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Travel advice

The Ultimate Guide to Packing for River Cruises

As your all-inclusive river cruise draws closer, the anticipation builds… Where will you discover? What will you learn? How beautiful will the scenery be? And then you remember that you have to pack – but don’t let it pause your excitement! We’ve put together this ultimate river cruise checklist to help you make the most of your river cruise experience, whether you’ve booked your cabin yet or not.

The packing essential checklist

  • Your passport
  • Boarding pass or Eurostar ticket
  • Cruise booking documents
  • Clothing, footwear and accessories
  • Toiletries, including toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Technology
  • Books
  • Spending money in the currency/currencies of your destination
  • Sun/rain protection
  • A small bag

What to pack for a river cruise

The essentials

A British Passport

As you’ll join your ship in mainland Europe, it’s vital to bring all the documents you’ll need to show at the airport or Eurostar terminal, such as your passport, boarding pass or Eurostar ticket. Your return flights or train fare are included in the price of your cruise and we will arrange everything for you, so if you have any questions or queries about your travel documents, please contact us. It is also useful to research the currency in the country/countries you’ll be visiting, and to exchange your spending money before you travel.

While medicine like ibuprofen and motion sickness medicine can be accessed through Guest Services, you must pack prescription medication and other aids you may require, such as hearing aid batteries or asthma pumps.

What to wear on a river cruise?

A woman in casual wear on the deck of Spirit of the Danube

One of the highlights of river cruising is being able to step ashore in the heart of your destination and explore new cities almost every day. While we offer some included coach and vehicle tours, you can expect to spend some time on your feet, so it’s important to bring comfortable daywear and footwear. This may include loose tops, shorts, skirts, chinos and ankle-supporting boots or worn-in shoes, depending on your daily activities. Walking tours, for example, may involve walking along cobbled and uneven surfaces. You may also want to bring swimwear if you’d like to take a dip in the onboard pool, or wish to visit local attractions, such as the thermal baths in Budapest on a Danube cruise.

It’s also a good idea to wear layers, so you can adjust to Europe’s varying temperatures – cardigans, vest tops and light trousers are often a good idea. Bringing a coat is also advisable on spring or autumn departures, particularly a ‘pac-a-mac’ style. Additionally, for days ashore it can be helpful to bring a small bag for storing the essentials. We recommend a flexible belt bag for convenience and security.

On board, you can also enjoy dressing up for formal evenings and intimate dining in our speciality restaurants, so make sure to pack smart eveningwear if you’d like to take part. This may include a collared shirt, matching two-piece, cocktail dresses, and an extra pashmina or scarf for enjoying a cocktail on deck in the evenings. And don’t forget to pack accessories! We encourage our veteran guests to wear your medals on formal nights.


A couple using a tablet whilst on holiday

You can enjoy complementary, unlimited Wi-Fi when you cruise on our river cruise ships, so feel free to bring your technology, including your phone, laptop and Kindle, as well as the matching chargers. Our river ships offer British charging ports on board, but it may be useful to bring an adapter and spare charging cable or battery pack for taking ashore.


A bag of toiletries

There’s no need to pack shampoo, conditioner, handwash or hand cream, as you’ll find complementary toiletries in your en-suite bathroom. However, you may wish to bring deodorant, perfumes, aftershave, body wash and facial cleanser, as well as skincare products, razors and shaving cream, if you require them. Be sure to pack your toothbrush and toothpaste too – they’re easily missed.

Handy extras

A metal reusable water bottle

The river cruise life is all about relaxing and unwinding in a quiet, sophisticated atmosphere between exciting days ashore. It’s a great idea to bring a book or two, though if you forget, you’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy in the Library.

A metal water bottle will also be a good addition to your packing. While many cafés around Europe will offer complementary tap water or bottled water at a cost, it is useful to have a cooling bottle to take with you on excursions, plus it’s more eco-friendly. You could also bring small snacks to take with you on excursions, if you don’t want to purchase some ashore.

If you’re joining a summer river cruise, you may want to pack suncream, sunglasses and a hat. Alternatively, you could also pack a compact umbrella.

Things to consider when packing for a river cruise

When packing for a river cruise, it’s important to consider where and when you’ll be sailing – the Douro will require fewer layers and more sun protection than the Rhine and Moselle or the Dutch waterways. You should also consider how long you’ll be cruising; for a longer cruise, it’s advisable to pack clothing that can be mixed and matched for creating different outfits, to save on precious packing space. To save space in your cabin, you may want to pack using a slim suitcase or collapsible duffle bag.

We recommend considering where you’ll be visiting on excursions too. Religious sites may require you to wear tops that cover the shoulders and skirts or trousers that fall below the knee.

To summarise, the most important things to consider when packing for a river cruise are the time of year you’ll be travelling and where you’ll be exploring. Discover our full collection of 2024 river cruises and 2025 river cruises, and begin planning where you’ll be sailing with us…

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.