Here is a story courtesy of our guest writer, Georgina Roake who traveled on Viking Cruise Line touring the Danube River.
The stars are in line, the money’s in the bank and its finally time to go on that cruise you’ve always dreamed of. Imagine exotic lands, beautiful scenery, fantastic food and entertainment – it’s not hard to see why cruising is one of the most popular forms of travel. But before you book your trip, you’ll need to make one important decision; ocean liner or riverboat, which type of cruise works for you?
My husband and I have been on several ocean cruises. We’ve enjoyed trips to the Baltic, Scandinavia, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. On our most recent outing, however, we decided to try something different. For years we’d been intrigued by the river cruise commercials which air during our favorite show on Sunday evening. One night we turned to each other and said, “why not?” and booked a tour on the Danube River.
While we thoroughly enjoy both types of cruising, they are not the same and different types of people will prefer each one. With that in mind, I’ve created the following list of observations to help potential cruisers decide which type of travel is right for them.
Here’s What I Love About Ocean Cruising
- The Size and Scope of the Ship
One of the largest cruise ships is Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. With 18 floors and 2,775 staterooms, this mega ship is like a floating city. Even the smaller versions host 2 – 3 thousand guests. With this type of travel, you can have a great time without ever leaving the ship!
- Infinite Entertainment
Ocean liners offer a wide variety of activities; climbing walls, water slides, and zip lines, ice skating rinks, day spas, and swimming pools to name a few. Live entertainment ranges from variety shows, orchestras, and magicians to Broadway-style musicals. Guests can go to the disco, the solarium or even play a quiet game of chess in the game room.
- Chocolate Buffet Anyone?
Great food is one of the best parts of cruising. Guests can dine in the regular dining rooms which offer a fun and varied menu each night or choose from a variety of restaurants onboard. Between the late-night snacks and brunch barbecues, you will never go hungry on one of these trips.
- It’$ Le$$ Expen$ive
You can spend big bucks on an ocean cruise if you wish, but excellent trips are available at very reasonable prices. A one-week cruise to the Caribbean on one of the mainstream cruise lines can be had for $50 – $200 per person per night. Not bad when you consider this includes food and lodging. A river cruise will run a little more. Approximately $200 – $500 per person per night.
A good way to get the best deal is to check with free sites like Cruise Compete. They provide quotes from travel agents, but you remain anonymous until you’re ready to discuss an offer.
- Exhilarating Atmosphere
Some ocean cruises are billed as wild and crazy parties while others offer a calmer experience. Regardless, guests should know that large cruise ships tend to percolate with activity. This underlying sense of excitement goes with the territory when you share close quarters with thousands of people. This can be fun if you’re a people person who loves to be on the go, or distracting, depending on what type of traveler you are.
- You (Probably) Won’t Get Seasick
The larger the ship, the smaller the amount of movement. I’ve only been on one ocean cruise where the motion was noticeable. For the most part, you forget you’re on the water until you look out the window. If you’re concerned about motion sickness book a cabin on a lower deck towards the center of the ship or choose a room with a window or balcony that allows you to see the horizon.
Things I Love About River Cruising
- The Welcome!
“Well this looks promising,” my husband said as we caught sight of the charming riverboat we’d be spending the next 8 days on. Cheery staff members lined the deck proffering champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and warm greetings. Our rooms were easy to find, our luggage was in place, and the view from our stateroom was fabulous. Clearly, this would be a different experience from the massive ocean liners we were used to. We couldn’t wait to get started!
- Less Impact
A typical European river cruise hosts about 200 people and there are definite advantages to this. For instance, when a large cruise ship comes into port, the area is packed with tourists which can change the character of the destination. Smaller cruises have less of an impact and you get a more realistic view of life in the area.
- Fond Memories with New Friends
With a group of 200, you get to know your fellow passengers. From my experience, people on vacation are happy and open to striking up a conversation whether on a tour bus or in the elevator. Also, the dining room is smaller and you sit at different tables with new companions each night. On our cruise, we broke bread with people from China, Ireland, the U.K., and Texas to name a few. This made for some interesting dinner conversations, as well as some new connections.
- Nooks, Crannies and Cozy Corners
On an ocean liner, when you forget something in your room, it can mean a cross country trek to retrieve it. The smaller square footage of a riverboat means your belongings are always just around the corner. There are also lots of cozy reading nooks and conversation areas. You immediately feel at home and comfortable, and never get lost.
- Oh, the View!
We booked a mid-range room, meaning we didn’t have an actual balcony that we could step out on, but we did have a large floor to ceiling window with an amazing view. This sliding glass door opened to the river outside, which rolled along seemingly at our toes. We loved to lay in bed at night and watch the moon while listening to the roll of the waves.
- Top of the Line Shore Excursions
Maybe it’s because of the smaller groups, or the bigger cost of the trip in general, but the tours on the river cruise were over the top! We spent one memorable afternoon visiting a Croatian couple in their home. We gathered at a table near a crackling fire and (with the help of a translator) spent an hour eating homemade strudel and chatting about our different lifestyles and customs. It was fascinating, and other activities were equally so. These trips are included in the cost of the cruise, and you can sign up for any or all the experiences offered.
In retrospect, I can’t say if I enjoyed one form of travel over the other. They each have their pros and cons and, as with any type of travel, you must decide ahead of time to have fun no matter what.
In general, ocean cruises are more about the ship and the wide variety of activities and dining. A river cruise, on the other hand, is a calmer experience, more focused on personal attention, relationships, and amazing day trips.
Ocean cruises are family-oriented and an excellent opportunity for the whole gang to have a blast together. River cruisers tend to be couples in their 50’s and up. On our week there were only two family groups with children.
In conclusion, when looking into a cruise vacation, always do your homework. You can find lots of information online. One site I like is All Things Cruise where you can get answers to any cruise-related question you can think of. In addition, it’s a good idea to talk to veteran cruisers and read articles like this which will make your decision easier. Whatever you decide, you’re sure to have a unique and life-changing experience on a cruise.
Best wishes on your adventure, and Bon Voyage!
Story courtesy of our guest writer, Georgina Roake.
Photos courtesy of Viking Cruise Line.