Acendas Vacations

A World of Difference: European River Cruising vs. Ocean Cruising



European cruising is something that many travelers love to do. But finding the perfect cruise depends on many things, including your budget, travel style, desired locations, and most importantly – what you want to see and do. While ocean and river cruises both involve cruising the waters, they are as opposite as booking a sprawling beach resort in Greece and booking a boutique hotel in a quaint countryside village in England. 

There are various other distinctions between the two types of cruises. Read on as we explore them in this article. 

Vessel Size

Ocean cruise liners are typically large ships that can hold thousands of guests. The brand-new Celebrity Apex has every comfort of a large luxury resort, but at sea. 

In contrast, river cruises typically carry from 100-200 people. As a result, the experience is far more intimate, and you have a much greater chance of getting to know your cruise mates. 

Itineraries & Entertainment

Ocean cruises cover more ground, and because of this, you’ll spend more time at sea. For this reason, ocean cruises focus more on the onboard experience. You’ll find a seemingly endless array of entertainment options from Broadway-worthy shows, ice skating rinks, several pools, casinos, family entertainment facilities, and retail shops, among many other things. The Celebrity Apex even features a cantilevered platform called the Magic Carpet, that floats in the air, 13 stories above sea level, complete with a bar and live music 

River cruises cover less ground, though they focus more on the destinations. You’ll stop in smaller, inland towns rather than larger ports on the ocean. The onboard experience may be more low-key, but you will still find a diverse array of entertainment, including cooking classes, wine tastings, musicians, and short evening shows. 

Passengers & Staterooms

Ocean cruises have something to offer for every age, making this an excellent option for multi-generational families traveling together. For those who travel without children, there are often areas of the cruise ship for adults, such as the adults-only Solarium pool on many Celebrity ships. 

Staterooms range in price and room category. Whether you’re looking for an interior room, an ocean view with a balcony, or a suite with a personalized concierge, there is an option for every budget on an ocean cruise. 

River cruises are best for couples and adults traveling together. However, some river cruise lines, such as Uniworld, offer the Generations Collection, with cruise itineraries available specifically for adults traveling with children. 

River cruises also offer various staterooms, but a key difference between a river and ocean cruise is that there are no interior cabins on a river cruise. All rooms will have a window to the outside at minimum, but most cabins feature French balconies which have floor to ceiling sliding doors that open to the outside, giving you lots of fresh air and light. Uniworld offers uniquely designed interiors including original artwork, and custom fabrics on every one of their ships, so no two ships are the same. 

Dining and Beverages

If you’re looking for a wide variety, you cannot go wrong when dining on an ocean cruise. The average ship has anywhere from 10-20 restaurants and bars, ranging from casual to elegant, and just about any cuisine your heart desires. While some restaurants are available to every passenger, other restaurants are exclusive to a specific dining package or a suite level. 

Celebrity offers fantastic “Always included” pricing which provides a beverage package for each traveler (alcohol included), staff gratuities, and onboard Wi-Fi. When you sail with Celebrity, you will not be nickeled and dimed for everything once you get onboard. Rather you can leave your wallet in your safe, and just enjoy yourself. 

River cruises offer far fewer restaurants and bars, with an average of one to three facilities on each cruise, available to every passenger. Their approach is vastly different than ocean cruises. Some river cruise lines, including Uniworld, offer destination-focused dining experiences. The chef samples and purchases food at each port, allowing passengers to try various local flavors and regional specialties. Uniworld also includes local wines, beers, and cocktails in your all-inclusive river cruise package.

Excursions and Disembarking Process

Much like room selections, ocean cruises offer a wide range of excursions at various price points. Explore the trendy and colorful island of Ibiza, or a panoramic drive along the coast in La Coruna, Spain. Whatever you choose, the options are nearly endless. When you book your cruise with Acendas, many times we can offer you exclusive onboard credits which you can use to experience one of the many shore excursion options. 

In keeping with their all-inclusive trend, most tours and excursions are included in the purchase price of a river cruise, when you book with a reputable brand like Uniworld, with a smaller number of participants per guide. While walking through Maastricht, a city with hundreds of national heritage sites, you’ll uncover why it’s known as one of the most beautiful cities in all of Holland. Interested something more hands on? Visit a working tulip flower farm outside of Amsterdam and create your own bouquet to take back to your room. Uniworld also has a fleet of bicycles onboard for guests to use, so if you want to go out and explore on your own, you are free to do so! 

Because ocean cruises often travel through international waters, passengers must go through customs during their disembarking process, extending the time it takes to exit the ship. Usually, disembarkment happens in the morning, so flights back will typically be limited to options departing after noon.  

However, typically, river cruises dock the day before disembarking, allowing passengers to leave the ship early the following morning, providing more availability for same-day flights and travel.

Whether you decide to go on a European river or ocean cruise, you will find that they are both great ways to experience new destinations. You can look forward to an ever-changing, scenic trip as you take in the sights while exploring new cultures and historic attractions at the wide range of destinations you visit.  Take a look at these special offers from Uniworld (river cruise) and Celebrity (ocean cruise) by clicking on the links below:

Uniworld River Cruise

Celebrity Ocean Cruise

If you would like to learn more about European river or ocean cruises, feel free to contact your Acendas Travel Advisor using the following form:

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