Ocean vs. River cruising: Which one is right for your family?

Ocean vs. River cruising: Which one is right for your family?

When it comes to taking a river cruise or an ocean cruise, it’s pretty tough to go wrong. Both offer incredible views, luxurious amenities, and the opportunity to explore interesting ports. 

But each one comes with its own unique perks, and depending on your specific needs for your next trip, you might find that one is a slightly better fit than the other. So what are the major differences?

One big difference can be summed up in one word: intimacy. River cruises tend to be much smaller, with under 200 guests, vs. ocean cruises with thousands of guests. As a result, you’re much more likely to interact with other passengers and crew members on a river cruise. 

That smaller scale translates to all areas of the river cruise. You dine on a regular schedule at tables with other passengers (beer, wine, and soft drinks are typically included in the price of the cruise). Entertainment options and activities tend to be more modest with river cruises — think libraries, a small workout room, cultural programs, and free Wifi vs. ten kids’ playrooms, glitzy Broadway shows, and a skydiving simulator. There tend to be fewer children on river cruises, which makes them popular for couples seeking quiet and relaxed time together. 

Ocean Cruise Snorkeling Excursion

River cruises take you through the heart of the country. You stop almost every day at a new port with river cruises, often for walking tours through quaint towns with little tourist traffic, and you’re always in view of land. Excursions can include a lot of walking that can be uphill, up steps, and over rough surfaces.

River Cruise Wurzburg, Germany

With ocean cruises, you can go days without seeing land, and ports of call and excursions tend to be more exotic and high-adventure. Because of their size, ocean cruises can offer plenty of popular options for many ages, from young kids to octogenarians. 

Ocean Cruise Balcony Breakfast

They are often more able to accommodate various special health needs. For this reason, they tend to make the best option for multi-generational family gatherings that include young children. Finally, for the traveler who is into high-octane adventure, ocean cruises provide a wide variety of activities on board and exotic and more daring day excursions.

Ocean Cruise Casino

River cruises tend to be more expensive per person — but that price also includes more things. Ocean cruises have a lower sticker price per person, but you are often charged extra for alcohol, excursions, wi-fi, and other amenities. 

When you’re getting ready to plan your next on-the-water trip, here are a few questions to consider: 

1. How many people are traveling? What are their ages? Mobility concerns?

2. What time of the year do you want to travel? 

3. Do you want the amenities of a mega-ship — spas, gyms, a dozen restaurants, and many activities? Or are you looking for something calmer, more intimate, and easy-paced?

4. Are you seeking authentic intercultural experiences? Or do you prefer more familiar settings? 

River Cruise Cooking Class

As always, We’re 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 the rest of your life.   

Hi, We're Donna Shirley
& Laura Bain

We're a mother and daughter who established a travel agency during a pandemic. So, we're up to challenges and adventures!

We enjoy having coffee (always better with cheesecake), discussing new cruise ships, which resorts we'd like to try with the kids, what experiences we want to add to our bucket-list, and the latest theme park news.

We enjoy working together to design personalized travel itineraries and experiences. So, our goal is to understand your family’s travel needs and become your travel experts.

Whether it is a cruise, a tour, a resort, or theme park fun your family is seeking, we’ll work to make your travel dreams a reality!

Just a little bit about us!