A lot of people say to me "I can't afford a river cruise." It is true that the up front costs of a river cruise can be higher than that for an ocean cruise. The lowest price river cruise is usually around $1700 per person and goes up from there. However, because most river cruises include a lot more in the price of the cruise than do most ocean cruises, the TOTAL price of the cruise is often the same.
In the example below, I compare a popular river cruise company Ama Waterways with Holland America, a well-known ocean cruise line. Holland America is considered an mid to high level cruise line (although not considered premium or luxury). The service on board is excellent. Ama Waterways is considered a mid to high level river cruise line (not considered premium or luxury) and the service on board is excellent. So, trying to compare apples to apples :)
Most river cruise rooms, and all of them on Ama Waterways, have a window. Most are full length windows and some rooms have balconies. Holland America has some room choices without a window (called interior rooms) and then rooms with more views as you move up the price categories.
It is true, that if you get a sale price on Holland America for an inside room....even with everything you will have to add on to the cruise, it may still be less than a river cruise. However, if you take the same category of rooms and compare, the price is the about the same (or sometimes even less).
Price isn't everything. The atmosphere on board is completely different between a river cruise and an ocean cruise. Ama Waterways boats hold 200 people or less and dock right in city centers. There is no need to walk from the port into town or take a tender (small boat) from the boat to the shore--both of these are common on ocean cruises. Most Holland American ships hold between 1,000 and 2,000 people. This is considered mid-size for ocean vessels. Having 200 or less companions on board means getting off the ship is quicker and easier and the cruise has a more intimate feel. You have a better chance of getting to know others on board and the staff have a better opportunity to know you and what you like. There are some river cruise lines that allow children, but not all do. The facilities on board aren't as extensive on a river cruise as they are on an ocean cruise---the spa and pool may be smaller, there isn't a kids club (if they allow children), and entertainment options are toned down (no Broadway-like shows like you often get on an ocean cruise).
Please message me and we can discuss which options are best for you...for either a river or an ocean cruise.
Tracey is the owner of Unraveled Travel and has traveled to every continent (thanks to the recent visit to Antarctica!