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The difference between a ferry and a cruise ship

If you're planning a trip on the water, it's important to know the difference between a ferry passenger-ship and a cruise ship. While both will take you across the open seas, they offer vastly different experiences. So, weigh anchor and set sail with me as we explore the differences between these two types of ships.

Video of 11 differences

Itinerary and Schedules

Ferry passenger-ships usually (in almost 90%+ of the cases) have a fixed schedule, with predetermined departure and arrival times.

In contrast, cruise ships offer more flexible itineraries, with multiple ports of call and a variety of shore excursions and activities to choose from. This gives you the opportunity to explore several destinations in one trip.

Typical schedule of the Calais Dover ferry by P&O Ferries
The More complex schedule of the Disney cruise
The More complex schedule of the Disney cruise

The different purposes of the ships

Maybe the most important reason of all: Ferry passenger-ships and cruise ships serve very different purposes. The main function of a ferry passenger-ship is to transport passengers and vehicles between two points on a fixed route. They are a vital mode of transportation for commuters, tourists, and locals alike. In contrast, cruise ships are all about the leisure experience. They offer a floating vacation with entertainment, relaxation, and adventure as their main goals.

A cruise is generally more expensive than a ferry, due to the longer journey and higher level of amenities provided.

Duration and the Length of Journey

The length of the journey is another key difference. Ferry passenger-ships typically travel shorter distances, with the voyage lasting anywhere from a few hours to a day.

On the other hand, cruise ships are designed for longer journeys, with some trips lasting several weeks. So, if you're looking for a quick trip or a longer vacation, that will affect which type of ship you choose.

There are also reports that people tend to get much more seasick on ferries compared with cruise ships. If you are scared of getting Seasick, be sure to check out our extensive guide on how to defeat seasickness on ferries.

Onboard Amenities

When it comes to onboard amenities, there's a big difference between the two types of ships. Ferry passenger-ships generally offer basic seating, restrooms, and minimal food service.

In contrast, cruise ships are known for their extensive facilities, such as swimming pools, spas, theaters, gourmet restaurants, and more. So, if you're looking for a luxurious experience, a cruise ship may be the better choice.

Cruise Ship from above
A cruise from above with swimming pools and a lot of fun extra things.

There are, however exceptions to this rule, as the ferry from Kiel to Oslo (connecting Norway to Germany) is for instance an old cruise ship and because of that this ferry is a very luxurious one. More modest cruise ships won't match this ferry.

The size is also a difference: Cruise ships are typically much larger than ferries, with more cabins and facilities to accommodate a larger number of passengers. Ferries are generally smaller and more compact, designed for shorter journeys with fewer passengers. You can also see this on the featured image of this article.

Accommodations of a ferry vs a cruise ship

Finally, accommodations on ferry passenger ships are often limited to basic seating or cabins with bunk beds.

Cruise ships, on the other hand, have a wide range of accommodations available, from inside cabins to lavish suites with private balconies. If you're looking for a more comfortable and luxurious stay, a cruise ship may be the way to go.

Also, here there are exceptions, as ferries are sometimes old cruise ships!

Ferry vs Cruise ships
Ferry vs Cruise ships, can you spot the ferries? =)

Conclusion of ferries vs cruises

In conclusion, while both types of ships offer water transportation, they serve very different purposes. Ferry passenger-ships are all about getting you from point A to point B quickly and efficiently, while cruise ships are all about the leisure experience. they are destinations in themselves. If you're looking for a quick commute or a relaxing vacation with all the amenities, make sure to choose the right type of ship for your journey.

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Jochem Vroom
Jochem Vroom

Meet Jochem Vroom – Online Investor, Digital Strategist and Experienced Ferry Traveler.When he's not busy running his businesses, Jochem loves nothing more than exploring new destinations by sea.At FerryGoGo, Jochems' primary mission is to safeguard the integrity and excellence of our content and website. Jochem achieves this by meticulously verifying reviews, routes, and maintaining continuous communication with ferry operators. This commitment ensures the authenticity of the content featured on

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