I have been on 5 or 6 ocean cruises and have enjoyed everyone. In May I took a river cruise. The cruise company that I went with was Viking River Cruises.
The main thing I would tell you before you decide which cruise you think would be best for you is how much relaxation or excitement you want on your cruise.
3 of my friends & I flew out of Newark, NJ at 6:00 pm on a Friday night. We landed in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Saturday morning at 6:00 am. Now when you fly at night you really think that you will be able to sleep during the flight. Unfortunately that didn’t happen with us. We all dozed but sure didn’t get even a couple of hours of shut-eye in.
Now when you go on an ocean cruise you go to the terminal and you are usually in this very large area where they check you in and give you your room key and any other information you need and then you have to wait to get on the ship. Not so with a river cruise. We got on the bus to go to the dock. The bus pulled right up to the dock and we just walked right onto the boat. No checking in or anything.
When you go on an ocean cruise you usually have to wait until 1:00 pm or later before you can check-in and get onto the ship. By the time we got to the boat for the river cruise it was 9:00 am and when we got on the boat we went to the lounge and every once in a while someone would come by and ask you what room you were in and they would check a list to see if it had been cleaned yet. Once the room is ready you are taken right to it and that is it.
Now another huge difference between ocean & river cruising is the size and the amount of people on board. An ocean cruise can have up to 5000 plus on the ship while on a river cruise there are only about 150 passengers plus 50 employees. BIG different.
Usually the day that you leave port you have a “muster” drill which is a drill so you know where to go in case the ship is in trouble and you have to get off it. On an ocean cruise you are with a lot of other people at your “muster” station and they tell you how to get onto the lifeboats if needed. On a river cruise you are basically broken into 2 different locations and told that there are no lifeboats onboard. On the cruise I was on on the Rhine River we were told that the Rhine River is 10 feet deep and the boat we were on was 20 feet high. So, if the boat had a problem and was taking on water we just had to go to the top deck and we would still be 10 feet above the water. I have to tell you, I really liked that instead of thinking about be adrift at sea somewhere.
Now onto the important stuff. Entertainment. Now if you are someone who needs to be entertained and kept busy 24/7 then a river cruise is NOT for you. River cruises do not have casinos, no movie theaters, if they have a pool it is very small. On a river cruise you have to know how to relax and enjoy doing nothing. I enjoy reading in my down time so I didn’t have any problem with it but I have a friend who would have gone nuts on this cruise because he needs to be doing something all the time.
On an ocean cruise they have 2 “shows” a night plus comedians or something else for you to see plus a casino and movie theater. There is always something to do on an ocean cruise. The river cruise they have entertainment but very low keyed compared to the ocean cruise. One night while we were in port they brought in a pianist & singer for an hour. That was the entertainment for the evening. Another night they brought on a glass blower for a demonstration.
Another difference is excursions. On an ocean cruise you pay for every excursion you go on. On the river cruise 1 excursion, usually in the morning, is included in the price you paid. There is an optional excursion in the afternoon or evening that you have to pay for if you want to go on it.
A river cruise seems to be a bit more luxurious than an ocean cruise but again it depends on what you are looking for in a cruise. One other thing that is worth mentioning is that while you can eat yourself into oblivion on an ocean cruise you can’t do that on a river cruise. Since there are so few people on the river cruise you all eat at the same time. So if you want to just eat the whole time you are on a cruise then definitely go on an ocean cruise.
Overall I really enjoyed the river cruise though I am not sure if I would go on another one. River cruises seem to be for an older crowd. That being said I am no spring chicken but I was one of the youngest on the cruise. It was fun and we did make some great friends from England and we all enjoyed ourselves completely.
Just remember when you are thinking about going on a cruise do your homework. If you book a river cruise thinking you are going to be partying the whole week your are going to be very disappointed. Also, if you book an ocean cruise thinking you are going to have peace and quiet you are in for a rude awakening. But if you do your homework before you go on your cruise I can tell you that you will have a great time.