Ocean vs. River Cruise: Which is Right for You?


Whether you’re new to cruising, a dedicated lover of mega-ship ocean cruises, or you can’t imagine anything better than your annual river cruise holiday, it can sometimes be difficult to know the difference between an ocean and a river cruise. The two types of cruising offer very different experiences, but each has unique features to offer their guests. We’ve outlined some of the main differences between ocean and river cruising, and how you can choose the right one to suit you.


Ocean Cruise

Ocean cruises are a great way to get a taste of several countries in one relaxing holiday, as their itineraries often include several countries. However, because of their larger size, ocean cruise ships can only visit major ports. So, if you want to visit an illustrious but small destination, or a location positioned well inland, this may not be possible on an ocean cruise.

River Cruise

River cruises are very port intensive and the perfect way to see lots of one country or a few neighbouring countries. You will likely be on shore for at least a portion of every day during a river cruise, so these holidays are more suited to the intrepid explorer than the ardent sunbather. As river cruise ships are relatively small, they can often get right into towns and cities, giving you a more in-depth view of the country than you would get on an ocean cruise.

cruise itinerary


Ocean Cruise

As ocean cruise ships are large, they tend to have decently-sized cabins, with many able to accommodate the whole family. Due to the large number of berths on most ocean cruises, it is easier to get a good deal on your room than on a smaller ship. Suites are often very luxurious, with some offering accommodation that compares to fancy hotels.

River Cruise

Intimacy is one of river cruising’s good points, but the small size of the ship means the cabins also tend to be on the smaller side. As each cruise can only accommodate a small number of people, it is also harder to get a cheap deal on this type of cruise. However, unlike on larger cruises, there are rarely any additional extras to pay for on river cruises, so it may work out cheaper overall.

river cruise


Ocean Cruise

Excursions are often only available at an additional cost on ocean cruises, although this does vary depending on the cruise line. Whilst this does add extra cost to the price of your holiday, it also gives you the chance to shop around for the cheapest deal on excursions. Plus, you can opt to stay and relax on the quiet ship.

River Cruise

Excursions are an important part of river cruising, and you will often have one every day of your trip, included in the price. These give you a great opportunity to really discover the countries you are visiting and learn more about their history and culture. However, beach visits are seldom offered – not so great for lovers of the surf.


Ocean Cruise

Dining is a major feature of ocean cruising, and the huge array of options on offer reflect this. Although lunchtime will often be dominated by a buffet in the main dining room, there are usually sit down offerings at other restaurants at that time. Dinner in the main dining room is a serious event, so be sure to bring your best clothes. Speciality dining options are also becoming ever more exciting, with many cruise lines collaborating with famous chefs.

River Cruise

River cruising offers a more limited dining selection than larger cruise ships. Both breakfast and lunch will usually be served as a buffet, and meal times are strictly observed, a long lie in will likely leave you without breakfast. Dinner is usually a formal sit-down meal, after the day’s excursions. Meal times are usually much quieter on river cruises, compared to larger ships, providing a wonderful end to the day.

cruise restaurant


Ocean Cruise

Entertainment on ocean cruises is a serious affair, with everything from Broadway shows to cinema multiplexes to zip wires. You’ll never experience a dull moment on an ocean cruise, with some ships having more entertainment offerings than you could possibly have time to take advantage of. Guest acts often include professional singers, comedians and other acts that you may have seen on stage or television.

River Cruise

Entertainment on river cruises is usually quite limited, although some lines are starting to focus more on this aspect of river cruising. Often entertainment will include a pianist at dinner, an evening performance by a singer, musician or dance troupe, and perhaps a local act when you are in port. Although it doesn’t have the flashy acts of larger cruises, river cruise entertainment does let you experience local talent in a way you wouldn’t on an ocean cruise.

Family Facilities

Ocean Cruise

Ocean cruises are usually incredibly family friendly, so if you are taking the kids along this is a great holiday choice. Most ships will have activity centres where your children can be dropped off and play with other kids, while you go and relax. With swimming pools, organised activities, and a whole host of other exciting things to explore, the kids will never complain of being bored. Many ocean cruise ships also have family rooms, making it easier to holiday together.

River Cruise

River cruises have limited facilities to keep your children entertained, unless they are old enough to enjoy the excursions on offer. Due to the smaller size of river cruise ships, they also tend not to feature family rooms, making it harder to bring the kids along for the trip. As river cruises are less family focussed, they also might find it harder to find friends than they would on a larger ship.

family cruise

Which is Right for You?

 Both ocean and river cruising have amazing selling points, offering two very different styles of holiday. River cruising offers an intimate experience, where you can get to know your fellow cruisers and the countries you are visiting very well, creating friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Ocean cruises offer a luxurious holiday experience, with plenty of time to relax and have fun with all the family. Which one you choose depends on what is important to you, as you sail around on your exciting journey.

Think you might have decided which is the perfect cruise for you? Book one of Cruise1st Australia’s amazing cruise deals online or call our friendly sales team on 1300 857 345.


Leave A Reply