Staterooms: River Cruise Ships vs. Cruise Ships
Make your first river cruise a comfortable success.
With river cruising growing in popularity each year, more travelers are looking at these voyages as an excellent alternative to traditional land-based tours. Even those who typically cruise on much larger, oceangoing cruise ships are getting into the act, as river cruise operators expand their itineraries and fleets.
For those used to sailing on traditional cruise ships, however, the change can be daunting. Unlike cruise ships, which tend to offer standard stateroom configurations that vary remarkably little between cruise lines, river cruise staterooms can vary widely in terms of size and amenities, even among a single line. Carefully reading the brochure – or using our own River Cruise Ship Reviews – is an absolute necessity to ensure that you make the right choice.
Further complicating matters is the fact that some ships, like those sailing many Asian and Egyptian itineraries, are chartered by the cruise line, but owned and operated by another line. While this isn’t necessarily a negative (particularly in Asia, where ships like Victoria Anna and Victoria Jenna offer some of the largest staterooms in the river cruise world and are chartered by more than one line), it is something to be aware of, particularly as detailed information on these ships can be tough to find, and standard amenities may not be available.
River Cruise brochures are typically different in layout, with more emphasis placed on itineraries, as opposed to the ships themselves. It can also be difficult to determine exact stateroom features and size.
So what should you know if you’re considering leaving the megaship world and taking a river cruise? We took a look at several aspects you should consider when booking your first voyage on some of the world’s most beautiful waterways.
Be sure to check the stateroom specifications here on River Cruise Advisor, in the brochure or online. Staterooms on some river ships, primarily vessels sailing in Russia, can be as small as 90 square feet. To compare, the staterooms aboard Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign-class are often referred to as “tight,” at 120 square feet.
Cruise Ships vs. River Cruise Ships: Average Stateroom Size
Holland America Line 185 square feet AmaWaterways 170 square feet
Norwegian Cruise Line 165 square feet Avalon Waterways 172 square feet
Princess Cruises 175 square feet Uniworld River Cruises 150 square feet
Royal Caribbean Older ships: 150 square feet
Newer ships 170 square feet
Viking River Cruises 172 square feet
Overall, as the chart illustrates, many river cruise vessels are comparable to their cruise ship counterparts. Be sure to see our Comparisons of Stateroom Sizes For All River Cruise Companies
Staterooms typically come in four varieties: Oceanview with Half-Window, Oceanview with Full Window, French Balcony, and Suites. Unlike conventional cruise ships, river cruise vessels do not have inside staterooms – a huge plus for those who enjoy a cruise with a view.
So what is a French Balcony?
These are staterooms equipped with full-sized windows that open, but do not allow you to step out. A protective railing is located just inches from the glass – meaning you can still enjoy the fresh air, but from the comfort of your stateroom.
Another unique aspect river cruise ship staterooms feature is Personality. Unlike many deep-ocean cruise ships, which tend to have modular, cookie-cutter staterooms, the staterooms aboard many river cruise ships can offer décor and features with their own sense of style.
Uniworld’s vessels are a prime example: Each ship is done in a different theme and style, and can be reflective of a certain period in history or the region in which the vessel sails. Thus, expect to see some unique styling elements, colors and even wallpaper that may be different from what you may be accustomed to, as you can see in the photo above.
The other major difference is Occupancy. Most staterooms are primarily designed for double occupancy, though single-occupancy rooms are available on some ships. If you’re planning to bring a third or fourth person along, they’re going to need their own stateroom. You won’t find pull-out couches or upper berths here.
Finally, when in doubt be sure to consult our reviews here on River Cruise Advisor. We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure we describe each line’s ships and staterooms in detail so that you can have a more relaxing, enjoyable voyage. If you have specific questions, use the contact form to get in touch with us.