You’ve booked the tickets and renewed your passport, so now it’s time for the most important decision – what to pack for a river cruise!

Destination, dress code, activities and excursions, and luggage space will all impact what you bring, so it pays to plan ahead.

These are some of the answers we’ve provided on what to pack for a river cruise:

What is the dress code on a river cruise ship?

what to pack for a river cruise
What to pack on a river cruise

Smart casual is the order of the day onboard a river cruise vessel. Shorts, capri pants, and jeans with t-shirts are appropriate for daytime, while in the evening guests will take things up a notch with dresses, slacks, and blazers. Generally, it’s recommended that you don’t wear denim at night, but it’s not a rule that is enforced. Bring your swimsuit for the swimming pool or hot tub, but it’s not advisable to walk around the ship or dine at the restaurant without getting dressed.

A phrase you may hear associated with river cruises is ‘country club casual’. If you don’t belong to a country club, don’t panic – this is just another way of saying smart casual or resort casual.

What to pack for a European river cruise

what to pack on a river cruise dresses

During the day, shorts/skirts, dresses and lightweight pants with t-shirts are acceptable both onboard and ashore. At night, you may need to add a jumper, cardigan or jacket. Comfortable walking shoes are a must (remember to break them in at home before you travel) as well as a hat.

The European river cruise season runs from around May to September, which covers spring, summer and autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Cruises can pass through multiple countries, so you’ll find that the weather and temperatures can change dramatically over the course of your voyage. Bring items you can layer up or down, so you’ll be able to adapt to the weather.

Remember that you may be visiting religious sites on shore that can require you to dress more modestly. This usually means knees and shoulders covered at a minimum, so you may want to bring a light wrap or jacket with you.

Christmas river cruises

what to pack on a river cruise Christmas Europe

Christmas in Europe is truly magical, but it can also be extremely cold. As you’ll often be exploring festive markets after dark, you’ll need to rug up. Long layers (or even thermal underwear), a warm jacket, boots or walking shoes with thick soles, gloves, a scarf, and beanie are essential.

What to pack for a Southeast Asia river cruise

What to pack travelling through Asia

River cruises run in South East Asia all year round and, while the temperature will vary between the seasons, you can expect it to be reliably hot whenever you sail. Light layers are your best option – shorts/skirts, cotton pants, long sleeved shirts and sun dresses can be worn onboard and ashore. Think about clothes that will offer protection from both the sun and mosquitoes. Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses and sun protection. 

The wet season is between May and October, so pack a foldable rain jacket or poncho. Some ships will provide umbrellas, but it can be useful to bring a small one of your own. Bring your swimsuit for the onboard pool or any water-based excursions like kayaking.

Many smaller villages in South East Asia are quite conservative, so it’s respectful to dress more modestly. You’ll also need to have shoulders and knees covered if you are visiting any temples or religious sites. An oversized shirt or light wrap you can add over the top of your clothes can be handy.

Will I need formal wear on a river cruise?

What to pack on a river cruise formal

No. Unlike ocean cruises, river cruises don’t generally have formal nights so you won’t need to pack an evening gown or a tux. There may be special dinners or themed events, but a cocktail dress or tie and jacket will generally be elegant enough for these.

While you won’t need your best duds onboard, it’s worth checking the itinerary to see if you have any special events on shore that might require them. You don’t want to be enjoying a private classical performance in an elegant palace while wearing your cargo pants.

Can I do laundry on a river cruise ship?

Dry cleaning on a river cruise

You can, but it won’t be cheap. Unlike some ocean cruise ships that have self-service passenger laundries, compact river ships only have a paid laundry service and the cost can quickly add up. It’s not unusual for cruise lines to charge more than $5 per item to be washed and pressed. Luxury lines may offer free laundry or guests staying in higher-level suites may also have some laundry included in their fare. If you think you’ll really need to rinse out your smalls, bring some travel laundry soap and a portable clothesline for your cabin.

How much luggage can I take? And is there luggage storage in my cabin?

Overpacking on a river cruise

Because of their compact size, river cruise lines recommend each guests brings only one suitcase onboard. On smaller ships in places like South East Asia, the Amazon and Egypt, these restrictions may be tightly enforced so check the rules before you sail. You will also have limited wardrobe space, so it’s best to underpack rather than overpack.

You can store your suitcase underneath your bed in the cabin – which means you’ll need to unpack everything into your wardrobe first!

Will I need a power adaptor on a river cruise ship?

Power adaptors to pack on a river cruise

Most ships sailing in Europe have European power points, so you’ll need an adaptor for any Australian electronics. It’s also rare to find a USB port in the power points, so plan accordingly. For South East Asia or the rest of the world, check with your cruise line or bring a universal adaptor. Bear in mind, this is essential for what to pack for a river cruise because you might be visiting some remote destinations.

Do I need to bring toiletries on my river cruise?

Toiletries to pack on a river cruise

All ships will supply basics like soap, shampoo and conditioner, but you’ll need to bring anything extra with you. Don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellent, especially in South East Asia!


Q: What is the dress code on a river cruise?

A: Smart casual or resort casual.

Q: Are there formal nights on a river cruise?

A: No. Evenings are more relaxed on river cruises and a smart dress or jacket and tie will be sufficient for any meals.

Q: How much luggage can I bring on a river cruise?

A: Most lines recommend one suitcase per person. On smaller ships in Southeast Asia, Egypt or South America this may be tightly enforced.

Wondering when is the best time to take a river cruise? Click here to find out more.