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5 Ways River Cruising is Different to Ocean Cruising

29th May 2016

If proof was ever needed at just how popular cruise holidays have become over the past 5 years, simply take a look at the holiday trends of Australians.

Today, Australia has the fastest growing cruise market in the world, with Australian travellers making up almost 5 percent of the world’s total passenger numbers.

And for a nation of only 24 million, that is one huge number.

The luxury river cruise is highly sought-after. Luxury river cruise is highly sought after.

To meet the demand, cruise lines are focusing more and more on the Australian market, enticing prospective guests with big ship facilities and exotic destinations, with a record number of cruise itineraries on offer.

While there are many different types of cruises to choose from, perhaps one of the most sought after is the luxury river cruise. Sailing world-famous waterways, as you stop in picturesque towns and villages, is a relaxing and unique experience.

For ocean cruising, the ship itself is often the destination with its many facilities and non-stop activities. For river cruising, it's more about the ports and shore experiences and the immersion into a new culture.

Visit the castles and vineyards along the Danube, tour antebellum mansions along the Mississippi or explore the great temples and shrines as you sail up the Mekong or Yangtze.

There are countless rivers and waterways to sail on, with many top rated cruise lines to choose from.

But for those who are used to the grandiose, splashy atmosphere on a typical ocean cruise, what can a first time river cruise guest expect – and just how does it differ from an ocean sailing?

Well, chances are pretty good that you’ll find the river cruise to be a welcome change of pace. Here are just some of the ways a river cruise differs from an ocean cruise.

1 - Size Really does matter

Bigger isn’t always better, and when it comes to a river cruise, the smaller ship size equates to fewer passengers and greater comfort. While still roomy and comfortable, most river cruises accommodate less than 200 passengers.

Fewer passengers translates to a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere, where meeting your fellow passengers is actually one of the perks.

There’s plenty of space for private time, but if you like to socialise, there’s ample opportunity to meet interesting people from around the world.

Prague river view. Step off the boat in the centre of cities like Prague.

2 - River cruise ships dock in the city

With the city right at your doorstep, you’ll never have to worry about long bus transfers or having to catch a crowded tender boat to shore. On a river cruise, simply step off the ship and start exploring bustling cities and medieval towns and villages.

3 - Even when sailing, there’s plenty to see

Enjoy the beautiful views as the ship winds its way along scenic river settings. Depending on the river, you’ll find picturesque towns, grand churches or temples, vineyards and forests, rolling hills and towering mountains dotted with castle ruins – and it’s all visible right from the ship.

Most river cruise vessels have over-sized windows, with several balcony cabins and suites. But even without a balcony, you have the entire top floor of the vessel open for you to enjoy the passing scenery. With a local wine in hand of course.

A river cruise in Budapest with Parliament building in the background. Budapest is a favourite river cruising destination.

4 – All-Inclusive

With fewer passengers and more often than not, a fully inclusive product, guests will enjoy a higher level of personal attention on a river cruise.

You’ll never have to contend with long lines at the buffet or bar, and there’s always a staff member nearby to help make your journey more comfortable.

With the advantage of an all-inclusive cruise with food, beverages and even tours and gratuities pre-paid, you can enjoy all the offerings to their fullest, without the fear of being charged extra.

5 – Shore Excursions

Embarking on a land excursion on a large ocean going ship can seem like a marathon. Queuing in long lines, battling crowds – that’s all before you even get off the ship! But on a river cruise, it’s as simple as signing out, and walking out the door.

And because river cruise ships can dock right in the heart of the city, passengers will find major attractions nearby. With shore excursions generally included in your river cruise fare, there is no need to put your hand in your pocket for expensive tours.

If cruising with companies such as Scenic, you will find several shore excursions that are money-can’t-buy experiences and not available to the general public.

Events such as a private concert by the Viennese Symphony Orchestra with sopranos and dancers, or a full production theatre show based on the popular Sound of Music film in the Austrian Alps surrounding Salzburg, are just the beginning.

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