Australians love cruising. In fact, more Australians go on cruises per capita than any other nationality. This Q&A should help you discover what floats your boat.
Is your idea of a holiday chilling out around a sparkling blue swimming pool, sipping mai tais?
Yes: Ocean cruise.
No: Many river cruise ships don’t have a pool and even luxury ones may only have a plunge-style pool.
Are you thinking of a small, intimate cruise, where you say hello to the captain?
Yes: River cruise. River cruise ships carry on average 150-300 passengers. There are smaller ocean-going cruise ships but they are often much more expensive.
No: Ocean-going megaships can accommodate up to 6000 passengers.
Do you get seasick?
Yes: River cruise. Rivers don’t have waves, so it’s a smoother ride. River cruise ships are always within sight of land and often only sail for a few hours a day to the next port.
No: You could choose anything from an Antarctic trip to a sailboat at sea.
Will you be taking the kids along?
Yes: Ocean cruise – there’s not much to keep young children occupied on most river cruises. There’s less space and fewer activities. River cruises are starting to introduce family cruises, though still more suited to older children.
Do you look forward to getting away from (everyone’s) kids?
Yes: River cruise – or a smaller, ocean-cruise ship with a no-children policy.
Are you a serious culture vulture?
Yes: River cruise – but you could go either way, as there are fabulous excursions and specialist cruises from both ocean and river cruise operators. You are more likely to experience architectural or garden tours when on a river cruise.
Is it important to have multiple dining venues? And options such as free ice cream and pizza on offer all day?
Yes: Ocean cruise – the bigger the ship the more options you’ll have. River cruises tend to have more restricted meal times (to fit in with land excursions) and a little less flexibility with timing.
Do you like the idea of dressing up, throwing down the chips at the casino or dancing the night away?
Yes: Ocean cruise. Lavish entertainment is typically an ocean cruise option with Broadway-style productions (hello Mamma Mia!), floorshows, karaoke, jazz clubs, stand-up comedians and more.
No: Nightlife on river cruises tends to be a little more low-key.
Do queues drive you crazy?
Yes: River cruise. The much smaller numbers and quayside docking mean it’s easier to get on and off for excursions, without requiring tenders. On ocean cruises you are more likely to be waiting in line behind hundreds of passengers to embark and disembark.
Are bowling, ice-skating, rock climbing, even onboard surfing part of the bucket-list resort cruise you have in mind?
Yes: Ocean cruise. This is absolutely ocean cruise territory, with the bigger the ship the more resort facilities – dodgem cars, anyone?
Is getting to the gym a priority, no matter where in the world you are?
Yes: Ocean cruise – large ships have equipped gyms and the opportunity to get plenty of on-board exercise. But check ahead, small gyms can prove frustrating if you have several days at sea.
No: River cruise ships are more likely to have a compact (even tiny) gym.