Although commercial luxury cruising was born as an affair of the ocean during recent times, cruising as an activity of adventure, romance, vacationing and luxuriating has old antecedents. Royalties along the ancient civilizations – the Nile or the Tigris – have frolicked on rivers on moonlit nights for long. For long the Mediterranean was the Roman Lake, and the Thames hosted many a parties since the time of the Virgin Queen Elizabeth.
But the modern version of river cruising draws heavily from ocean liners. Essentially river cruises are very different from ocean cruises. Passing through smaller water bodies, river liners are usually smaller. Usually traversing a smaller distance, they cover fewer days. Smaller size means fewer luxuries on board, although one must not generalize. Skirting alongside land, river rides offer a greater visual variety, closer and intimate contact with local population and more frequent disembarkations. In fact, many river cruises combine local (terrestrial) sightseeing – from Yangtze and Nile, to Thames and the Viking seas.
In general, river cruises are more activity filled and are targeted towards those in lookout for variety, adventure and travel, whereas the ocean liners are targeted towards those who want a more leisurely vacation. River cruises are becoming more popular, with shorter one-day versions being a sine qua non attraction at many places.