Should I Choose an Ocean Cruise or a River Cruise?

Cruising is popular. This is an ideal time to travel. There is a galaxy of destinations served by a fleet of cruise companies and vessels. You can sail to Antarctica or Greenland!  You can sail on a canal barge or a take a river cruise. Which one should I choose?

First of all, it would be difficult to make the wrong choice. Here are a few considerations.

  1. I get seasick easily. This is a likely reason river cruises have become so popular. Even if a cruise ship sails along the coastline, it can still run into rough weather. If you reach for the seasick tablets before your ship leaves the harbor, a river cruise is a good choice for you.
  2. I like sea days because the ship is my destination. You are a passenger who enjoys shipboard life. You want lots to do. Lines like Cunard sail back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean in seven days. Several cruise lines have world cruises including stretches of sea days. An ocean cruise is right for you.
  3. I want to experience Europe, but I don’t want to drive. You want the experience of visiting famous cities. Many are not ocean ports. Paris is a good example. You want to walk around a town, enjoy a nice dinner and start off in another town the next morning. A river cruise is a good choice. The ship is moved from destination to destination at night.
  4. I have a large family with young children. We loved Disneyworld but decided to take a cruise this year. Our children need plenty of activities to amuse them. You want an ocean cruise and choosing the right one is very important. You want a big ship with plenty of activities. You want a ship using the word “family” multiple times in its writeups. Ideally you want childcare available onboard.
  5. I love castles, churches and history. Did I mention I love classical music too? I love walking cobblestone streets imagining the famous people who were here before me. I love studying about each destination. I could be a tour guide! You want a river cruise. They travel to the inland cities that ocean going ships cannot reach.
  6. I want sun, sun and more sun. You like beaches. You like hotels with pools and loungers. Now you are choosing your first cruise. You want a ship that is sailing from beach to beach. A Caribbean cruise would be good. You want an ocean cruise with plenty of pools and loungers.
  7. I want a more relaxed, intimate experience. I do not like crowds. You want the atmosphere where you are seeing many of the same faces over and over again. You do not want to stand in long lines if you can avoid it. Either a river cruise or a small vessel ocean cruise meet your requirements. The small vessel option might be in the ultra-luxury category.
  8. I want an all-inclusive environment. I cannot stand being nickel and dimed, expected to pay for lots of extras. I include drinks, tours and tips into this category. You can choose either a river cruise or an ocean cruise but you need to only consider all inclusive cruises. Your travel agent can help with that.
  9. I want to be surrounded by adults or like-minded people. This can mean many things. Special interests like rock n’roll or classical music fit into this category. You would be happy with either a river cruise or an ocean cruise. You need to learn from your travel agent who is the cruise line’s target market.
  10. I want to take a cruise, but I do not want to fly. You have your reasons for avoiding airports and planes. Assuming you live in the US, an ocean cruise is the logical choice, assuming there is a homeport nearby. There are American river cruises but not as many as in Europe.

We live at a good time. There are many cruise choices out there. You should find something that is a perfect fit, ideally at a good price.


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Cover photo: Morning cruise, French countryside, European Waterways La Belle Epoque ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer

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