why are river cruises so expensive

Why are river cruises so expensive?  You might be curious about what you receive for the cost of a river cruise if it is your first time taking one.

Undoubtedly, it will be extremely expensive, but that is exactly the question.

Many people who have gone on river cruises can attest to the fact that they are well worth the money.

But, why do you need to shell out so much money to go on a river cruise?

River cruises are expensive because of smaller, luxurious ships, exceptional rooms and service, high-quality food, and the inclusion of shore excursions. 

Why are River Cruises So Expensive?

factors behind high river cruise costs

When compared to traditional ocean cruises or land-based vacations, river cruises can seem pricey due to the number of included activities and excursions.

A river cruise is a great opportunity to see the world and learn about the history, culture, and natural beauty of the places you visit.

However, the cost of a river cruise may exceed that of a similar ocean vacation.

The intimate, opulent experience of a river cruise, the extensive amenities and services offered, and the higher operational expenditures all contribute to the higher cost.

Let’s talk more about these factors affecting the cost of river cruises: 

Smaller Luxurious Ships

smaller luxurious ships

Scale economies are perhaps the most important factor.

Depending on the size of the ship, there may be as many as 6,000 people on board for a single ocean cruise, but it is different for river cruises.

The average capacity of a river cruise ship is between 100 and 200 passengers, making it significantly smaller than an ocean liner.

Due to the increased staff-to-guest ratio, each client will receive exceptional care in this cozy setting.

The ships are outfitted to provide first-class lodgings, with many staterooms boasting private balconies and other upscale features. 

Also, the higher cost per passenger results from the company’s inability to take advantage of the economies of scale that larger ocean liners offer. 

Cost of the Crew

cost of the crew

Most river cruise ships have crew quarters on board to ensure exceptional service to the guests.

In fact, the crew members are constantly available to talk to guests, even when they are not formally working.

Quite obviously, it pushes the operation cost up, making river cruises a lot more expensive than other options. 

Better Rooms and Service

Smaller and cheaper to build than oceangoing vessels, river ships see regular new vessel upgrades, and it can increase the overall cost.

It also means those ships are typically more modern in design and technology than their ocean-going equivalents.

Many large companies frequently employ vessels that are either brand new or no more than two years old.

Similarly, better room service can also cause the price to go up.

With fewer passengers and more staff members available all the time, you may expect them to be attentive to your needs and perhaps even remember your name and preferred beverage. 

The Quality of Food

the quality of food

Most river trips include all meals served on the ship, pushing the cost up.

In most cases, every dinner features at least three different courses: appetizer, main course, and dessert. Some river cruises provide five or more dishes for dinner.

Since there are fewer people eating, the kitchen staff usually has more leeway to accommodate visitors with dietary restrictions.

Naturally, on a river cruise, the majority of the meals will be prepared with ingredients purchased locally (which is expensive, but better for you on all fronts).

This means you will not have to settle for unripe tomatoes from South America if you are in Prague.

Fact: Many river cruise companies offer menus for review before meal times and include allergy information to help you select the right options. 

Inclusion of Shore Excursions

inclusion of shore excursions

Cruises often include shore excursions, which is naturally going to make them a lot more expensive.

Many river cruise companies include various excursions.

Every port of call features either a bus/walking tour or a guided walking tour (with a headset so you can always hear the guide).

Depending on the cruise you select, it may include optional activities like wine tastings, lunches, etc., which is why you should expect to pay more upfront. 

Operational Costs

There are several distinct operational expenditures associated with river cruising that can add up.

Depending on the itinerary, river cruises may incur greater port charges and docking fees than ocean cruises.

Fact: Due to the shallow and sometimes narrow canals, river cruise ships require regular repair, which adds to the overall cost. 

Limited Scope for Profit

limited scope for profit

There is not as much room on river cruise ships for profit-generating extras like casinos, spas, and specialty restaurants as there is on ocean cruise ships.

Since it is impractical to offer these conveniences as extras, river cruise lines typically include their cost in the base fare. 


Weather and water conditions play a significant role in the river cruising experience.

Seasonal fluctuations in river levels can make it unsafe for ships to travel down them, reducing the total number of possible annual sailings.

factors such as season

Due to supply constraints and increased demand, prices may rise during peak seasons.

Some river cruises may cost more than others, but the extra money is well worth the unforgettable experience they provide.

River cruising stands out from other forms of vacationing because of its intimate setting, original itinerary, top-notch service, and all-inclusive cost.

Fact: All river cruises charge you differently, so when planning a trip, it is vital to know exactly what you are getting for your money. 

Why Are American Cruise Lines So Expensive?

why is american cruise lines so expensive

American Cruise Lines provides a one-of-a-kind, high-end cruise experience, although its fares may be more expensive than those of competing companies.

And it is for many different reasons.

Several variables, including American Cruise Lines’ service quality and business model, contribute to the company’s higher prices.

Here are some other considerations: 


American Cruise Lines uses smaller vessels that may carry between 100 and 200 passengers.

That is a huge contrast to the thousands of people that can fit on the mega-ships used by some cruise lines.

However, by operating a smaller fleet, the corporation will miss out on the cost savings that come with volume.

The price of a ticket reflects the increased operating expenses per customer. 

All-Inclusive Pricing

all-inclusive pricing

American Cruise Lines provides many all-inclusive and virtually all-inclusive cruise itineraries.

This implies that in addition to the cruise itself, the ticket purchase also covers a wide range of perks and services.

These might range from meals to shows to educational seminars to even shore excursions.

Although this initially raises the price, it may be more cost-effective in the long run because passengers will not have to worry about hidden fees

High-Quality Amenities

The meals and drinks you enjoy on your cruise are on the house, so you can sit back, relax, and let the crew take care of your culinary needs as you explore the world at sea.

Breakfast in bed? No problem. Room service is available for that.

high-quality amenities

In addition, they provide complimentary coffee, tea, and soft drinks around the clock to ensure you never go thirsty.

They make sure you get a taste of the local flavor by providing a free shore excursion every day.

Every evening begins with a complimentary cocktail hour so you may mingle and unwind with new friends.

You can stay in touch with friends and family back home and update them on your cruise adventures in real-time thanks to the shipwide free Wi-Fi.

You may unwind and learn at the same time with carefully selected onboard programming and informative guest talks

Unique Itineraries

American Cruise Lines features one-of-a-kind vacation packages that highlight the United States’ cultural and historical landmarks in addition to the country’s natural wonders.

That includes minor rivers and coastal villages that big ships cannot reach very regularly. 

The pricing of these customized journeys reflects the time and effort put into arranging and coordinating each detail to ensure that each traveler has a pleasant and memorable experience. 

American Build and Crewed

american build and crewed

The majority of the personnel on board an American Cruise Lines ship is also American.

Due in large part to the fact that U.S. labor and manufacturing standards are among the highest in the world, this contributes to the higher prices.

As such, the Jones Act, which requires all vessels operating between American ports to be American-built and -crewed, falls under this category as well.

The result is higher ongoing expenses.

Fact: American Cruise Lines invests in new, fuel-efficient vessels to lessen environmental impact, ultimately increasing operations and maintenance expenses.  


Why are river cruises so expensive? River cruises are naturally expensive because of the smaller ship sizes and top-notch services and amenities.

Many river cruises are not available through the year, which is why the prices are likely to go up during the peak season.

Be prepared to pay more for a company with a better market position, such as American Cruise Lines, as it has created a name of delivering high quality services.