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Why the Best Cruise Ships May Be River Cruise Ships

Harbor and buildings in city center in Lucerne, Switzerland.

River cruise ships are growing in popularity as an attractive option to see the world by water. According to, a travel industry magazine, there were expected to be 18 new cruise ships coming online in 2017, and more ships are scheduled to be added in the coming years to keep up with demand.

The best cruise ships in the new generation of river cruise ships come with perks and innovations that ocean cruise liners may lack, and offer a more intimate travel experience.

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Here are a few reasons why river cruise ships are becoming an increasingly popular option for cruise vacations.

Convertible boats

An ocean cruise ship has the space to offer almost everything for everyone, from dance halls to swimming pools. These increased options come at the price of a larger ship design, one that can feel imposing and impersonal to travelers. River cruise ships are smaller and more intimate, but often have fewer options for amenities.

This is slowly changing. The best cruise ships on the river have now devised ways to convert spaces for multi-use. For example, Cruise Critic reports that Emerald Waterways offers cruise vacations on a ship with a pool deck that converts into a movie theater. Other cruise ships have cabins that come equipped with sliding glass exterior windows which open up to expand the square footage of cabin balconies. Doing more with less is key for river cruise boats to offer better cruise vacations.

Active travelers

Travel, which once was thought of as a leisurely activity, has become something of a contact sport. More travelers today want to be on the go and see more than in the past, and river cruise vacations offer some advantages for this crowd. With river cruises, you’re never more than a window away from a new view of a new land to explore, and down days for travel are extremely rare. Upon reaching each new destination, you can disembark quickly right onto land, rather than waiting for another boat to shuttle you to shore. And while cruise lines often disembark at designated cruise ship sections of town, river cruises often disembark right into the heart of a city.

best cruise ships
Adventures by Disney river cruisers sail aboard a river cruise ship custom built by AmaWaterways with families in mind. (Photo: Chloe Rice, Walt Disney World News)

All ages access

The best cruise lines now offer what are called “multi-generational” and “family friendly” cruises, and Disney now even has some river cruise vacations. These kid-friendly trips are a new and popular trend in the last decade. On cruise vacations with kids, there are more casual dining options and more active itinerary choices to keep up with the ultra-mobile clientele. Not all cruises are so accommodating to youngsters, however, so be sure to talk to a cruise line representative to see if there are specially designated cruise options available.

Expanded horizons

River cruises first got a toehold on the travel market in Europe, but now are becoming ubiquitous in Asia and in Africa, as well. Think of a major waterway, and chances are there are cruise vacations to explore it. Want to float down the Nile like Egyptian pharaohs, trace the path of the mighty Mississippi, or spy pagodas in Cambodia? There is a river cruise vacation for that.

Instant cruise vacation picture uploads

Internet can cost $1 a minute on ocean cruises, a price-tag which becomes all the more expensive when you factor in that most ocean cruise ship internet speed is as slow as molasses. Historically, river cruise ships have had an easier time providing free or low-cost Wi-Fi to passengers, and the best cruise lines are leveraging that advantage by improving connectivity speeds and making sure all corners of the ships are covered by the Wi-Fi network. As the need for 24/7 connectivity increases in our society, that’s either going to make river cruises the more attractive option for travelers or cause ocean cruise liners to rethink their internet policies.

 The river dining experience

 As the river boat industry matures, the best cruise lines are focusing on ways to create a more luxurious experience for travelers. One way they are achieving this is through elevating the culinary experiences on river cruise vacations. On some luxury cruises, chefs are using locally sourced produce, and getting more creative with their dishes. Another fun food trend is that certain river cruise lines are offering regular alfresco dining options; this turn to outdoor eating is aided by the design of newer river cruise ships, which have areas that can be transformed by their captains to create new spaces.

Have you taken both a river cruise vacation and an ocean cruise vacation? What have been some of the differences you have noticed? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below. Happy cruising!

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