PACK ME FOR THE RIVER
What to take on a European river cruise
Unlike ocean cruises, river cruises are all about frequent stops with little time lounging around on board. That means looking at your luggage a little differently. Here are some tips on what to take with you.
There are so many wonderful sights to see – after all, this is what you came for – but that means lots of walking. Your most important items will be comfortable shoes, from sandals to sturdy footwear.
If you’re treating yourself to a brand-new holiday wardrobe, whatever you do, make sure you break in your shoes first.
“Good walking shoes are essential on a river cruise as you’ll be exploring villages along the river each day and many old town centres have cobblestone streets,” says Shelley Davey, Australian sales manager at Riviera Travel.
WARM AND WATERPROOF ITEMS
Even in the European summer, you should prepare for all weather.
It can be unseasonably cold one day and baking hot the next.
Bring clothes for all eventualities – a warm jacket, a waterproof one, plenty of layers, a fold-up umbrella, as well as your summer clothes and hat.
Unfortunately, you have to manage all this with the limited luggage requirements of your airline.
The good news is cruises offer laundry services, making it easier to travel light.
Luckily, most of your clothes can be casual, as the bulk of your time will be spent exploring. “Europe is a great country to explore by foot or by bike so comfortable clothing is a must, as there will be plenty of opportunities to head onshore for sightseeing and excursions,” says Scenic journey designer Janelle Maher.
For the evenings, think smart casual. Some cruise lines are dressier than others – check your itinerary to see if it includes a formal night or captain’s dinner, requiring something a little fancier.
Don’t forget your sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors and it’s easy to forget you’re exposed to the sun when walking about. The last thing you want is a burnt neck or head. It’s handy to take travel-sized sunscreen to slip in your daypack.
Take all medication you need and think you might need, in their original labelled containers, as you will need to show them when you go through customs at the airport.
Unlike ocean cruises, the good thing is if you forget something, it’s easy to buy it in one of the European cities, but you don’t want to waste your whole day in Vienna searching for antihistamines, so make up your own emergency first-aid kit just in case. And take travel-sized bottles of hand sanitiser with you.
Many river cruises now have swimming pools and jacuzzis, so pack your swimwear in case. They also offer gyms and exercise classes – if you have any energy left from all that walking that is.
Don’t forget your European adaptor for electrical appliances.
You can bring your laptop, as most cruise companies offer complimentary Wi-Fi but they also have internet cafes if you don’t want to carry it all the way from Australia.
It’s worth investing in a camera for your trip rather than taking photos on your phone. The last thing you want to do is drop it in the Danube – that would really make you blue. Take your charger and spare memory cards – you’ll fill a card up in no time.
SAFE BAG FOR ESSENTIALS
You will be doing a lot of wandering through cities and towns and will need to take passports and wallets when you leave the ship.
It’s vital you have a secure bag to keep your items safe as unfortunately pickpockets abound and they can spot a tourist from a kilometre away.
Don’t slip your wallet in your pocket, or walk around with your handbag open.
Bags with cross-body straps are a good idea, as are zip enclosures.
Also, you will need to take local currency or a card with you for the many coffees and souvenirs that await to tempt you.
COPY YOUR DOCUMENTS
“Take an electronic copy of your travel documentation,” says Alastair Fernie, managing director of cruiseaway.com.au.
“It’s even better to print out additional copies of your passport, ID, credit card, driver’s licence, travel insurance documents and itinerary and pack them in a separate place in your luggage from the originals.”
For a seamless trip, Janelle Maher recommends you take city guidebooks, phrasebooks and a currency calculator or app, which makes it easier to see if that Parisian antique market find is really the bargain you thought.
And don’t forget the ear plugs – some neighbours can be noisy.
“Take earplugs,” says Alastair Fernie. “There is nothing worse than a poor night’s sleep when you’re supposed to be relaxing.”
To get the most from your river cruise, pack wisely so you don’t have to spend precious time on shore trying to find basics that you could have packed at the outset.