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7 Things to Know About River Cruises Vs Ocean Cruises

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boutique river cruise

7 Things to Know About River Cruises Vs Ocean Cruises

For the avid ocean cruiser, the idea of stepping onto a river cruise may seem underwhelming. And while it’s true you won’t find skating rinks, climbing walls or shopping malls on-board a river cruise, there are plenty of reasons river cruising may become your new favourite way to see the world. In addition to introducing you to a more intimate cruising experience, river cruises take you to exciting, historic ports-of-call, most of which are inaccessible to mega ships. Elevated service, luxurious dining experiences and culturally rich excursions are just a few of the hallmarks of a river cruise. So if you’re thinking of trading in your sea legs for a more land-intensive experience, here are 7 things you should know about river cruises vs ocean cruises:

Prepare for Port Intensive Itineraries 

River ships are no doubt elegant and luxurious, however, they’re not the star of the show, it’s all about the ports-of-call. If you are someone who prefers seemingly endless days of quiet relaxation and sea-intensive itineraries, river cruising is not for you. Most of the actual cruising is done at night, and almost every day is a new port (or two), jam-packed with visits to historical sites, walking tours and cultural experiences. On some itineraries you may spend a full day on the river, but for the most part, because ports are such short distances from one another, and the days begin so early (8-9am tour departures), you’ll have to pack your favourite walking shoes or you’ll miss out. The downside of this aspect of river cruising is that it can be quite difficult for passengers for mobility issues to fully enjoy the full breadth of what river cruising has to offer.

uniworld boutique cruises

Culturally Focussed Excursions

As the in-house anthropologist, it’s no surprise that my favourite element of river cruising is the abundance of cultural immersion. I like to taste, touch and experience what it’s like to be a local. Remember, because river cruising is so heavily focused on ports, you have to be prepared to experience a wide array of culturally focused options such as walking tours, bicycle rides, culinary tours, concerts, golfing and even themed outings, all on land. Some ocean cruisers may find the lack of on-board activities limiting, but if you’re willing to experience port life to the fullest, you won’t be bored.

river cruise culture

River Cruises are All-Inclusive 

One of my least favourite parts of ocean cruising is feeling like I have to swipe my card every few seconds whether it’s for an overpriced cocktail, a few minutes of internet access or a specialty coffee I saw on the way to the pool deck. River cruises may appear more expensive at first but when you factor in all the included excursions, the one night stay before your cruise begins (on some cruise lines), top shelf wine and beer, dinner in the specialty restaurants, wifi, tips, and transfers, you’re getting far more bang for your buck. Additionally, cruise lines like Uniworld include tips within the fare (including those for service on-board, local guides and bus drivers). No more pricey bill at the end of your vacation!

dining on viking

Dining Options are Limited but Specialized 

It’s true, ocean cruises have significantly more dining options than a river cruise, which for some is fantastic but overwhelming for others. The dining experience aboard a river cruise, while it may not be as varied as a mega ship, it is exquisite, meticulous and reflective of the local culture. On most ships, guests will find a main restaurant where breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, and often, a second, more intimate dining area for the evening meal. On Uniworld, a boutique river cruise line, all meals are served with a “farm-to-table” philosophy, so you get to enjoy only the freshest ingredients, influenced by local culinary traditions.

Vienna river cruise

Ports Are Central to All the Action 

Let’s face it, ocean cruise ports are not the prettiest nor the most convenient. Guests pull up to beautiful destinations but often step off the ship (or tender to shore) only to be faced with ugly, industrialized piers, a barrage of taxis and tour operators scrambling for your business, and on top of that, you’re often far away from any attractions. River cruise ports are almost always located right in town, which means you’re mere steps (or a very short bus ride) away from all the action. However, there are occasions when there multiple river cruise ships in port simultaneously which means you may have to walk through another ship to step ashore.

viking river cruise

Space is a Premium 

It’s no secret that rooms aboard a river cruise ship, on average, are smaller than that of an ocean cruise ship, but that doesn’t mean they’re less luxurious. Many include balconies, are chocked full of luxurious amenities, upscale linens and decor fit for royalty. The river cruise experience is far more intimate, with an average of 200 guests versus 2100-5500 guests an ocean cruise. This means no line-ups, better uses of space, more opportunity to socialize with fellow cruisers and with a higher crew-to-passenger ratio, offering a more personalized service.

budapest hungary fireworks

Highest Customer Satisfaction Ratings 

There are plenty of fantastic ocean cruise line options, but keep in mind that river cruises have some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings. Companies like Viking Cruise boast a 97% customer satisfaction rating, one of the highest across the cruise sector, reflective of premium service, fascinating ports, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

If you’re thinking of booking a river cruise, or still have questions about whether a river cruise is right for you, contact the Tripzter team to take full advantage of our river cruise expertise.

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Life in the slow lane, a supremely calming experience, an antidote to the fast-paced world: river cruising is all of this and more. Like floating country inns, river vessels evoke a relaxing rhythm, discreet luxury, and a welcome respite from pressure and pretentiousness.

River vessels are long and low in the water and their masts fold down to negotiate low bridges. At a leisurely and silky pace of three to four knots per hour, they enable passengers to enjoy the ever-changing scenery – the “river-scape” – at eye level. Once they dock, passengers simply walk up the gangway and into the heart of a town or city.

Cruising down one of Europe’s great waterways has long been soothing and relaxing. Today, by the strenuous efforts of premier river cruising companies, it is also stylish and sophisticated. Viking River Cruises, for example, continues to introduce the next generation of river cruising vessels, with emphasis on relaxed elegance.

In the spring of 2012, Viking Aegir and Viking Embla joined sister-ships Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord, and Viking Odin as some of the most innovative ships plying the rivers of Europe. Expertly designed by Norwegian firm Yran & Storbraaten – the team who crafted the Yachts of Seabourn – these new vessels define state-of-the-art engineering and comfort. Among their amenities are full-size staterooms with full-depth verandas, the AquaVit Terrace – an indoor/outdoor casual dining and relaxation area at the bow of the ship, high-definition in-room entertainment, fine cuisine, an organic herb garden on the large sun deck, and quiet environmentally friendly hybrid engines.

Europe’s second-longest river and a vital means of transportation for 2,000 years, the Danube is the only major European river to flow from west to east. It rises in Germany’s Black Forest and flows through or along the borders of ten countries – Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine – on its way to the Black Sea. Winding along the famous “Blue Danube” is an experience of storied landscapes, cultural heritage, and centuries-old architecture.

Many Danube River cruises visit Nuremberg, Germany and provide passengers the opportunity to see the Imperial Castle and the Justice Palace, the meeting place for the War Crimes Tribunal in 1946. Other highlights may include Vienna’s Opera House, the world-famous Benedictine Monastery in Melk, Austria; and Saint Stephan’s Basilica and the Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest, Hungary. Some Danube cruises also sail the Iron Gates, a magnificent gorge that runs between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains, forming the boundary between Serbia and Romania.

While the Danube stands as the most popular of European river journeys, she is certainly not without peers. There is the Rhone, which inspired Vincent Van Gogh; the Seine, the birthplace of impressionism; Germany’s historic Rhine; and the mighty Volga of Russia.

Whichever river you choose to navigate, your voyage will be memorable. Rivers provide a sense of balanced connection to both water and land, of intimacy with local communities, and of continuity with the world at large. Call your Tripzter Travel consultant today.

Life’s a trip. Take one. Live one…on a tranquil and soothing river cruise.

Here’s to the vagabond in each of us!


Peter Turcic