What Is a River Cruise?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards
Riverboats are normally much smaller than ocean cruise ships.
Riverboats are normally much smaller than ocean cruise ships.

A river cruise is a type of cruise in which people travel along a river, usually in a flat-bottomed boat. Travelers will often get to enjoy the scenery as well explore a number of ports along the river during the time spent on these cruises. Compared to ocean cruises, these types of cruises are generally smaller, less formal, and less expensive. Also, the accommodations and amenities on a river cruise are usually simpler than those aboard an ocean cruise.

Visitors to Paris often cruise the River Seine in small, open-topped boats.
Visitors to Paris often cruise the River Seine in small, open-topped boats.

As its name suggests, a river cruise involves using a boat to travel up or down a river. During these types of cruises, travelers will often sit back and enjoy the scenery. River cruise boats also usually stop at several docks along the length of the river, so passengers can explore the areas.

Afternoon or evening river cruises will usually only last a few hours. An afternoon river cruise will often include lunch, while an evening cruise can include dinner and cocktails. Longer cruises are also available in many areas, and these can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the size of the river.

Unlike an ocean cruise, a river cruise is usually somewhat small and intimate. A riverboat is typically much smaller than an ocean cruise ship, simply because rivers are smaller. Some of these types of cruises can only accommodate a handful of passengers, while others may be able to carry a few hundred.

This type of cruise is also usually less formal than an ocean cruise. Some river cruise companies may even encourage passengers to help out during the cruise. Rooms aboard these boats are usually small but cozy, and meals are often very informal. Entertainment on small river cruises may consist of lecturers, small bands, or even just some after-dinner conversation.

Larger river cruise boats, on the other hand, may be somewhat more luxurious. These larger river cruises may include spa treatments and gourmet meals. Some riverboats even have casinos on board.

Another major difference between an ocean cruise and a river cruise is the price. Ocean cruises tend to be a bit more expensive, and there may also be a number of hidden charges, including meals and drinks. Not only are river cruises somewhat less expensive, but passengers will usually not need to worry about hidden fees, since nearly everything is included. Excursions ashore will also not usually cost river cruise passengers any extra money either.

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Discussion Comments


I think that one of the most famous river cruises in the world is the one that goes down the Nile in Egypt. Most seem to last from three to four days and can last upwards of a week if you have a bigger budget and more free time. The most popular boat taken is the felucca sailboat.

What I like about the felucca sailboat cruises is that they can be very inexpensive when you consider how much is offered. The one I went on during my vacation stopped at numerous temple sites along the river and offered comfortable sleeping on deck, which while rustic, allowed us to see the stars. We also loved the simple food prepared by the boat staff.


My wife and I recently went on a river cruise for our anniversary and we found a fantastic package. If you are looking into going on a river cruise see if you can find one that is all inclusive. We had a lovely meal, drinks and a concert included in our river cruise, and because it was a formal dress cruise we had a lot of fun dressing up.

Another thing that we liked is that the cruise offered pictures taken by a professional photographer, so we had some great images to take home with us. If you cruise has the facilities they can prepare a CD of images for you to take home. It is well worth the fee if it isn't part of your package.


If you have the money, I say try to go on an ocean cruise, personally. I think they are more beautiful and a much better feeling of escape than river cruises. Expensive, sure, but I think worth it.


@DentalFloss- There are a lot of river cruises in the US too, mainly on the Mississippi. My family went on one a few years ago, and it was a lot of fun to see how different the country looks from the river as you go south towards New Orleans, which is where our cruise finished.

I think a cruise along the river is a really interesting way to see a lot of different parts of a region in a short time.


River cruises have become really popular in Europe. I have known a few people to go on trips along the Danube River, because there are a lot of major cities in a short distance.

On most Danube cruises I have heard about, you can visit major cities like Vienna and Budapest, but also other national capitals like Belgrade and Bratislava. I think it sounds like a fun trip, although I haven't gone on any myself.

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    • Riverboats are normally much smaller than ocean cruise ships.
      By: Melastmohican
      Riverboats are normally much smaller than ocean cruise ships.
    • Visitors to Paris often cruise the River Seine in small, open-topped boats.
      By: Doin Oakenhelm
      Visitors to Paris often cruise the River Seine in small, open-topped boats.