8 reasons why a river cruise is better than an ocean cruise

Many people love cruises and some of the biggest names in the travel industry sound like festivals, nobility, and confused nationalities – Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess, and Holland America.

However, what if you don’t like ocean cruises? Me, I have said that an ocean cruise is one type of vacation I don’t want.

While I understand that many people love big ocean cruises and may not agree with me, I just want to look at a different type of cruise experience. As popular as big cruise lines are, there may be a better alternative for some people – river cruises.

River cruises offer cruises on a smaller scale – smaller ships and rivers as opposed to big cruise ships and oceans. Like big cruise liners, river cruises go all over the world – Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and North America down some of the biggest, widest, and most popular rivers in the world.

While cruise names like Viking, Avalon, AMA, Uniworld, and Grand Central sound more like clever internet marketing and sales companies, they offer some of the best travel experiences.

Why river cruises are better than ocean cruises

1. Fewer people - While the large cruise lines can have over 3,000 people or more on a ship, the largest river cruise will have 300 people. Most river cruises are around 150 people or less which means no fighting over your appointed dinner time, a more relaxed and casual cruise, and more personal attention from staff. They will probably learn your name and you will probably get to know more people on your cruise as well.

2. Educational, upscale entertainment - While ocean cruises offer gambling, dancing, karaoke, and Vegas-style shows, river cruises are more elegant and educational. Learn about the history of a region by attending a lecture. Enjoy the classical sounds of a string quartet. Taste local wines and foods. Watch a regional folklore performance. Bottom line – entertainment on board is more relaxed and educational encouraging your mind and body to enjoy the slower pace.

3. Extra costs and up-front pricing - While ocean cruises charge extra for excursions, alcohol, and more, some of these things are included in river cruises. When they aren’t, most are listed up-front so you aren’t hit with unexpected charges at the end. Knowing how much your trip will cost can help you plan and save money on a river cruise.

4. Bigger, better rooms - While the size of rooms on river cruises varies, all are comparable or even bigger than those on big cruise ships. And because there are fewer rooms and the ships are smaller, nearly every room has an outside view. And by the outside view, I don’t mean a small porthole.

Almost every room has at least a regular-sized window and many have floor-to-ceiling views. On many ships, over 80% have a balcony of some sort as well. And the rooms themselves are often a big upgrade in terms of decor, amenities, and comfort over big ocean cruise lines. Say bye-bye to cramped, dark interior staterooms.

5. Local destinations - While ocean cruises are restricted to cities near the ocean and major bodies of water, river cruises allow you to see big cities, small towns, and everywhere in between.

You can really get an understanding of the culture as you sample local foods, walk down cobble-stoned streets, take a peek at village life, and immerse yourself in the sites and sounds of the many places along these rivers. An 8-hour excursion to a major city isn’t enough to experience the country and culture but a few days along the river to various towns and cities are.

6. Cheaper bill - While many are aware of the extra costs that add up on cruises, gratuities (i.e. tips) are added on as part of your bill that you must pay. With river cruises, gratuities are voluntary and you contribute the amount that you want. You know what you owe at the end of the cruise rather than being surprised by the amount on your bill. (Helpful advice: While tipping isn’t mandatory, better service and personal attention should lead you to tip at least a little something on a river cruise)

7. Better service - Fewer people, more attentive staff, and a more personal relationship with the staff will probably mean better service on river cruises. While the staff on big ocean cruisers are often polite and helpful, they are getting a percentage of your tip at the end – like it or not. With river cruise staff, they know tipping is voluntary so more personal service and a good attitude should make it a better cruise.

8. An all-around, better cruise - On ocean cruises, the ship is your entertainment while ports and excursions are your breaks from the trip. The ship is an all-you-can-eat buffet, amusement park, Vegas-style casino, and show on a floating hotel. You are busy from sun up to sun down (and beyond).

A different type of cruise experience

Ocean cruises offer a wide variety of activities, a chance to enjoy good food, see some great destinations, and enjoy a full day of sightseeing and fun while meeting lots of new people.

However, for some people and personalities, river cruises offer a different type of cruise experience that may fit their travel styles.

A river cruise is about relaxing, enjoying food, learning, taking in the culture and history of the places you are visiting, and experiencing what is around you. While there are a number of amenities and onboard activities to entertain you, one of the best things about a river cruise is what you see – the views from your ship (and not the ship itself).

While big ocean cruises may be bigger, cheaper, and more popular, weigh all of your options before you decide where to book your next cruise. You might be surprised to find that river cruises offer some of the best vacations around.

Have you taken a river cruise? Which type of cruise do you prefer?
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