Many times while travelling with our group members, I have heard “I’d love to do a river cruise, but it seems so expensive.” This is a legitimate comment from prospective first time river cruisers and an understandable one. At first glance, looking at the cost of a comparable number of days on a similar class ocean cruise compared with a similar length river cruise, it is likely the river cruise price will be somewhat higher.
As with all things, one must compare apples to apples. On ocean cruises, you are usually buying just that; the bare bones cruise only. Shore excursions in each port are additional and are likely to run between USD75 - $125 or more for each tour. On a week-long cruise, this can amount to over $1,000 per person. In addition, you will also pay for all of your beverages onboard including wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks and bottled water. Some ocean cruises also charge for specialty coffees and other specialty non-alcoholic drinks. A bottle of wine at dinner will run from $30 for the least expensive bottle. To keep in touch with family via internet services while you are away will cost $55 and up for a basic package.
River cruising on the other hand, includes shore excursions in each port, even offering separate “gentle walkers” tours for those less mobile. Having shore excursions included makes for a more relaxing voyage as there is no pressure to get tours booked once you’re onboard and no worries about how much it’s going to set your wallet back. Wine, beer and soft drinks are included with lunches and dinners and there is no charge if you request an espresso or cappuccino or bottled water during the day. On some river cruises even complimentary champagne is served with breakfast. In-room internet access is generally available at no charge.
If you’re considering a river cruise but are concerned with the seemingly high cost, be sure to do the math and compare the number of days, inclusions and services provided. It’s not to say river cruising is better than ocean cruising but it can offer excellent value if you take the time to compare the two.
A few tips when considering a river cruise….book early! The ships are small and river cruises are very popular. Most often the ships sell out well ahead of departure. If possible, confirm your space at least six or seven months in advance. This also gives you a better chance of getting the cabin you want in the location you want. Some river cruises offer Early Booking Offers and these can have substantial savings. They are limited time offers, so take advantage! Booking early may also save you on the cost of flights, as these can become more expensive as departure date nears.
Whether you choose an ocean voyage or a river cruise, bon voyage! You’re in for a wonderful journey.