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What to Wear on a River Cruise

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  • Banish the ballgown and tuxedos – enjoy a more informal holiday with our helpful guide to what to wear on a river cruise in Europe.
  • From useful packing tips to what to wear on a cruise during the day and evening, our expert advice covers dining, excursions, relaxing and more.
  • Get the best from all-year cruising no matter the weather – what to pack and wear in summer and in winter when cruising to famous yuletide markets.

Wondering what to wear on a river cruise in Europe? You’re not alone. Many first-time cruisers face this dilemma. However, a river cruise is a relaxed affair, where the dress code is all about being comfortable and casual, so put any worries to the back of your mind and simply look forward to a fantastic holiday.

Packing for a river cruise

Packing for a river cruise in Europe couldn’t be easier. Just think of your holiday as a city break on the water, one where you return to the same luxurious floating hotel every day. Much of the focus is on excursions and cultural experiences, exploring destinations with like-minded people, so when it comes to thinking about what to wear on a cruise, keep it simple. Bring casual clothes that are comfortable – that’s your main priority. Unlike ocean cruises where guests often dine in ballgowns and tuxedos, the dress code on a river cruise is much more relaxed and informal.

The duration of river cruises in Europe is typically eight days, so when choosing your holiday wardrobe, stick to one or two colour schemes. Keep basics such as trousers, shorts or skirts, dark, neutral or plain, as they’ll be easier to mix and match with striped polo shirts, colourful T-shirts or a patterned blouse.

What to wear on a river cruise excursion onshore

What to wear on a cruise during the day

Whether you’re off on a Rhine river cruise, or one that takes you along the Rhône, Seine or Danube, daytime wear will be casual. Pack loose-fitting attire that’s suitable for sightseeing and excursions ashore. Many cruise guests choose to wear clothes they feel relaxed in such as jeans, chinos, Capri pants, skirts or shorts while on a tour around a medieval village or historic city.

Layers are a good idea too, and perfect to deal with any changeable weather – you’ll be thankful of a warm fleece or jumper if there’s a cool breeze, and a lightweight water-resistant jacket will be invaluable if the forecast is rain. Hopefully the sun will be shining though, so pack sunglasses and a sun hat, and also a light cover-up to protect your skin.

Regardless of the weather, a river cruise allows you to immerse yourself in the culture and history of new destinations, so the last thing you want to suffer from is sore feet. When thinking about what to wear on a cruise, choose comfortable, supportive shoes, perhaps your favourite pair of trainers, walking shoes or sandals to avoid any blisters. Guided excursions are at a leisurely pace, but they may involve a stroll along cobbled streets or an uphill climb – it’s best to be prepared.

What to wear on a river cruise excursion

What to wear on a cruise in the evening

Back on your ship at night, most river cruise passengers will again opt to wear casual clothing for dinner and a drink in the bar. The dress code can be a little smarter in the evening, but only as far as perhaps trousers with a collared shirt or a sparkly top. There’s no need to bring along formal wear, such as a suit or tie or a selection of cocktail dresses. That said, anything goes and if you wish to dress up for Welcome Drinks and the Captain’s Dinner on your last night, it’s entirely your choice. Some guests may feel more comfortable wearing a blazer, others will decide it’s the perfect opportunity to don a floaty summer frock – it’s up to you.

More often than not though, you’ll see other guests simply wearing open-neck shirts and sweaters, with ladies choosing to glam up an outfit with a colourful scarf or some costume jewellery – a pashmina is also handy if you’re up on deck enjoying the passing scenery with a nightcap.

As for your all-important footwear, loafers or boat shoes with rubber soles are a popular choice. Women rarely wear high heels, opting instead for a comfy pair of sandals or flat shoes.

What to wear on a cruise at different times of year

It goes without saying that much of what you pack for your river cruise will depend on the destinations you are visiting and the time of year you embark on your trip. What to wear on a Rhine river cruise in the spring or autumn, for example, will differ from a summer holiday wardrobe. When the weather is unpredictable, or during seasons when it’s a little chillier in the mornings and evenings, layers will be essential, so pack a cosy cardigan or jumper, and a waterproof jacket as well – many cruise companies will provide umbrellas.

On a winter cruise, perhaps one visiting Yuletide markets along the Danube, be sure to bring a warm coat, along with a hat, scarf and gloves. Christmas shopping is much more enjoyable when you’re wrapped up.

What to wear on a river cruise winter yuletide markets

Good to know

When considering what to wear on a river cruise in Europe, check out your cruise ship’s onboard facilities. Remember to pack swimwear so you can enjoy the onboard plunge pool, sauna or steam room – or pay a visit the thermal baths if stopping off in Budapest. Many ships also have a small gym or fitness room, therefore you’ll require sportswear too.

Don’t forget that on some excursions you will be visiting religious sites or places of worship. If hoping to go inside these buildings, be mindful to respect other cultures and their customs. This may involve you dressing modestly and covering up shoulders and knees – a shawl, light long-sleeved top and zip-off trousers could come in useful. You may also be asked to remove hats and footwear.

It’s worth noting that few river cruise ships will have a laundry service or ironing facilities. As a result, bring clothes that don’t crease easily, made from synthetics such as nylon, Lycra and polyester, or jersey and wool.

As for bringing a bag, ladies should leave large handbags at home. A lightweight crossover bag should be all you need while on excursions and is often preferable to a rucksack. Not only will you keep your belongings safe, your hands will be free so it’ll be easier to take those all-important holiday photos.


Looking to explore Europe on a river cruise? Our river cruises in Europe range from the stunning natural beauty of a Rhine cruise to iconic sights on the Danube. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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