AMT Travel Packing for River Cruise

Packing for Your European River Cruise

One of the best things about river cruises is that once aboard, you unpack once, and then float your way through all of your amazing ports of call, no longer schlepping luggage from place to place.
Here are some must-haves and advice on the process to help you pack what you need, without bringing too much.

Luggage Size and Weight

Airlines and most river cruise lines will have guidelines on the number of bags and total weight. Be sure you check with your travel agent for that information. When on the ship, you’ll store your suitcase under the bed. Consider if you have pre or post trips planned, as that will mean additional transportation and possibly different handling requirements, as well as of course the airlines.

Travel as light as you can – if you think you can do with a carry on, then try it. We recommend giving yourself a ‘test packing run’ a week before your departure. This gives you time to evaluate your options, and purchase a new bag if need be.

Prepare for the Seasons

Most cruises will be in the spring-summer-fall time frame, unless you are doing one of the Christmas Market Cruises. So, think about layering different items together to create a wardrobe that can serve you in a variety of temperature zones. Do of course use the internet to research average temps in your destination, but adapt from there. No need for umbrellas, as most ships will have them available, though.

What About Dress Up Clothes?

River cruises tend to be more casual than the large ocean-liner cruises. Some will have a Captains Dinner night, but at most you will need a sport coat for a gentleman, and a casual dress or skirt for women. Cocktail attire is not needed. Most have rules about no shorts in the dinning room for the evening meal, but most travelers get by with just a change to a nicer pair of shoes and short or blouse for dinner.

Speaking of Shoes…

Comfortable traveling shoes for daytime touring is a must. Ladies, this means no heels, and remember you will often be walking on un-even cobblestoned streets throughout Europe. Many cruises also offer biking tours, and some even have workout facilities on board, so if those activities are of interest, plan accordingly.


It is highly recommended if you are traveling in Europe, that you have an adapter for European plugs. Many cruises and hotel rooms now include USB plugs, but if you have other electronics such as curling irons, they will unlikely be usable without that adapter. Be sure you pack your cords for any and all devices, and have a smaller storage bag you keep them all in, so they are easy to find as needed.


The small things can go a long way: scarves can add needed warmth and dress up an otherwise plain outfit. Gloves, hat and sunglasses are also recommended and take up little room. Think about handbags and your carry on situation. You want to be as ‘hands free’ when touring without lugging a heavy handbag. Your passport should stay on the ship, locked in the safe. Pack a swimsuit too, as some hotels you may stay at before/after may have a pool or sauna and some cruise ships have them as well.

Obviously pack any prescription drugs you think you may need and your must-have personal care items. Don’t assume the same brands you’re familiar with in the US will be there overseas.

Leave At Home

Most cruise lines, along with an assortment of basic toiletries, generally provide umbrellas, hair dryers and robes.