How to Pack for a River Cruise
Those of you who have traveled with me know that when I design a group trip, one of the things I attempt to do is to reduce the number of hotel check-in and check-out evolutions. It is just so much more convenient to get to a hotel, be given your room key and then take your luggage to that room. If you are scheduled to remain in that room for more than a couple of nights, take the clothes out of the suitcases and put them in the hotel room’s drawers and closet. Then get the suitcase out of the way (under the bed or in the closet). Then you have time to explore the neighborhood.
What are you looking for? A nice looking restaurant, maybe a pub or bar for late afternoon enjoyment. How about a convenience store to find some beer or wine? Maybe an interesting store to do some shopping for those whom you left at home. You can get to know some of the hotel personnel, like a friendly person behind the concierge desk who can point out some places nearby that you can visit or how far it is to public transportation.
This is possible if you are settling in to the same hotel for a couple of days.
Even if want the conveniences and attractions of your hotel. Where do we eat breakfast in the morning? Is there a laundry facility there? How about a work-out room or pool and what are the hours of operation?
This is one of the reasons why I like river cruises as part of the overall trip package that I assemble. They usually last for a week; so unpack once for a week. Then see where all the other people in our group are. As the river boats usually dock in the center of town, that makes shore excursions that much more convenient. Dealing with finances, except for shopping excursions and onboard drinks, the costs are relatively predictable. The tour manager is with us for the entire voyage so is accessible even when we are aboard.
I get questions from people wondering what to pack. From personal experience and some researching, several things come to mind:
- You do not need to bring formal clothes along. Casual is the name of the game when we are on a shore excursion. For dinner aboard, women wear conservative tops and slacks or dresses while men wear collared shirts with trousers.
- Put together a wardrobe that goes with everything. Remember: I do not keep track of how many times you have worn a particular outfit.
- Even though I try to time our trips for the optimal weather, we should prepare for some changes, like rain, cool evenings, hot sun. So a light waterproof jacket and a sweater (most river vessels have lots of air conditioning) as well as a couple of long-sleeve shirts.
- Plan on 2-3 miles of walking a day when on shore, often on uneven terrain. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, but have a change for when you are aboard ship.
- When ashore, you want your hands free to handle a camera and to hold on to handrails. You might be boarding and leaving a tour bus, so you don’t want to be encumbered with a big bulky bag. Remember that anything you carry should not be easy for a pickpocket to get in to.
- Most river cruisers have both 110V and 220V outlets and some have USB ports, so you won’t need many adapters or heavy transformers. I will let you know for sure long before we leave. Even some of our coaches will have Wi-Fi so you can bring a charge cord with a European adapter.
- Don’t bring a hair dryer, shampoo/conditioner, or expensive jewelry. Cruise vessels provide umbrellas but we might have additional days when we are no longer on the ship. (Think of the southern France trip in 2016 when we began with a cruise down the Rhône River and then spent an additional week off the ship.)