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River Cruises Vs Ocean Cruises: Which Is Better?

Among travel agents, there's a debate going on between river cruises versus ocean cruises. Here's the scoop on which is really better, according to travel experts.

By Ossiana TepfenhartPublished 7 years ago 3 min read

Going on a cruise is a great idea if you love the idea of enjoying great food, beautiful views, and the gentle rocking of a ship on water. The fact is that travel agents also love cruises, especially if they are from bigger names like Viking Cruises, because they're very profitable. Truthfully, a good cruise excursion is worth every penny - even if it is pricey.

That being said, there's definitely major differences between ocean cruises and river cruises. Depending on what you're looking for, the kind of cruise ship you should board will vary greatly. Here's what you need to know about the ocean versus river cruise debate, and how to choose the right cruise for you.


When travel agents say a trip price is "all inclusive," this means that all the costs associated with that trip is included. So, you don't have to set aside a budget for drinks, food, tours, or similar stuff. A lot of cruises, ocean or otherwise, bill themselves as all-inclusive.

However, the number of cruises that are all-inclusive in each category is way different. According to experts, river cruise companies are almost always, if not always, all-inclusive. So, they are definitely a lot more budget-friendly than ocean cruises in that sense.


This shouldn't be too surprising, but it's still worth taking into consideration. River cruises are way, way more likely to stay in a single country and be "short stay" in nature. This means that you can expect a typical river cruise to last for a number of hours to a maximum of a week in length.

Ocean cruises can last up to 14 days or longer with ease, especially if they are going from country to country. As a result, these may require some passport work and longterm preparation.


In terms of ship size, it's pretty obvious that most river cruises will end up being smaller than an ocean cruise. Cabins tend to be smaller, the ship sizes are smaller, the groups allowed on board tend to be smaller in number, and so on.

Depending on the river cruise, it can be a bit crowded. However, it's never really claustrophobic.


If you're looking for a glitzy, glamorous excursion, your best bet is an ocean cruise. These are the ships that have pools inside, loads of restaurants that run 24/7, bars, casinos, rock climbing walls, and other insane goodies that you'd never imagine seeing elsewhere.

On the other hand, river cruises tend to be more mellow and modest in their amenities. You'll see more buffets, and less restaurants. You might get lounge chairs and a bar, but that might be it. Even so, it's more about the overall "lazy river trip" than anything. Entertainment is more low-key, too.


On the ocean cruise vs river cruise debate, it's hard to ignore the differences that each offering's ambiance has. In fact, it's usually the overall ambiance that tends to cause each cruise to attract different people.

Ocean cruises are all about glitz and "seeing the seas" in style. They are way less port-intensive, very action-focused, and it's all about bring out a party.

Meanwhile, river cruises are basically land tours on a boat. They are port-intensive, relaxed, and overall made for a more lenient, mellow vibe. As a result, they also tend to attract an older crowd.

Moreover, ocean cruises tend to let you relax in for much longer than river cruises do. Typically, you'll wake up around 7:00 on a river cruise that offers port tours. Ocean cruises, however, usually start port tours around noon or earlier.


River cruises tend to be pricier, per day, than ocean cruises - but you have to remember what you're getting for that price point. It's all-inclusive, and that means that you get to drink all the wine you want, eat all the food you want, and not have to worry about paying a penny more.

On the other hand, ocean cruises may not be all-inclusive, so you'll have to add in meal costs, hidden fees, and more.

No Clear Winner

The fact is that this debate is ongoing, primarily because it's so hard to actually figure out which one is the best. It's like comparing apples to oranges...except that they're cruise ships and not fruit. No matter what you choose, we're going to assume that it's a good option. After all, a vacation is a vacation.

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About the Creator

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of New Jersey. This is her work account. She loves gifts and tips, so if you like something, tip her!

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