Sailing vs Cruising: What is the Difference?

The sea, ocean, rivers, and most water bodies are natural wonders that have been a crucial part of humans’ lives over the years since time immemorial because of their usefulness and versatility. These various water bodies can be used as a valid means of transportation, recreational activities, sporting activities, even generating electricity, etc. Under the recreational and sporting activity, boating is a relevant part. Sailing and cruising can be seen as subgroups of boating in general. What is boating generally? Boating can be defined as the act of using a boat to travel on water not just for recreational purposes but also for activities such as fishing, water sports, among other things. Sailing vs cruising, which are both terms under boating, tend to be frequently mixed up because of the similarities they share. However, they are two different terms, and the distinct features will be discussed in this writeup.

What is Sailing?

Firstly, the keyword here is “sail.” What is a sail? A sail is a piece of fabric attached to a boat that is arranged in such a way that it causes the wind to drive a boat. The sail may be attached to the boat through a combination of mast, spars, and ropes. Relatedly, sailing is an activity done on a sailboat. It involves using the wind, windsails to steer the boat on a body of water, ice, land, or any place that is “sailable” to reach a certain destination. As clearly seen in the description given above, sailing is not necessarily confined to water areas for navigation. Sailboats are specifically designed so that when sails or a sailcloth is attached to them, maneuvering the sailboat becomes an easy task. This process will be further discussed later.

What is Cruising?

Wikipedia defines cruising aptly. It refers to cruising by boat as an activity that involves living for an extended period on a vessel, usually a boat, while traveling from place to place for pleasure. Depending on the kind of cruise you are going for, there are several types of boats one can use for such recreational adventure. For instance, powerboats which are built for speed and thrills, are one type. Also, sailboats discussed earlier can be used for cruising in general. This shows that the term “cruising” is a wide term that covers even sailing. Generally, cruising attracts people more than sailing because of the fun, entertainment, and the thrill involved, and the fact that it is a very effective means for stress relief.

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What Are the Differences Between Sailing and Cruising?

Trip Distance

First, most sailboats are not built for long-distance voyages on the sea, ocean, or any other relevant water bodies. Therefore, it is only natural that they can travel on such waters for a short period. Besides, sailing as a recreational activity is usually done within a limited area where wind frequently blows, which makes steering really easy. Second, by contrast, cruising usually involves taking longer trips ranging from days to weeks depending on the destination(s) and the aim the rider is trying to achieve. This is because most times, a cruise usually involves more than one destination and location. Additionally, cruising boats that are mostly powered by engines are designed to easily achieve long-distance cruise travels.

Boat Size and Specifications

Generally, cruise boats are usually larger than sailboats. Note that this is just a general perspective, and there are valid exceptions. For instance, sailboats can sometimes be used for cruising purposes, as referenced earlier. Regardless of that, most cruise boats are designed to be big and perform multi-functional tasks. Luxurious cruise boats might even be large enough to contain pools, spas, and other features for the purpose of relaxation throughout the cruise. Sailboats are usually mini-crafts that are lightweight.
This is because they are usually built with the intention of letting the wind easily steer them. Although, there are a few exceptions, such as yachts that are large sailboats. Another difference is the boat specifications. Sailboats are usually steered manually with the help of winds. So most times, they lack mechanical engines. On the contrary, cruise boats are usually built with powerful engines that run on diesel. They usually generate winds and a certain sense of thrill because of the speed they produce.

Crowd Space

Obviously, it can be deduced from the past reasons given above that a sailboat will have little accommodative space because of its size. Generally, a sailboat’s capacity should range from 25-to 150 persons. In reverse, cruise boats are usually designed to hold a large number of people who go on a cruising expedition. A cruising boat’s capacity can range from 500(five hundred) to about 5000(five thousand) because of its size. A cruise boat can perform so many different functions for the people on board, and these are some of the few reasons that make cruise rides really enjoyable.


An unspoken fact in the boating world is that bigger is always far more expensive. This can also be applied to cruise and sailboats. A sailboat isn’t cheap, but it does not incur unnecessary expenses. A person interested in buying a solid sailboat can buy them within the price range of 20000(twenty thousand) dollars to 60000(sixty thousand) dollars. By opposite, sizeable are insanely expensive. They can range from 2,000,0000(two million) dollars to 1.2 billion dollars. Cruise boats are rarely bought for personal purposes, although they are sometimes. They are usually rented for recreational purposes.

Entertainment and Fun Factor

In a sailboat, due to the closeness to natural factors such as winds, the occupants use the opportunity to feel nature and have some other form of entertainment depending on the people on board and what they want. However, the fun and entertainment in a sailboat is usually not very lush. By contrast, most cruise ships/boats are literally designed for entertainment and other pleasures one might want to take part in the vessel. For instance, pools and spas which help with relaxation are usually on most cruise ships. Is it luxurious meals that will whet the appetite of the riders on board? They are usually commonplace on cruise ships. They usually range from fast food shops to even five-star restaurants depending on what you want and what you can afford. Sometimes, the riders get to see live shows, musical performances, and even famous productions starring popular actors.


Without rules, things tend to go haywire, and unplanned scenarios with negative effects tend to occur. Cruise ships embody these rules. Although cruise ships are filled with fun stuff and are entertainment-based, there must be a framework that guides the occupants. Cruise ships are usually specific about the dos and don’ts on board so that everything, including schedules, will work in a streamlined manner. So, in general, on a cruise boat, there is a very strict schedule to follow. By contrast, on a sailboat, there are few rules because of its simplicity. Most times, just the general rules of boating are followed to prevent drowning, deaths, and possibly wreckage.

Sailing vs Cruising: What is the Difference? – Summary

Therefore, as you probably understand now from the points above, sailing is completely different from cruising even though they are both terms under boating. In summary, sailing refers to riding specifically with sailboats, while cruising covers a wider set of scenarios.

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