River cruising is currently enjoying unprecedented growth of 11% industry wide, with Viking River Cruises topping 40%. The Guinness record-breaking addition of 18 new Viking Longships this year tops the list but other river cruising companies are growing as well. Ocean cruising continues to grow too, at a respectable 5% as new big ships continue to be built. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises all have ships coming out this year. By river or ocean, any one of these cruise lines and their ships can make for a great cruise vacation when matched with the right traveler. For those who have been on an ocean cruise and might be thinking about a river cruise as a possible alternative, let’s take a look at the river cruise equivalent of an ocean cruise.
They both sail on water. On the surface, one might think that is about all they have in common. But a closer look reveals that the experience on either shares some common elements.
Unpack Once, See Many Places
This is usually in the top three list of talking points for travel agents, differentiating cruise travel from land options. Indeed, by river or ocean, ships carry their passengers to desirable places, brining their floating hotel along with them. Add up the cost of a hotel and transportation to just about any cruise itinerary and via ship almost always comes out costing less. Throw in that skipping the hotel hopping and transportation involved gives more quality time when we travel for a bonus.
An Undeniably Great Travel Value
Compared to land vacations, cruise travel almost always comes out on top. Assuming travelers are matched with appropriate ships for their interests, both ocean and river cruises deliver what they advertise, often exceeding expectations.
The Culinary Experience
This is one area where big ship cruises, with all the space they have to add features, really go over the top. Celebrity chefs lend their names to signature eateries. Choices include everything from a hot dog on a bun to fabulous, lifetime-quality dining experiences one would pay far more for on land. This area is also changing rapidly with complete and total revamps of the ocean dining experience in progress or headed our way. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, for example, will not have the traditional fixed dining available at all. Instead, passengers will choose from many specialty restaurants, a good number of which are included in the price.
River cruise ships include breakfast, lunch and dinner but dock at places where passengers get off the ship on an included excursion. Ashore, they become immersed with the locality they are visiting. Some linger behind to enjoy a sidewalk café or iconic restaurant. All see menu items that night in the river ship dining room that reflect the part of the world they have or will visit.
By River Or Ocean, Each Has It’s Place
Ocean cruises made a science of enabling us to leave our hectic, work all the time world behind, reset ourselves and come back refreshed, perhaps with a different perspective on our work, home and personal lives. One of the best pieces of advice one could heed at the beginning of an ocean cruise is to buy into what they offer. Go to the shows, do the activities, enjoy the top deck features and let them have their way with you. Truly doing so will reap the big reward that eclipses the ‘great deal’ they got and the cumulative effect of all onboard experiences: You will feel a bit different at the end, in a good way.