From time to time, regular ocean cruisers ask whether a river cruise might be right for them. These are typically seasoned ocean cruise travelers who are looking for something a bit different. I tell them river cruises are a great option to consider. Here’s 10 reasons why:
- Fewer fellow passengers – Most river cruise ships hold only 100 – 200 passengers, unlike ocean cruise ships which hold between 3,000 – 5,000 guests. On a river cruise you are likely to meet all the guests onboard which creates a sense of familiarity and community. With fewer guest, crew can get to know all the guests and offer more personalized service than is possible on large ocean ships. Boarding and disembarkation at ports is easier and less congested.
- More relaxed & casual – There are no formal nights on river cruises. The entire atmosphere is casual and relaxed.
- No sea sickness – You are surrounded by land all the time. River waters are smooth so sea sickness isn’t an issue.
- No children – Rarely will you find screaming young children or rowdy young adults. River cruise ships are not party boats.
- Cultural immersion – River cruises tend to be filled with adults over 40 who are seeking a cultural immersion. River cruise lines bring on local experts who will immerse you in the culture and history of the ports you’ll visit. Frequently the evening entertainment will feature locals performing their music and dance. Free shore excursions tend to be included with guides showcasing towns, business, vineyards, castles and other locally significant points of interest. Many lines offer bikes you can take to tour the countryside or ride through a medieval town.
- All-inclusive – Overall river cruises are more all-inclusive than the mainstream mass market cruise lines. While there is less nickel-and-diming on a river cruise, not all river cruise lines are the same. See our chart here. Most include pre-paid gratuities, WiFi, and shore excursions.
- No sea days & lots of scenic sailing – Almost every day brings a new port to discover. There are no sea days which means more time to explore new destinations. While sailing you’ll pass by beautiful scenery – vineyards and farmland, castles, historic villages, majestic vistas and mountains.
- Dock in the center of town – There is no need for transportation into the port city as most ports are in the center of historic towns built on the river. Unlike many ocean cruise ports which are located in industrial parts of a city and require ground transportation to the center of town.
- Destinations – River cruises can take you to some of the most enchanting and exotic destinations in the world – think Paris, Budapest, Vienna, and Amsterdam to name just a few.
- Less crowded ports – Large cruise ships can overwhelm small towns and villages. With less than 200 passengers, river cruise guests are able to blend in with locals and enjoy a more authentic experience.
One surprise for many ocean cruisers is the higher cost of river cruises. If you usually choose a standard balcony stateroom on a mass market or premium ocean cruise line, you will be paying more for that same size stateroom on a river cruise. There are several reasons for the higher price. First, ocean liners can spread the overhead cost (captain, chief engineer, hotel manager, maintenance and cleaning staff, and on-shore administrative staff) over 3,000 – 5,000 passengers versus a river cruise passenger roster of around 150. Similarly, large ocean cruises lines have greater economies of scale in their purchasing departments for food and supplies. Finally, ocean cruises occur mostly in international waters where they are not subject to local labor laws. Most river cruise lines operate within countries and are subject to local labor as well as health and safety regulations. This significantly increases operating costs.
River cruises are an exciting and relaxing way to vacation while visiting historic and quaint villages and towns. Most river cruisers find it incredibly rewarding and educational.
You should give it serious consideration.