aspect specifically worth considering if you’ll be cruising with children.
There is a certain family-friendly, excitable atmosphere on larger, mainstream ocean cruise ships that you won’t find on a river cruise ship. With more guests, – Symphony of the Seas can hold almost 7,000 – more attractions, and larger social areas, these vessels are great for kids and those looking for fun and thrills. Alternatively, if you want to relax and soak up the surroundings and local culture, a river cruise could be the better option. With a much lower passenger-count, and often just one bar and one restaurant, the ambience on a river cruise ship is calmer and arguably more refined. Having said this there are a number of luxury ocean cruise lines which provide a similar experience.
Onboard Food and Drink
Those travelling with little ones, or foodies who enjoy plenty of choice and variation, would probably prefer an ocean cruise where dining is concerned. Some of the bigger lines offer a fantastic array of restaurants, for instance Carnival Cruises boast everything from Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que to the brilliant Dr Seuss themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast for kids. On a river cruise on the other hand, you’ll often get just one or maybe two restaurants, serving a small a la carte menu. While the food onboard is delectable, there is limited choice. Those with dietary requirements should mention these at the time of booking, and then again when onboard.
Entertainment on the Ship
Generally speaking, entertainment on a river cruise ship involves some unique experiences which allow the guests to become immersed in local culture. You can expect things like local musicians and dancers, or talks about upcoming destinations. These sorts of opportunities are also seen on ocean liners, however you’ll also often get some extravagant productions. Find the likes of Hairspray and Jersey Boys among other Broadway/West End style performances, and a fantastic aquatic acrobatic show with Royal Caribbean.
The differences between river cruising and ocean cruising can be seen as pros and cons depending on your likes and dislikes, and what you’re looking to get out of your cruise holiday. Each certainly have their merits, and while cruisers might tend to stick to one or the other, it can be refreshing and usually rewarding to try something new, so be sure to be open minded and consider all options.
On the other hand, some cruise lines offer both ocean and river cruising itineraries, ensuring you never have to choose between your favourites. With the highlights of ocean cruising on a smaller scale, more intimate-sized ship, passengers will love the best of both worlds. One of the most popular cruise lines to cater to both markets is Thomson-Marella who also operate TUI River Cruises. If you’re still unsure of what option to go with, get in touch with our expert team for more advice!