Cruising Europe by River or Sea

How will you decide which is better for your next adventure?

Whether you are new to cruising in Europe or returning for another adventure, there are different types of cruising and a variety of destinations for you to consider before you click “Book Now.” 

When deciding which cruise style is best for you, consider what you’d like to get out of your vacation. River cruising is one of the fastest-growing forms of travel, but ocean cruise vendors have spent years perfecting their itineraries. Decide first where you want to go, what you want to see and then select the cruise that best fits your needs.

Thankfully, we’ve provided some distinctions between river and ocean cruising you should consider before making a decision.

River Cruising

River cruising puts you right in the heart of your destination. With plenty of time to explore the historic cities your ship docks at along the way, this type of travel is traditionally more about the destination than what’s onboard the ship. They usually offer several excursions in port cities along the route. 

River cruise ships are usually smaller than their ocean cousins to accommodate the rivers they sail on. Many ships hold 200 or fewer passengers, and while the cabins may be slightly smaller than an ocean liner, they offer thoughtful amenities. Their smaller size provides easy access to everything on board—think of it as your floating luxury resort that provides a peaceful, relaxing place to unwind after a day of exploring.

You will dine on locally-sourced gourmet cuisine and enjoy local performers who come aboard for an evening of entertainment. Dinner may include wine and beer tastings, too. 

Ocean Cruising

Ocean cruising is great for travelers looking for a balance between excursions on land and days at sea. Many ocean cruises visit several different regions with intermissions spent at sea. You can expect a day or two at sea to give you full-day relaxation time within most cruise itineraries. Even if your ports aren’t your preferred land destination, major cities are easily accessible by train, bus or car.

Ocean cruise liners offer a variety of entertainment onboard their ships, including nightly shows, singers, dancers and comedians—and that’s only a sampling of their entertainment offerings. They also have a variety of restaurants and buffets onboard.

Ocean liners come in many sizes with different amenities and levels of luxury. Depending on your cruise line, almost everything can be included in the cruise fare, or you may have the option to add on drink and dining packages, excursions, land transportation and more. Consider what level of entertainment and experience options you’d like to have on a ship before making a decision.

All of AAA’s preferred river cruise lines offer at least one included excursion in every port (AmaWaterways and Uniworld offer multiple excursions to choose from in each port). In contrast, most ocean cruise lines provide many excursion options, but at an additional cost. Before deciding based on price, make sure you understand everything included and what counts as an extra cost.

Extend Your Sailing & Combine Cruises

Both river and ocean cruising offer sailings of 7 days or longer. If time allows, you have the option to extend your sailing – doing what is known as back-to-back sailing. Combining two cruises allows you the opportunity to see twice as much on the same trip!

Interested in Cruising in Europe?

If you’ve traveled to Europe before or have always dreamed of it, both river and ocean cruise companies offer in-depth itineraries that highlight the most iconic and memorable destinations in Europe.

No matter where you want to travel, your AAA travel agent can help you select the cruise that best fits your dream vacation. Schedule an appointment today and start planning your European cruise.

Michelle Tucker-Bradford is Director of Travel Sales for AAA Ohio Auto Club.

Updated 3/10/2022.