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What I Packed For a European WINTER River Cruise (Essentials, Clothes and More)

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Heading off on a winter river cruise? How exciting! I’ve just got back from a river cruise in Germany.

To make sure you have everything you need (and nothing you don’t.) Here is a streamlined guide to packing for your winter adventure.

Emma Cruises at the Christmas Markets in Cologne
Christmas market in Cologne

My Christmas cruise T-shirt is from here.

Quick Climate Check

  • Europe in Winter
    • Expect chilly days and colder nights. Temperatures can dip below freezing, so pack clothes to help keep you warm. It’s always best to expect rain too, either a drizzle or a downpour!

Clothing Essentials

  • T-shirts
    • Long or short-sleeved, whichever you prefer. I bought 1 for every day of the cruise.
emma cruises tui river cruise dinner
  • Insulated Coat
    • One or two good-quality, waterproof coats. Waterproof is the key word here!
  • Bottoms
    • 4-5 pairs of Trousers/Pants or jeans – balance warmth with comfort.
  • Evening Wear
    • 2 or 3 outfits for any special dinners. River cruises are usually relaxed, but it’s nice to dress up occasionally.
emma cruises river cruise outfit
  • Pyjamas
    • A couple of sets for a cosy, good night’s sleep. On most river cruises your room will be cleaned once per day, if you put ‘do not disturb’ on the door they won’t come in, but it’s easy to forget and always best to have some pyjamas to wear when in the room.
  • Undergarments and Socks
    • Enough for a week – with extra socks in case they get wet.
Atrium on Tui Skyla river cruise, decorated for Christmas.
Atrium on Tui Skyla


  • Sturdy Boots
    • Waterproof and comfortable for market wanders. The streets will be cobbled so grip is important!
  • Indoor Shoes
    • Casual shoes for on the ship. I bought just two pairs of shoes and it was perfect. Indoor shoes and outdoor shoes!

If you are concerned about slipping on the snow and Ice when walking around Christmas markets, you can buy handy “traction cleats” that easily slip over your own shoes/boots.

They are very easy to put on and take off, and give you added peace of mind that you won’t have a nasty accident when you are on your cruise. Nobody wants to worry about that…

Find the ones I use here:

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03/07/2024 11:01 am GMT


  • The Winter Trio
    • Hat, gloves, scarf – don’t leave the ship without them!
  • Umbrella/Rain Gear
    • Stay dry during those winter showers. If you are sailing on a premium river cruise ship, you may find that they supply umbrellas – so it is worth checking. That will then be one less thing for you to pack…
  • A Backpack or Handbag
    • One of my favourite things about river cruising is that you can just head to a shop if you feel like it and you can fill your bag with snacks or drinks. There no security to go through on river ships.

The brand of bags I’ve used for the last 7 or so years, and the one you’ll see in every post is Mia Tui.

emma cruises mia tui bags
Use Code EMMACRUISES For 15% Off!
My Favourite Bags – Mia Tui

I bought my first Mia Tui bag in 2017 and I've not used another brand since. They come with me on every cruise and are FANTASTIC. They are beautiful, almost indestructible and have so many pockets and useful parts.

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Practical Bits

  • Coins
    • Handy for public restrooms. Lots of the public toilets in Europe charge 50 cents or a euro.
  • Snacks and Drinks
    • Pack a few small favourites for when you’re peckish or for if the dining area is closed. There isn’t a lot of food on river ships between meal times.
  • Camera and Extra Batteries
    • Capture every Christmas light! Extra batteries are a must in the cold because they run down quickly.
euros in hand

Tech and Entertainment

  • Chargers and Adapters
    • For all your gadgets. I usually bring a portable charger too.
  • Books or a Tablet
    • For those cosy, quiet moments onboard. On some river cruises there can be a lot of time to relax, so make sure you have things to fill your time.
  • Laptop
    • If you do have to work while onboard, bring your laptop. Most river cruises have free WiFi and if you have internet included in your phone plan you may be able to hot spot off your phone. This means you use your phones internet on the laptop and it doesn’t cost you any extra.

Health and Personal Items

  • Medication/First Aid
    • Essentials for just in case. If you are in doubt about if you need something medication-wise, bring it. You’ll never regret it!
  • Toiletries
    • Include moisturisers to combat the dry winter air.
  • Travel Documents
    • Passport, insurance, credit cards, and some local currency.

For a full list of suggested first-aid items and medications to bring along, read the article below:

Staying Healthy When You Cruise, Avoiding Seasickness – Medications and First Aid Items to Pack

Packing Smart

  • Space Savers:
    • Compression bags or packing cubes will help you fit more into your case, and make unpacking once you arrive easier.
  • Mix and Match
    • Coordinated clothing means more outfits with fewer items to pack.
  • Laundry Check
    • If there is a laundry available it’s good to know about it. You can wash a few items if necessary and it might stop you from packing all those “just in case” things that you will probably never need.
    • I like to wash a few small items in the sink and dry them in the bathroom. I usually use a travel wash like the below:
Dr. Beckmann Travel Wash, 100 ml
$4.48 $3.96 ($1.17 / Fl Oz)
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02/19/2024 11:01 am GMT

Watch me test out the best packing cubes on the market in the video below. I would never consider travelling without using mine…

Spoiler alert, the winning brand was Mia Tui. Use code ‘EMMACRUISES’ for 15% off!

Don’t Worry!

If you need to buy an extra hat or some other forgotten item, it is easy to do!

Don’t worry that you have forgotten anything essential. The beauty of river cruising is that you will be docked in the centre of towns and cities, and you can easily pop to the shops.

Essentials For Any Cruise

There are certain things you must pack on any cruise holiday. Make sure you have your:

  • Passport
  • Credit Cards
  • Medication
  • Travel Insurance details

Before You Go

Find out about things you might want to organise before your ocean or river cruise here:

Planning And Packing For Your Cruise, Things to Organise in Advance, Packing Essentials And More

Make sure you haven’t forgotten any essential paperwork with my comprehensive list in the article below:

Cruise Paperwork! Make Sure You Don’t Forget Essential Paperwork, or You Won’t Be Sailing Anywhere…

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.