Women’s Capsule Wardrobe for a River Cruise Vacation

Things to Consider

  • Your clothing choices will depend on your ports of call and the likely weather conditions.
  • For hotter climes opt for shorts, skirts and short-sleeved shirts in light natural fabrics.
  • When cruising in cooler destinations you'll prefer trousers, long-sleeved shirts and jackets in thicker weights.
  • Clever layering is the best way to cope with changeable weather conditions – e.g. wear a jacket over a fleece, over a t-shirt, over an undershirt.
  • Consider the activities you plan to do off ship – there may be lots of included excursions. Will you need particular clothing or footwear?
  • Check the evening dress codes. River cruises tend not to have formally enforced codes, but there may be opportunities both on and off ship to dress up if you choose, e.g. a Captain's Gala Dinner or night out at a concert.
  • The amount of food you can eat on a cruise is all part of the appeal; we recommend you pack clothes with comfortable waistbands!
  • Pick a simple colour scheme of neutrals plus one or two statement shades. Make sure all your clothes co-ordinate so they can be mixed and matched.
  • Remember you will need an outfit to travel in! Wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes where possible.
  • Download our complete packing list below for all quantities and a checklist of items.
  • Also see our River Cruise Capsule Wardrobe for Men

What to pack for a River Cruise


Casual Tops

Pack simple tops in your favourite colours that will match your trousers, shorts and skirt. Team with a scarf or necklace on a couple of evenings, then wear by day for sightseeing. Depending on the climate choose from long or short-sleeved, sleeveless, or a mixture. We really like bamboo fabrics.

Suggested buy: Texere Hypoallergenic Bamboo Fiber Tee by Amazon


Evening Top

Pick a luxurious top for evening wear that goes well with your skirt and smart-casual trousers. Add sandals or heels and you're good to go!

Suggested buy: Lush Roll Tab Sleeve Woven Shirt by Nordstrom


Fleece or Light Sweater

Even in hot weather the breezes can make it feel cool when sailing, whilst inside the air-con can also be chilly. A fleece is light, cosy and packs well – or opt for a smarter sweater if that's more your style.

Suggested buy: The North Face Womens Glacier 1/4 Zip by Amazon


Smart Cardigan or Jacket

A smart cardigan or light jacket will dress up your outfit for evening, and it adds that extra something round your shoulders if the air-con gets too breezy. Choose a colour to match or complement your tops and dress.

Suggested buy: Kate Spade 'Somerset' Cardigan by Nordstrom


Casual Trousers or Shorts

These should be practical for days out. Consider the type of activities you will do – are they city-based or more rural/active? Choose fabrics that dry quickly in case of rain. Styles with detachable legs are a good option for varied temperatures. You might opt for shorts instead for hotter climes, but trousers are good protection against sun and insects.

Suggested buy: Royal Robbins Zip N' Go Pant by Amazon


Smart-Casual Trousers

Choose a pair that are comfy for day wear (team with a casual top and walking shoes), but can also be dressed up for dinner by switching to heels, your evening top and jewellery. Smart jeans in dark denim would work well, although you may prefer something lighter in hot weather.

Suggested buy: NYDJ Straight Leg Denim by Amazon


Skirt or Tailored Shorts

These can also be worn for lazy days out with a simple top and sandals, then add your smart cardigan and scarf for the evenings.

Suggested buy: Eileen Fisher Linen Drawstring Skirt by Nordstrom



Ideally choose something that can be dressed up or down by changing your shoes and adding accessories – almost any dress looks smart worn with heels and a scarf. These Karina dresses are very flattering and they pack brilliantly – no ironing ever needed!

Suggested buy: Audrey Dress by Karina Dresses



Some statement jewellery can really set off an outfit and takes up very little room in your case. Costume jewellery works just fine, and it's often better to leave your valuables at home.

Suggested buy: Multi Row Statement Necklace by Nordstrom


Pashmina or Scarf

A ‘must take' item for any holiday as they are just so versatile: cover your shoulders at religious sites; dress up any outfit for evening; put round you if there's a chill (or air-con); use as a sarong over your swimwear.

Suggested Buy: Sarongs & Scarves on Amazon


Walking Shoes or Trainers

If you plan to do lots of walking on shore you'll need some active shoes. Closed-toe are best on dusty roads, and if you're heading off the beaten track do make sure you have something sturdy and supportive that are suited to the terrain.

We love: Gravity Sneakers by Hotter


Deck Shoes or Sandals

Take some non-slip comfy flats for daytime on deck and casual evenings. If they have a bit of sparkle you can even wear them on formal nights too if your feet need a little more comfort.

We love : Play II Sandals by Hotter


Smart Heels

Pack one stylish pair for a touch of glamour. In warm weather your feet may swell too, so make sure they're comfy if you want to dance the night away. We love Hotter shoes which are really lightweight and come in gorgeous colours.

Check out: Pruce Ankle Strap Heels by Nordstrom



Essential for sun protection in hot weather or to keep out the cold and wet in cooler regions. It can be breezy on board, so choose a style that stays on securely – it's useful for keeping your hair under control too.

Suggested Buy: Packable Sun Hat on Amazon



It's extremely bright when the sun's out as the rays reflect off the water. If you want to admire the views then sunglasses are essential.

Suggested buy: Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer by Amazon



Good sunscreen is essential in hotter climes, and don't get caught out on cloudy days either – you can still get burnt. Remember that water will reflect the sun's rays too. Choose a product with a high SPF (protects from UVB rays) and also look for the star or PA rating which indicates protection from UVA.

Suggested buy: SPF 30 PA+++ Water Resistant Sunscreen by Murad


Packaway Jacket

A light packaway raincoat is a good idea to carry with you on day trips – it's ideal in case the weather changes quickly or you experience a sudden downpour. You can layer up underneath for warmth if necessary, or opt for a more substantial jacket in cooler climes.

Suggested buy: Charles River New Englander Rain Jacket by Amazon



Essential for lazy days of sun-bathing, or perhaps you prefer pampering in the spa.

Suggested buy: Speedo Shirred Tank One-Piece by Amazon


Day Sack

You'll need a lightweight bag for all your sightseeing essentials. Our packaway day sack folds up into itself and fits easily in your suitcase when not in use. It's surprisingly roomy, showerproof and light to carry – even in hot weather.

Suggested Buy: Fold Away Day Sack on Amazon