Ocean Cruise versus River Cruise. What’s the difference?

River Cruise or Ocean Cruise what’s the difference? Plenty.  River is a more like a land tour than an Ocean cruise experience.

A few of the big differences are the facilities.  The mega ocean ships offer facitilies like swimming pools, multiple restaurants, bars and lounges and the endless activities on board every day.  Whilst the river ships do offer some of these, they are on a much smaller scale.

And you won’t have any ‘Sea Days’ on the river.  You will have some day time cruising but this is part of the charm – to sail quietly down the river watching the scenery drift past.

Best of all, river cruises generally include shore excursions along with many other extras unlike on the ocean cruise ships.

Although some ocean ships are now offering drinks packages these are an extra expense.  Most river ships will include wine, beer and soft drinks with meals, 24 hour tea and coffee, free Wifi.   So, with fewer on board expenses to add to your bill even though the original fare may be slightly higher to start with a lot more is included.  So no more large on board bills to settle at the end of your holiday.

River Cruise Ship

Ocean Ship

You will see land all the times on a River cruise and are in port daily.  Most stops are right in the heart of the town, you can literally stroll off the ship and you’ll be there.  No more docking in the less salubrious industrial ports full of tankers and working ships, waiting for your bus into town.  And on your return, then queuing again to get back on board at the end of the day.

River itineraries are a lot more port intensive, you could be visiting a different destination every day, sometimes two in a day as travelling between stops is not a great distance.

Carrying 200 passengers or fewer  European river ships are smaller than their ocean going counterparts which can carry up to 7000 passengers!, River ships are a lot more intimate, the atmosphere very sociable, no long queues for the restaurants, or waiting to get on and off.  Just imagine it to be a small luxury floating hotel.

Cabins can be slightly smaller than the large ocean suites, but still beautifully decorated and very comfortable, all with a window or balcony, and you will not find any inside cabins on a river ship.

Viking Sun Deluxe cabin, Ocean cruise

MS Lord Byron Deluxe Suite

MS Lord Byron Deluxe Suite, River cruise

The passengers on ocean cruise liners often range from the budget conscious, sun seeking cheap getaway last-minute booker, often sell off the cheaper cabins this way, to upscale guests looking for the sophisticated ambiance cruising can offer.

River ships offer something to both past ocean cruisers  who want to experience something different but still want a holiday afloat, and travelers who would never consider an ocean cruise but like culture and quality accommodation.  You also won’t ever find a cheap last minutes get away on a river cruise.  With so few cabins, the most popular ones sell fast.

And finally no need to pack your cases the night before the end of your cruise on the river and having to leave it the corridor outside your cabin you can just finish packing the day you leave.  And if your onward travel isn’t until later, continue to enjoy the facilities and leave at your leisure.

So, I hope that this blog post has moved you closer to knowing whether a river cruise is for you.  Each river offers something different as does each cruise operator.  As a specialist in our field.  We look forward to making river cruising work for you.



What’s the food like on a River Cruise?

“What is the food like on a River Cruise? is one of the frequent questions we get asked.

Most offer a menu that reflects the local area using fresh local produce and in our experience can be exceptional, Breakfast features a large selection of hot and cold choices with cooked to order eggs, omlettes and pancakes.  Lunch if on board, and not on a tour is usually a three course offering with a wide menu choice and your evening meal four courses again with a wide choice of dishes featuring some regional specialities of the local area.

If you don’t fancy trying the local delicacies, or just want a lightermeal then you will not go hungry as you can always get fresh Fish, Chicken, Steak or just a Salad.

Roast duck & sprouts on Loire Princesse

Lobster Dinner - Avalon Vista

Most ships only have one sitting for Dinner, as the large restaurants have enough seating for everyone to dine at the same time.   AMAWaterways and Scenic do have a specialty restaurant on board (free of charge unlike ocean going specialty restaurants which incur an extra charge, however you may need to book a table)

MS Emily Bronte lunch

MS Emily Bronte , Lunch

Special Diets

Any special dietary needs can be catered for, Vegetarians wont have any issues as veggie dishes are widely featured on the menus, and the menus usually show which dishes are Gluten free, Nut, Dairy etc.  We would suggest that you let then cruise company know in advance of any special needs so the kitchen knows in advance and the Maitre d’ will check with you on arrival to run through all requirements.

Dress Code

River ships have no strict dress code on board it is very relaxed, no formal nights so no need to pack evening wear like on an ocean going ship, just smart casual.

Wine Cruises

For food and wine lovers why not try one of the gourmet or wine cruise on offer which feature vineyard tours, wine tasting with a local sommelier and gourmet tasting menus, guest speaker on how to pair food and wine togetheris a river cruise holiday right for me?



Is a river cruise holiday right for me?

If you are not sure whether a river cruise is right for you, rest assured you are not alone.
It is a lot of money to spend on a holiday and if you are not sure, it is much easier to do nothing.

is river cruising the right holiday for me?

As a river cruising travel agent, we get a lot of people like yourself who ask us for a brochure and then we don’t hear from again.  They still are not sure whether a river cruise holiday is something they will enjoy.

Where does the enthusiasm go and when do the nerves set in? Or there are other reasons which mean what seemed like a good idea is now not so urgent.  Did life get in the way?

So, thinking of the main objections that people have and nerves about trying it for the first time, let’s see if we can put them to rest.  We’d like to make it happen for you.

1.Why can’t I fly from my local airport?

The main reason is probably that there just aren’t any direct flights or they simply don’t go on the right days.  River cruise destinations in Europe tend to be starting from great capitals like Budapest or Vienna and from a smallish local airport these flights won’t exist or won’t be on the right days.  But if your local airport has flights with low cost carriers like Easyjet or Jet2, then we look at flights first and then which rivers work well, second.

2. I don’t want to fly, I’d rather go by train.

is a river cruising holiday right for me?

Trains are a great way to avoid the airport security restrictions or if you have a fear of flying.  London is a great hub to get to and travel by Eurostar.  It is then easy to get to Brussels or take a longer train south through France.  Journeys can however take a lot longer than a flight and it is worth considering this when making your decision.

3. I am a single traveller and the supplements do seem high

River cruise ships are small and hold between roughly 100-190 people. We can be very politically correct about this and say that you get the space for two people. Most operators will look at 50% supplements over and above the twin passenger price.

Our Advice: If the price of the supplement has put you off, then we do know other operators who charge far, far less than 50% and would be happy to talk you through those options.

4. I’m not sure whether I am fit and able enough for a river cruise holiday at the moment?

If this seems like a stumbling block, then I always suggest breaking the holiday down into portions and working out whether they are manageable. If you are happy with getting on and off buses but don’t want to walk far, then river cruising is still for you.

If you don’t want to feel that you have paid for tours that you are not going to use, then we can look at operators who don’t include tours. No one wants to pay for something they are not going to use.

Our Advice: You need to be able to get up and down stairs, however slowly, but you can watch the world go sailing by, or indeed go off on your own.

5. The dates don’t work for me this year

River cruising seasons go on sale usually in March the previous year, so to get the best choice of dates – June and September are by far the busiest months, then plan ahead. A deposit will secure the holiday of your choice with the balance paid usually 3 months before travel.

Finally – Am I going to enjoy it?

is a river cruise holiday right for me?
River cruising is about culture, sightseeing and the of luxury of having a floating hotel in the centre of some of the world’s most beautiful places. The atmosphere is very relaxed, but it is a touring holiday where the destination is king. Entertainment is low key in the evenings and dining is good to excellent but there is only usually one main dining room. With around 150 people on board, you will make friends easily. And remember, it doesn’t have to be something that you do every year for the rest of your life, a river cruise for you may just be a way of seeing a part of the world you have always wanted to go to.

So, I hope that this blog post has moved you closer to knowing whether a river cruise is for you.  Each river offers something different as does each cruise operator.  As a specialist in our field.  We look forward to making river cruising work for you.



Review of Uniworld’s River Empress Ship

I’m finally getting around to writing about my visit to Uniworld’s River Empress. I do find it hard to write about Uniworld ships as I am so biased. What can you say other than it’s lovely.

River Empress is a 110m Ship

Having had my head turned by Uniworld’s “Super Ships” the Antoinette, Maria Theresa and Catherine, I was looking forward to seeing again one of their 110m ships. In the world of European river cruising, new build ships tend to be of the longer, 135m variety. They are able to hold more passengers and feature slightly more amenities onboard. However, they also take longer to traverse river distances, don’t always fit into the best mooring points and some can look a little like a low rise block of flats from the outside, Continue reading

Island Hopping Cruise in Croatia Review. Day 1

MV Amalia trip with Titan, 1st-3rd October 2015

We arrived at Venice Marco Polo airport whilst it is having renovations done. Beware at the moment as Venice Marco Polo airport is a little messy and quite a walk to the water taxis so be prepared.

We were off for our journey to Rijeka via a 3 hour coach journey which as we’d all met at Gatwick at 4.30 was a welcome chance to sleep.

The MV Amalia is a pretty 3 star ship which can take 36 guests. Titan have contracted it as part of a wider Istria and Croatia tour. There is a restaurant dining area with small bar, , several outside places to sit and sip drinks and a large sundeck Withi modern style loungers.

Onboard are a captain, a ship mate, a waiter called Nemo and a female cook. This being October, the wind is chilly but it is easy to see how lovely it would be to simply sun bath whilst the sea drifts past.

Sunbathing on MV Amalia

We arrived in time for a late lunch of beef consommé and then a lovely slow cooked beef stew (Pasticada) with gnocchi which is a favourite of Croatian wedding banquets, followed by salad and then ice cream. We were all getting used to the motion of ship whilst eating. I have on my seas bands so was able to eat the food. Others were not so lucky as there was a bit of a swell today.

We sailed into Krk at dusk, the second largest island in the 1200 or so Croatian Islands. Since the 1980s it has been joined to the mainland by a bridge but this being a windy area, the bridge was shut today. We walked to discover Vrbnik, the wine producing area of Krk and were treated to a short talk and then a proper Croatian sit down of meats and cheese with which to savour the family made wines.

Wine tasting in Vrbmik, Krk Island, Croatia

Wine tasting in Vrbnik, Krk Island, Croatia

It was cosy and homely and we just had to order a few more bottles of this incredibly drinkable wine. I can’t imagine that any even makes it off the island. I have two bottles for Simeon to taste, if in deed they make it home.




Back to the ship for dinner of spaghetti and a rich tomato sauce to be washed down with large half litres of pivo (October ) Croatian draft beer. A chilly but successful day!