Although river cruising has always been popular with the discerning traveler, since the Coronavirus pandemic, its popularity has increased significantly. When you think of river cruise, you think small ship, close to land with nothing to see or do except on the boat itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are some major differences between river and ocean cruising, besides the obvious. First, just so we understand what we’re talking about, river cruising vehicles are called boats while ocean-going vessels are called ships. Ships are bigger…way bigger! Ocean ships can carry up to 4500 passengers depending on the size of the ship. Average capacity for ocean-going vessels is about 2500. River boats, on the other hand, max out at around 450 people for the largest boats. What that means in real terms is more personalized service, more catering, and access to more places.
According to Cruise Critic, there are nine things to know about river cruises on U.S. rivers.
- We’ve already given you the first one; it’s a boat, not a ship.
- There are both a pilot and a captain onboard U.S. river boats.
- Distances are in regular miles, not nautical miles.
- You will encounter traffic.
- Sometimes you have to stop.
- Weather matters.
- Seasickness will not be a problem.
- You can walk if you want to (to most attractions and cities at stops).
- It probably won’t be your last (river) rodeo.
Though the article was written a few years ago by Dori Saltzman, it’s still true today. You can read the entire article with explanations of those nine things here.
The problem with river cruising is that not enough people know that it’s a ‘thing.’ Major river cruise lines are beginning to target baby boomers because 1) they have the time and ability to cruise, 2) they have an interest in visiting U.S. cities, and 3) they know that river cruising is available and growing in popularity. You can cruise along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, cruise along the eastern seaboard, or cruise on the Columbia and Colorado rivers out west. You really should give it a try; it’s a great alternative to rubbing elbows with 3000 other people!