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Picture a cruise ship. Whether this ship is going to the Bahamas, Europe, or Alaska, the cruise ship you are picturing is most likely on the ocean. Because that’s our collective cultural image of what a cruise is. Sailing on the high seas to distant shores.

If you’re tired of this type of cruise, though, there’s another option: the river cruise. In recent years, more and more people are opting for this alternative, and river cruising has quickly gained in popularity.

River cruises and ocean cruises are very similar, but the following differences could have a big impact on your next onboard trip.


Cabins on river cruises are smaller. A river is significantly smaller than the ocean, and so are the ships – and the rooms. This can create a wonderful sense of community with the other passengers on board, but may take some getting used to if you are looking for a luxurious, spacious vacation.

River cruises are more low-key on board. Ocean cruises and cruiseliners tend to have a big personality, but river cruises are typically a bit less flashy. There are fewer restaurants and more buffets. Entertainment doesn’t often involve the headline acts you get on big ocean trips.

The tradeoff is that things are more relaxed in general. If ocean cruise are the hustle and bustle, think of river cruises as the antidote to that.

Off-Shore Excursions

Cruise Ship Accident Lawyer

More excursions, less time between ports. If you prefer onshore excursions to relaxing on deck, you may want to choose a river cruise. There is less distance to travel, and your vacation is more centered on hopping off the ship and exploring your destinations. Usually, you will dock right in the center of town, showing you the local culture as soon as you step off the boat!

Excursions have fewer options, more cultural focus. Pretty much everything runs on a smaller scale for river cruises, but this has its benefits. Rather than getting an overwhelming packet with lists of activities and endless choices, river cruises are more likely to bring you right into a tour to see the area where you landed. Rather than being tempted by exciting (and dangerous) excursions like hang gliding or windsurfing, you will have more opportunities to learn about the culture of the area and enjoy living like a local.


An (arguably) nicer view. Looking out over the vastness of the ocean can be awe-inspiring, but after a while you might find yourself bored. After all, for the most part it’s just big, blue, and empty. On a river cruise, your view will offer quite a bit more variety, with trips that go through forests, pass by towns, and more.

Different safety concerns. By hopping on a river cruise, you can encounter risks that you usually don’t have to worry about with an ocean cruise. For example, low water levels are rarely a problem for ships crossing the Atlantic, but they are an issue for certain river cruises depending on the season. Wind also poses a higher risk for river cruise ships. Additionally, river cruises often have fewer options when they run into poor conditions. If an ocean cruise ship needs to change routes, they have (literally) an ocean of options. Not so much with a river cruise ship.

Ready to Book Your Next River Cruise? Know What You’re Getting

Big problems on river cruises are rare, but passengers should be aware of the different risks and obstacles that come with booking this type of vacation. If you are planning on taking a river cruise, consider obtaining (and carefully reviewing) travel insurance. If you do suffer an injury, don’t hesitate to contact a South Florida cruise ship lawyer.

About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented cruise victims who have suffered all kinds of injuries and illnesses due to negligence. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.