Preparing for Your First River Cruise

I was lucky enough to join Avalon for my first River Cruise on the Moselle River through Germany during the fall. Such an incredible time of the year to travel on River. While this style of cruising has a more mature demographic, with money, I found traveling this way more than fulfilling.

River cruising allows you to move effortlessly through landscapes and villages, the ship as your hotel. Not like an ocean cruise, this experience focuses on the ports, the culture, and an intimate journey through the country.

One of my favorite quotes on River Cruising that is shared by one of our partners,

“Ocean cruising takes you to countries, river cruising takes you through them.”

This quote couldn’t be more true. The experience is intimate, has world-class service and the opportunity to enjoy Michelin cuisine all while touring through multiple countries and quaint ports. Did I mention, you unpack once.

With that being said, this being my first time, there was so much to learn and take in.  I get excited to share the things I was able to bring back with me for someone that is interested in this fabulous style of traveling.

We are going to cover some of the essentials you need for this unique experience and how to be the best prepared for your first River Cruise. These are the things I learned along the way and what I now know for next time. And there will be a “next time”.

As a cruise on the river takes you peacefully from place to place, you enjoy the perfect combination of onboard and on-land experiences. Since this is a newer way to travel and becoming more and more popular this comes with a slightly different packing list.


When packing (or shopping) for your river cruise, choose shirts, pants, shorts, and skirts that can be worn for multiple outfit combinations. The easiest way is to search for clothes with a simple color scheme – white, neutrals, pastels. Our rule of thumb is for each week you will be traveling, pack five to seven tops that complement three different bottoms. Also, keep in mind, comfort, and wrinkle-resistant, easy-care clothing will help you feel even more relaxed.


Especially during shoulder seasons (spring and fall), weather can be unpredictable—even during the course of a weeklong cruise. So think layers: Bring along a sweater or light jacket, even in summer. (You may want to wear them on air-conditioned motor coaches or the plane, something)



With the many options of tours and excursions on a River Cruise, active, adventure, biking, walking tours, you will want to have shoes that will be versatile and supportive.



As mentioned above, excursions play a big part in the river cruise experience. Give yourself the ability to take essentials off the boat and into the town you are exploring that day. A day bag is crucial is feeling comfortable on your tours.


Our ship and event on the cruise required formal clothing and for the most part, your experience will too. Quick tip on formal clothing on the boat, your room will have an iron and board.

This packing list is very much predicated on the cruise, itinerary, and time of year you are sailing. There are some things you should know before going.



Everything from strenuous biking or hiking to dinner at the chef’s table. One note from personal experience, take advantage of your ship’s laundry service as a way to cut back on what you bring. It’s worth repeating an outfit to save room for souvenirs. Way more important.


It is important to understand, River Cruises offers choices not options. In most cases, there are various tours on any given day, one for the least active, one moderate, and one active discovery.


Being aboard with less than 200 other passengers is a far different experience than on a typical ocean cruise ship. The crew, from the wait staff to the front desk, will quickly learn your name, how you take your coffee and your favorite nightcap. My personal experience that stood out to me will live forever.

Our tour was about to leave and I slightly mentioned I was hungry. We were running late to the tour outside the ship in waiting in the lobby was a chef, holding a suitcase. Inside was a freshly cooked burger and fries, packed it in a cardboard suitcase, yes a suitcase. This moment was full of feelings, I was somewhat embarrassed when people saw as if I was being a snobby guest, but I knew this is the kind of service Avalon takes pride in.

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