3 Reasons Why You Should Choose a River Cruise over an Ocean Cruise

An oft-debated issue is whether river cruises are better than ocean cruises. We may be biased, but we wanted to put this matter to rest once and for all!

No matter which type of cruising you prefer, one thing is for certain – there’s ample opportunities to put your feet up and relax in both river cruises and ocean cruises! With that in mind, let’s get into it:

Small group experiences vs Mass-market tourism

When it comes to river cruising, the ships are much smaller than their ocean counterparts. Whereas ocean cruises often have thousands of passengers, river cruise ships have far lesser capacity. In Europe, most river cruise ships sleep between 100 to 200 passengers, which – in our point of view – is still far too much, potentially resulting in overtourism in some areas where towns and villages cannot bear such a heavy influx.

This is why Assam Bengal Navigation ships are deliberately boutique in size, sleeping between 24 to 40 passengers at a time. It’s always been our mission to tread lightly wherever we go, and keeping our passenger capacity limited to just 40 is one of the many ways we remain true to our word. What’s more is that these small numbers on river cruises allow you to not only connect with other guests but also forge a deeper cultural exchange with the local communities that you’ll encounter; as Assam Bengal Navigation cruises take you to lesser-visited parts of India, you’ll find that the locals are as curious about you as you are of them!

ABN Sukapha is our smallest vessel, sleeping up to 24 passengers at a time

Furthermore, time is a luxury that ocean cruises may not always be able to provide. Embarkation and disembarkation – more often than not – take ages on ocean cruises as passengers wait in long queues after a hot day of exploration. On river cruises, there’s no such problem – you can be in the comfort of your cabin within minutes – and with a refreshing drink in hand too!

Cultural immersion vs On-board entertainment

If learning and immersing yourself in the culture and history of a destination sounds like your idea of a perfect holiday, then a river cruise is for you. Shore excursions on river cruises are included in your overall cost and often held in small groups, allowing guests to move at a relaxed pace and not get a rude shock with the bill at the end of the cruise.

On Assam Bengal Navigation river cruises on the Ganges and Brahmaputra, you can visit towns and villages, historic sites and monuments, ancient temples, national parks and river islands There’s something new to see each day, an opportunity to stretch the legs and go on shore excursions to meet smiling locals, maybe observe the art of brass-making at artisan towns, or just stroll through the paddy or mustard fields of a tribal village.

ABN Rajmahal guests enjoying a well-deserved cup of milky Assam tea after a chai-making demonstration on board

On ocean cruises, culturally immersive tours not only tend to cost extra but they are also less of a focus, in lieu of onboard entertainment like casinos, water parks, extravagant theatre or musical productions, and more. River cruises too have onboard entertainment but they’re more of a local variety, often showcasing traditional dance forms, folk performances, cooking classes on local cuisines, wine-tasting sessions (or chai-making as we do on Assam Bengal Navigation ships).

Ever-changing scenery vs Vast blue vistas

This may not appear to be an important point to some, but once you’re on an ocean cruise, you may find yourself wishing for different views! On river cruises, there are fewer days spent solely on cruising, whereas you can go for days on ocean cruises with only the vast blueness as your vista and, perhaps, the odd seabird. River cruises offer ever-changing views – the Ganges, being a narrow river, serves up different facets of colourful India; and on our Brahmaputra river cruises, you could even spot a tiger from the ship as it inches closer to Kaziranga National Park.

Views of changing village scenery from ABN Rajmahal on the Ganges river cruise

Final thoughts

It’s no secret that river cruises are generally more expensive than ocean cruises in most cases, but there’s more ways to define value than just dollar value. Ocean cruising is a game of volumes – the more the passengers, the less expensive the cruise.

ABN guests on our Brahmaputra river cruises spotted this majestic Royal Bengal Tiger climbing a riverside sand cliff

It’s exactly the opposite for river cruises; its true value lies in the authentic encounters with the people you’ll meet, their rich history that you’ll learn and the unique culture that you will experience in these seldom-visited areas you’ll visit. Add to that the like-minded company you’ll meet on board, the personalised service that you’ll receive, and the comfort you’ll travel in, and you have yourselves a winner – try a river cruise next time!


About the author

Nicola is the Managing Director of Micro-Cruising. Small ships great trips. Micro-Cruising sells trips on ships of 100 passengers or fewer. We are the specialists in small ships with over 700 vessels worldwide.