What to Wear on a River Cruise in Europe

I often get asked if there is a dress code or guidelines about what to wear on a river cruise. 

From personal experience with several river cruise lines, the emphasis is on comfort, without a formal dress code, even for gala dinners. 

I decided to do some research on the guidance given by several different river cruise lines. The text in italics is directly quoted from each river cruise line’s FAQs. The word comfortable is a consistent feature and river cruise lines offer guidance to guests. 

There are some subtle differences, but the general theme is relaxed and smart casual. 


AmaWaterways would like their guests to feel comfortable and suggest dressier choices for the evening meals: 

“Comfortable, layered clothing adaptable to changing weather conditions is always advisable for daytime excursions. For the evening, “Casually elegant” attire is recommended, and you may want to pack something a little dressier for the Captain’s night/Farewell Dinner – similar to how one would dress to dine at a 5-star restaurant. Comfortable shoes are recommended for excursions and workout clothing if you plan to take part in any wellness activities, active tours or use the onboard gym. Depending on the time of year, clothing that can be layered is highly recommended.” 

APT Travelmarvel 

Apt suggest comfortable clothing with smart-casual for the evening: 

“For excursions casual, comfortable clothing and flat shoes are recommended. Your luggage should include a breathable windproof/waterproof jacket, warm jumper, warm hat, hat with brim and walking trousers/shorts. It is also advisable to pack several smart casual outfits for evenings and a more formal clothing for the Welcome Dinner or if you are planning an evening at the theatre.” 


Comfort is important and smart-casual for the evening is also suggested: 

“Feel free to dress as you like, comfortably and casually, on board and during shore excursions. Please remember to wear warmer clothing on deck in the evening. Firm shoes are recommended for excursions on land. Smart-casual clothing is recommended when visiting the restaurant on board.” 


Again, comfort is key onboard Avalon ships, and they stress that there are no formal nights but dressier clothes for the evening are suggested. 

“Your comfort is our first concern. Onboard and onshore dress codes are casual. Please bring comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing. Dinner attire is casual—open-neck shirts and slacks for men, slacks, skirts, or dresses for ladies. Coats and ties may be worn if preferred. The Welcome and Farewell Dinners in Europe are dressy, but not formal.” 


Croisi have a casual emphasis and remind guests that ironing is not available. They also suggest dressing up a bit more for the evening. 

“During the day, you will be more comfortable in a casual outfit. 

We advise you to bring clothes that are not very wrinkled, or that can easily be transported after ironing at your house, because there are no ironing facilities on board our fleet. 

Regarding dinners, cocktails and galas, it is advisable to dress up a little more without the need, for gentlemen, necessarily to wear a jacket and tie.” 


I love the reassuring nature of the quote form Emerald: 

“If you’re unsure of what to wear on a river cruise, it can make packing a little difficult. However, there’s no specific river cruise dress code to speak of—particularly when you sail with Emerald Cruises. And yet, the misconception that there are right clothes and wrong clothes to take with you often lingers. As we always say to our guests, being comfortable in your attire is the most important aspect because your cruise should be restful and relaxing.” 

“In general, a smart-casual look is perfect for both the day and evening on board, but you may want to wear more formal clothing for certain occasions or looser clothes for exploration onshore.”


Riviera reassure guests that the emphasis is on comfortable and casual clothing on their river cruises. 

“Wondering what to wear on a river cruise in Europe? You’re not alone. Many first-time cruisers face this dilemma. However, a river cruise is a relaxed affair, where the dress code is all about being comfortable and casual, so put any worries to the back of your mind and simply look forward to a fantastic holiday.” 


Scenic recommend comfortable daytime clothes and suggest smarter choices for the evenings. 

“There are no specific pieces of clothing we insist you pack; however we can offer pieces of advice, based upon your itinerary. We recommend comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing, as well as any garments, such as hats, gloves and water-resistant jackets, which will help you to stay comfortable whatever the weather. The dress code across all Scenic cruise and tour itineraries is casual and comfortable. Dinner attire is smart casual — open-neck shirts, trousers and dresses; you may wear a jacket or blazer with a tie but it is not required.” 


Tui state that there is a dress code onboard however it’s very flexible. 

“It’s entirely up to you what you pack, however we suggest comfortable clothing for sight-seeing. There is a dress code onboard our TUI River Cruises – it’s smart-casual. During the day, the rules are quite relaxed, however beachwear can’t be worn in the restaurants. In the evenings, the dress code is smarter. Men will need to wear long trousers or smart tailored shorts, a shirt or polo shirt and closed shoes. You might choose dressier clothing for our Gala Dinner, available once per cruise on durations of five nights or more, but there’s no requirement to do so.” 


Uniworld don’t have a formal dress code but make some recommendations for guests. 

“We recommend wearing comfortable, smart-casual clothing both onshore and onboard. We also suggest sturdy walking shoes, as you will do a significant amount of walking on shore excursions, often over cobblestones or uneven terrain. A sun hat, rain gear, and a coat or wrap for chilly evenings are useful items to have. While there is no formal dress code for dining ashore, concerts, special events onboard, etc, men may want to bring a sports jacket and women a cocktail dress or pantsuit. Neckties are optional. Please note that shorts are not allowed at dinner aboard the ship.” 


‘Elegant casual’ is the phrase used by Viking to describe the suggested evening attire onboard. 

“During the day, dress is casual including shorts (if the season is warm), slacks or jeans and comfortable shoes for walking tours. There are no “formal nights” in the evening; recommended evening dress is “elegant casual.” For ladies, this may include dress, skirt or slacks with a sweater or blouse, and for gentlemen, trousers and a collared shirt. A tie and jacket are optional.”  

In conclusion, for a European river cruise, strike a balance between comfort and style when packing your attire. Always consider the specific requirements of your cruise line and the expected weather conditions at your destinations. With the right clothing, you can fully enjoy the beauty and culture of Europe as you sail along its scenic rivers.