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How to create a capsule wardrobe for river cruises (with outfit inspiration)

How to create a capsule wardrobe for river cruises (with outfit inspiration)

Are you wondering how to create a capsule wardrobe for river cruises? In this guide we round up our favourite river cruise outfits for women whatever time you are visiting.

Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Why should I pack a capsule wardrobe for river cruises?

Are you wondering why you should pack a capsule wardrobe for a river cruise? Well the truth is whatever type of cruise you are going on from a world cruise to a Caribbean cruise the state rooms are small (unless you are in a suite of course).

However the truth is that the cabins are even smaller on a river cruise than on an ocean going liner. Therefore taking a capsule wardrobe is even more important on a river cruise than any other type of cruise because you have even more limited space.

Now you know why you should pack a capsule wardrobe a river cruise, we turn our attention to to put together a river cruise capsule wardrobe and not overpack. For information on how to pack a minimalist capsule wardrobe check out this post.

How to put together capsule wardrobe river cruise outfits

The keys to putting together any capsule wardrobe is “pack less wear more” as in, pack fewer things but be able to wear them in several styles and outfits.

Therefore for putting together a river cruise capsule wardrobe we recommend

  • Choosing a color palette and sticking to it as that way more items will go together
  • Don’t pack anything that you won’t wear at home because you won’t wear it on vacation
  • Don’t pack anything that doesn’t work in at least two outfits
  • Don’t pack anything that needs a lot of care i.e. drying cleaning, frequent ironing etc. – don’t forget irons and clothes steamers are on the what not to pack for a cruise list.
  • Pack breathable fabric if you are traveling on a river cruise in summer – we prefer cottons over linen for the above reason
  • Layers and some adjustment to the below will be required if you are visiting in the Winter or one of the shoulder seasons.
  • Using the 5 4 3 2 1 Packing Method

How is a river cruise capsule wardrobe to other types of cruise capsule wardrobes for women

Now you may think all cruise capsule wardrobes are the same and this just isn’t true. What you wear on a Caribbean cruise is very different to what to pack for a cruise to the South Pacific or Iceland for instance.

And a river cruise is very different to other types off cruises because:

  • the cabins are smaller and therefore you have less space to store clothes and luggage.
  • river cruises tend to be less formal than ocean going counterparts with very few river cruises having full on formal nights in the dining room.
  • the ports you are going to tend to be European cities which will involve more walking and more changeable weather.

Note: This river cruise capsule wardrobe packing list is mainly intended for river cruises in Europe which sail along the Rhine and the Danube. If you are going on a river cruise elsewhere in the world be sure to check out our specific packing lists such as what to wear on a Nile River Cruise.

And be sure to check out our specific Christmas Market River Cruise packing guide for Winter river cruises.

What to pack for a river cruise outfit inspiration

T Shirts

T shirts are the top of my list for river cruise capsule wardrobes. They are versatile when picked in a neutral color and go with almost any type of bottom. They can also be dressed up if you want to wear them in the evening and are easily layered if you are traveling in cooler weather.

I would also add one jazzier top that can used be in the main dining if you enjoy dressing up for dinner.

Click here to shop t shirts


Although you don’t have formal mights per se on a river cruise I still like to change and dress for dinner. My preferred option is to change into a blouse.

A blouse can be dressed up with some jewellery, goes with several types of bottoms and is also great for daytime wear.

They are the perfect thing to wear too if you are planning to visit some religious sites if you pack blouses that are elbow or full sleeve in length.

Click here to shop blouses.

Trousers / shorts / skirts

I would normally pack at least one of each of the above for summer weather cruises so I have all bases covered for Europe’s changeable weather.

If you check the weather app before you travel and see that the weather is going to be hotter or colder than expected I would tweak this list to work for the weather you are going to get.

For shorts I prefer to pack a pair of tailored chino shorts as this are slightly smarter and will work in a wider variety of places.

If you are traveling at a colder time I would also add a pair of jeans into the mix instead of a skirt or shorts.


I love a Maxi dress and all of my capsule wardrobes normally contain at least one that can be used during the day on a sightseeing tour and can be dressed up with jewellery or a pashmina for evenings.


This is always my travel go to. It can dress up daytime outfits for use in the dining room and is great as an extra layer if the weather turns cold or you go somewhere with lots of air conditioning.

Click here to shop great versatile pashminas


Cardigans are a perfect layer for when you are traveling on a river cruise and can be used to dress up an evening outfit. I would usually take at least two – more smarter and one more casual


Boots are great for if you are traveling and going to experience rain and cold on your itinerary. I would pack a pair of water resistance boots as a must for a river cruise. But make sure you do not pack thin heeled boots.

Many of the places you will be visiting on a river cruise will be very old cities that have lots of cobbled streets where thin heels can be a hazard for instance I always put thin heeled boots on my what not to wear in Amsterdam and what not to wear in Paris lists for this reason.

Instead chose thick heel boots, flatter boots or wedges.


If you are traveling in summer or are expected to have great weather during your river cruise I would leave the boots at home and instead opt for a pair of sandals that can be both used for walking around cities and can be used at dinner.

If you plan to walk in sandals at all it is really important to get a pair with a good sole and plenty of arch support so your feet don’t kill you after the end of a long day sightseeing.

Our preference is for a pair of Hotter or Clarks sandals with arch support and a bit of sparkle.

Click here to shop sandals with arch support


As a river cruise port will likely entail lots of walking around cities, botanic gardens and markets I recommend packing a really comfy pair of sneakers.

Some of our favourite brands of sneakers for cruises are sketchers Go Walks, All Birds and Hotters.

Click here to shop sneakers for river cruises.

Pack Away rain jacket

Whenever you travel to Europe there is a chance you will experience a rainy day on your trip. But don’t let rain spoil your trip. Pack a packaway lightweight rain jacket that doesn’t take up much space just in case you get rain on your trip.

If you are going to experience cold weather on your trip you will also want a thicker jacket with you.

Click here to shop packaway rain jackets.


For each day of the cruise and for the duration of your vacation pre and post cruise.


Ok, swimwear is the only thing on the list that really can’t be used as part of another outfit. But it is definitely necessary as river cruises like their ocean going counter parts will usually, though not always have a pool – check your vessel amenities to be sure before packing.

And those that don’t have pools may have hot tubs and jacuzzis that you might want to use.

For a full list of what toiletries to pack for a cruise check out this post.

Thanks again to our resident cruise expert Tricia for her advice and tips in creating this river cruise capsule wardrobe.

Have you been on a river cruise? What did you find you used lots or not at all? we’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.