With more travellers discovering river cruising for the first time, it could be tempting to draw parallels between river cruising and ocean cruising. And although the two share numerous positive characteristics, there are a few key differences that experienced ocean cruisers, in particular, should be aware of.
- River Cruising is more inclusive than most ocean cruises (for exceptions see The Cost Of Luxury Cruises: Ten Value-Added Extras; What’s The Real Cost?) While no one will mind not having to pay for a pint of beer with lunch or a glass of wine with dinner, the inclusions on a river cruise run deeper than that. In most cases, water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas are included in your cruise fare, along with nearly all excursions ashore and little perks like Wi-Fi internet access. You’ll pay more up-front for your river cruise, but you’ll come out owing less later.
- Your balcony means less on a river cruise. Now, don’t get us wrong – you’ll love having a French Balcony, or even a full step-out balcony. But its importance on a small, intimate river cruise vessel that stays docked for extended portions of the day becomes less critical than it is on a 3,000-plus passenger cruise ship where your balcony functions as your own little oasis.
- Everything is European. From the electrical outlets to the onboard currency, European standards reign supreme aboard Europe-bound river cruises. This is different from deep-ocean cruise ships, many of which retain the United States Dollar as their onboard currency, even when sailing in foreign locales.
- Booking Last Minute will leave you in the Dark. Every cruiser has found an amazing, last-minute deal that is so overwhelmingly attractive that they couldn’t help but head out on a quick trip to the Caribbean or a short jaunt to Alaska. But booking last-minute — or holding out for that dirt-cheap-deal — is far less successful in the world of river cruising. In fact, even as we write this, many of the newest ships and hottest itineraries are completely sold out until Christmas – and it’s only July.
- River Cruising is Active. From walking tours that are offered at differing activity levels to intimate wine tastings or unique cultural explorations, river cruising attracts an active, informed, educated passenger who is curious about the world. That’s not to say that cruising doesn’t, either, but due to the distances and costs involved with river cruising, everyone on board is a willing participant. Affordable and accessible, that isn’t always the case on deep-ocean cruises.
Finally, there’s one last key difference that is worth sharing between ocean and river cruising: A river cruise is closer to a luxury cruise than a mainstream cruise, with the exception of staterooms, which are nearly always smaller than 200 square feet. Otherwise, meals are open-seating, dress codes are relaxed, and service – due to the manageable numbers of guests onboard – tends to be personable and genuine.
Just some of the reasons river cruising is becoming one of the faster-growing segments of the overall travel industry.