Ocean Vs River Cruising, What Are The Differences?


AmaWaterways is a luxury River Cruise line, who have recently launched the AmaMagna. This is the perfect crossover ship for ocean cruise lovers wanting to try out river cruising. However, river cruising is very different from ocean cruising in many ways. This post looks at the differences between Ocean and river cruising and explores whether River Cruising Is For Families.

Ocean Vs River Cruising, What Are The Differences?

Budapest Is Split By The Danube River?
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

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And until we had sailed on a river cruise we never quite understood the difference. I considered river cruising to be the poor relative to ocean cruising. Full of people of retirement age, ships that were uninspiring a not much fun at all.

The reality is so very different, the AmaMagna feels every bit as classy and elegant as many of the ships we have sailed on. If not more refined and cultured than some, and we left our last cruise exhausted but happy!

There Are Significantly Less Passengers On A River Cruise

Photo Credit: Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

We are talking thousands less; the last Ocean ship we sailed on carried 3998 passengers, the AmaMagna, around 190. Ocean vessels are planned around passenger volume and do it spectacularly well. However, River Cruise ships also do the small ship feel with a style and grace that catches your attention the minute you step onto the ship.

As a result the muster drill is a welcome and safety talk over cocktails. And there are no queues for check in. You simply check in online, board the ship to a warm welcome and get your key from reception. Very much like checking into a boutique hotel.

What Is The Average Age Of River Cruise Passengers?

The AmaMagna docked in Budapest
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

We can only discuss and recommend AmaWaterways and Avalon as these are our only experiences. We were pleasantly surprised by the demographic. The age group was mixed, from children to grandparents. The vibe was a far younger, multigenerational vibe than we had imagined. We have sailed on ocean cruises with an older demographic.

What Is The Dress Code On A River Cruise Vs Ocean Cruising

Doors Of Budapest
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

The dress code is much more relaxed on river cruising Vs an ocean cruise. There is usually a captains gala dinner where you are able to dress a little more elegantly. Alternatively you can opt for a smart casual look.

Men can also choose to wear shorts and polos for dining should they want to. Smart casual is pretty much the order the day. However should you want to dress up a little more, then that is acceptable too. Although ball gowns would look a little ott, some ladies did wear pretty summer/cocktail dresses to the captains gala. I would certainly pack comfy walking shoes or sandals for the day. Some of the tours are very active, we walked miles on our last river cruise.

The Dining Options On A River Cruise Vs Ocean Cruising

Dining on the AmaMagna
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

There are less dining options on a river cruise vs an ocean cruise. However some river cruise ships do have more dining options than others. The food we experienced on our last river cruise was outstanding.

The service felt more personal, the food was delicious and all felt a little more boutique without paying extra for speciality dining. Similarly to ocean cruising, menus change daily and inspired by location. There are often themed regional lunches or brunches.

Port Days On A River Cruise

Visiting Vienna River Cruising Vs Ocean Cruising
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

River cruises are able to reach places ocean cruises can not. There are so many wonderful cities along rivers worldwide. Cities and towns that ocean cruises can’t get too. This opens up a whole new world of travel possibilities.

Many river cruise lines include excursions as part of your fare. Tours such as guided city tours, also wine tasting and food tours. Additionally many tours factor in free time to allow you to delve deeper. For example visiting the crown jewels in Vienna. The guides are always local and know their city, thus making the tours informative, interesting and fun.

Entertainment On A River Cruise

Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

Because of the intensity of days in port evening are more chilled on the river, dinner is a big affair. Pre dinner drinks, followed by a chilled dining experience offer a laid back experience.

Entertainment in the main bar varies from night to night. From local bands and dancing to a disco or pianist. Also if docked you can walk into town and discover the local nightlife. There are also shuttle busses that run throughout the evening if the city is farther out.

Alternatively if like on Ama Waterways there is a full media system and library of movies and boxsets in your cabin should you want to have a chill out evening.

Families On A River Cruise Vs Ocean Cruising.

the pool on the AmaMagna
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

Is River Cruising For Kids? Yes, it would suit families who love to explore. Especially those families who are not bothered for kids clubs and water parks. If spending time together is a priority then river cruising ticks all the boxes.

Family river cruising is a wonderful way to explore and with many cities having beach areas, parks and bookable Segway tours there really is so many adventures to enjoy.

River Cruise Vs Ocean Cruising?

Day bed on AmaWaterways
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

I fell in love with River Cruising, its a wonderful option to travel as a family. And also something we will do without the kids. There are so many wonderful place to explore on rivers all over the world as a family and as a couple.

Will I ocean cruise again? Absolutely, travel is all about finding adventure and seeing the world. And for us river cruising has opened up a whole new way to travel on water.

Disclaimer we were guests onboard the AmaMagna however all thoughts and my new found love of river cruising is all my own opinion.

Also See Our Photo Tour Of Avalon Envision

Lounge area with comfy sofas on Avalon Envision, Avalon Waterways Ships
Photo Credit Sarah Christie, Cruising with Kids

Also, check out our photo tour of Avalon Envision.

river Cruising Vs Ocean Cruising wehat are the difference between the two


  • Sarah Christie

    Sarah also writes for Mini Travellers Family Travel Blog and Extraordinary Chaos Craft and Lifestyle Blog. Both are award-winning blogs with a travel and family focus. She is married and has two boys, aged 18 and 22, who all love cruising as a family. Nothing is better than waking up every day in a new port with new and exciting things to explore. She aims to share how cruising as a family with young adults is the perfect choice for family travel. Her boys are sporty and love the activities, sports and dining options cruising offers. Sarah has worked with brands such as Walt Disney World, Mark Warner, Ikos Resort, Center Parcs, Laura Ashley, Belling and Next.

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