This is a segment of an article I wrote for danube-river.com. In fact, if you visit the website you will see that I’m a partner on the project, as I’m writing most of the content. It’s a site devoted to cruises on the great Danube river.
Quick: do you know the differences between ocean and river cruising?
The main difference is that ocean cruises employ much larger ships than river cruises. The capacity of some ocean cruises is staggering – generally a few thousand people. River cruises are more intimate.
As rivers are narrow stretches of water, they tend to traverse more interesting and varied landscapes, keeping it more engaging for the travellers.
And river cruises tend to sail along the shores, close to the banks, so they can offer a great scenery, which is the primary reason for travellers to choose this type of a trip.
Ocean cruises last longer, even though they sail faster. Ocean cruising requires crossing large expanses of water, sometime enduring continuous, long, uninterrupted horizons and the swaying of repetitious waves, with nothing to break up the monotonous rhythm. Although looking at an unbroken horizon and the expanse may be very soothing for the mind and give one a sense of freedom, it is likely to become slightly dull after a couple of days.
The liners have a tendency to offer extravagance of the same standards as hotels. For this reason, instead of the view, they invest more into elaborately appointed interiors, such as swimming pools, sun decks, dining halls, and more spacious cabins. They tend to rely on these facilities to keep a traveller’s interest, as the surroundings often provide none. These can include music clubs, casinos, gymnasiums, spas, and even movie theatres.
So, the question really comes down to: do you want to have an adventure and explore? or do you want it to feel like you never left terra firma and all its sinful indulgences?
Ocean cruises are generally built for wide, deep waters, so they cannot access the routes that river vessels can. In some places, river boats are the only means of transportation, and the only way to enter and explore certain areas which cannot support road or rail infrastructure, or choose not to in favour of nature conservation. That, in itself, is very alluring.
All cruises often have stops scheduled along the way. In this case, river vessels are quicker to dock and let people ashore and aboard. If there are programmes on the shore, they are more efficiently carried out, as opposed to ocean cruises which can take several hours to dock in and then disembark passengers. For this reason ocean cruises schedule less stops.
It is almost impossible for ocean cruisers to afford their travellers the luxury of quickly visiting local food and craft markets, which are found along the ports, thus helping boost the earnings of local communities. And, as they are bigger, ocean cruises have to dock at industrial ports, which are known to lack character and charm. Central ports typically have all the bustle of daily markets, community-oriented activities, and unique locals.
River Cruises have a poetic aura of excitement. Blame it on Agatha Christie and the elegant Poirot who glamorized river cruising; you can never imagine them on an ocean liner.
This is why life on the cruise, whatever the kind, is often one of the main attractions: meeting and sharing a journey with companions. And perhaps dreaming up a bit of a literary drama.