What to pack for a cruise to Alaska? What to add to your packing list for a cruise to Alaska?
We are gearing up for an Alaska cruise this summer!
Kid, you not. We purchased almost ten pairs of waterproof sneakers and boots, just trying to figure out what works for us.
The truth is we are ill-equipped for cold weather… period. And we are afraid of the cold.
We live in sunny Los Angeles. Although it did rain so much this past year and was so cold this past winter, we got a head start on rain jackets and puffers.
So there is that.
While we are not fans of cold or rainy weather, we know this Alaska cruise will be one of the top experiences of our lifetime. We plan to return as we have other Alaskan ports and shore excursions we’d like to experience.
What to pack for an Alaska cruise?
In collaboration with my closest cruising friend and queen, Kim, who has cruised to Alaska at least a dozen times, we have compiled a packing list for a cruise to Alaska and have been dutifully shopping for the things we don’t have. She’s also helped us with our other general cruise packing list, which includes great ideas and tips.
We’ve also done a ton of research and asked many of our cruise friends who have been to Alaska what makes sense to pack. Because not for nothing, some of these Alaska cruise packing lists we found online made me feel we needed to pack everything from Patagonia.
Just because you’re cruising to Alaska in the summer doesn’t mean it will be warm or not rain. We’ll get into what kind of weather we expect throughout Spring and Summer months later – newsflash, you really never know!
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In this article, we will share our Alaska cruise packing list and the essentials for an Alaska cruise. And we added a printable packing list for a cruise to Alaska below.
As first-timers taking an Alaskan cruise, we know what to bring on an Alaskan cruise can be overwhelming and confusing. With the right guidance and information, we can pack smart and ensure we have everything to make the most of our cruise. It’s better to be ready than not.
We’d also love to hear from you. If you’ve been on an Alaska cruise or you’re getting ready for it, what is on your Alaska cruise packing list?
Update August 26, 2023: We returned from our Alaskan cruise on the Norwegian Encore. Alaska was magical and more amazing than we expected it to be. We were blessed with beautiful weather. As I packed for Alaska, I realized Amazon had sent me two different hiking boot colors I hadn’t noticed before, so I wore the black boots I mentioned below instead, and they worked out great for our day in Juneau and our day in Glacier Bay.
What to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska?
When it comes to clothing, the key is LAYERS. You’ll want to dress like an onion in layers. Able to peel off or add on as the weather changes throughout the day.
Start with a base layer, add a mid-layer for insulation, and finish with a waterproof outer layer to protect against rain and wind. This way, you’ll be prepared for any weather conditions that Alaska may throw your way.
According to Kim, the weather in Alaska can be unpredictable and vary greatly depending on the location and time of year. She’s been on Alaskan cruises every month from April to September.
When you think you should be getting great weather, you’ll be hit with rain when you least expect it. There is no rhyme or reason; you have to be prepared with some rain gear for an Alaska cruise.
Fun Fact: Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway are all located in the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States and classified as a temperate rainforest.
It can change quickly, and temperatures can be much chillier than expected, especially on the water.
Therefore, packing the proper clothing, gear, and toiletries can prepare you for any weather conditions and activities that may arise during your cruise.
Additionally, packing efficiently and avoiding overpacking can make your trip more comfortable and stress-free. You won’t have to lug around unnecessary items or worry about exceeding luggage weight limits.
Alaska Cruise Packing List: What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise
What to pack for a cruise to Alaska? As you review this list of Alaska cruise must-haves, consider what you plan to do when you’re in port. The excursions or activities you participate in will matter what you wear.
You may not need hiking shoes if you plan to walk around at the ports, so Goretex sneakers or your everyday sneakers will probably be sufficient. That’s something less you can pack.
No matter what, make sure you’re comfortable, and part of that is being warm and staying dry.
As you make some of these purchases, you might want to do as we do. We are looking at it as an investment to take more cruises to Alaska in the future, hopefully.
Essential Clothing for Alaska Cruise
1. Rain Jacket
What to bring on an Alaskan cruise? A rain jacket.
Alaska is known for its rainy weather, even during summer, so a rain jacket is essential for an Alaska cruise. We suggest a packable rain jacket to take off the ship on excursions or exploring ports of call. As we have interviewed other cruisers in Alaska, this has been their top tip not to forget a rain jacket.
Even if you’re not planning on participating in outdoor activities, a rain jacket can come in handy for walking around the ship during rainy weather or exploring ports of call.
Ketchikan is known for it to be rainy.
Depending on the weather, you may get away with wearing a fleece and rain jacket out in ports.
Costco has great deals on quality rain jackets if you can still find them in their stores. Hubby purchased a nice one for $15 this past winter.
Pack rain gear for an Alaska cruise just in case you’re in port on a rainy day. You still have to make the most of your time there because who knows when you’ll return.
2. Insulated Jacket
Alaska can get quite chilly, even during the summer months. If you run cold as we do, you won’t want to risk not packing an insulated jacket with a hood, and if it’s waterproof or water-resistant, that’s a plus. It’s a must-have item for an Alaska cruise to ensure you stay warm and comfortable.
As we mentioned earlier, the weather is unpredictable. Temperatures can swing from 60˚ F to 30˚ degrees F in hours, so having an insulated jacket can help you stay comfortable in different weather conditions.
Additionally, an insulated jacket can be worn as a mid-layer under a waterproof outer layer, providing a complete layering system that can be adjusted throughout the day.
I was lucky enough to buy a Columbia Omini Heat Hooded jacket this past winter, and it has served me well in the snow and rain while visiting New York City. Planning to pack this and the rain jacket; Kim says this works out great with layers. We will decide what to wear according to the days we are there and the weather.
Suppose we lived in a cold environment requiring me to have many coats. In that case, I’d invest in the Columbia Interchange Jacket with two versatile layers with the insulation inside and the softshell on the outside. This way, it’s two in one; you can get away without having to buy a rain jacket and use the outer layer of this one.
Hoping we get lucky with beautiful days and won’t need to bundle up. Either way, I will be prepared.
3. Fleece, Sweaters or Hoodies
A fleece sweater or a zippered hoodie is a great addition to your Alaska cruise packing list because it provides a warm and comfortable mid-layer that can be worn under a waterproof outer layer. You want to be able to zip or unzip to take it off easily without h
A fleece is a lightweight, breathable, insulating material ideal for layering in cooler temperatures. It can also be worn on milder days or evenings when temperatures drop.
It’s an easy layer to add while on and off the ship. We’ll pack a fleece, a couple of sweaters, and hoodies from our closet. We both love our basic Hanes fleece hoodie.
4. Thermal Underwear
We purchased this thermal underwear from Costco during winter, which worked out nicely. It’s a nice thin, and comfortable layer that helps keep us warm during some cold days in New York.
We want to make sure we are warm while out and about exploring. If it warms up, worse case, we can go into a bathroom to remove them – as we’ve read other cruisers have done.
Again, thermal underwear may only be necessary if temperatures drop or if you plan to participate in an excursion on a glacier or water.
You’ll want to pack at least a set because you can always wash them in your cabin sink. Of course, we hope to wake up to beautiful warmish days in port.
5. Long & Short Sleeve Shirts as Base Layers
Besides the thermal underwear, as far as base layers go, you want to bring some long sleeve shirts and short sleeve T-shirts. If it’s nice weather and the sun is out, you’ll want to wear that T-shirt under your mid-layer and jacket. As the day warms up, it’s possible you can take off your outer layers and enjoy your time in just a T-shirt.
Everyone recommends moisture-wicking and insulating base layers, but we suggest using common sense. If you plan to hike a glacier in Juneau, you may need to dress in more insulating base layers.
You can create layers with clothing you have and can use throughout the year; you’ll be fine.
6. Comfortable Waterproof Footwear
Waterproof footwear is one of the top things to bring on an Alaska cruise. For the same reason, you want to bring a rain jacket and an umbrella. The region is known for its rainy weather, and if you’re out and about doing excursions or hiking, the last thing you want is wet and cold feet.
Kim and I have had in-depth conversations about footwear for Alaska. She highly recommended these boots on Amazon (for women) that she loves because they are light, comfortable, and perfect for the weather. She wears them all the time during her wet winters in Oregon. I purchased them, they are very comfy, and I will bring them with me, but I’m afraid the fur inside the boots will make my feet too hot.
We also ordered many waterproof sneakers, shoes, and sneakers. The problem, at least for me, is that I need to find something I know I’ll wear again and not sit in my closet withering away. You’re probably wondering what did I end up with?!
Shockingly I found these Columbia Waterproof Boots so comfortable and surprisingly lightweight that they are coming with me. Whether we’ll need them or not, we shall see. Either way, I don’t mind wearing these boots during the winter. So if you’re looking for boots for an Alaska cruise, these may also work for you.
Many cruisers swear by Brooks GTX sneakers. While we LOVE the Brooks brand, hubby wears them religiously to run; what we own aren’t Goretex. Limited styles are available for GTX, too. However, we are bringing our regular sneakers with us as well.
Vessi is another loved brand, but we didn’t love how they felt on our feet. So we sent them back.
Tip: You can try to waterproof shoes and there are a few methods. We plan to spray our sneakers with a water repellent, but it's not 100% and doesn't work as well as buying actual waterproof shoes. Works if there is light rain or mistiness. So, use at your own risk.
7. Water Resistant Quick Drying Pants
Water-resistant, quick-drying pants can be a great addition to your Alaska cruise packing list because they protect from rain and moisture while being breathable and comfortable.
We suggest you pack them if you plan outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, dog sledding on a glacier, or fishing. You’ll probably also want to wear some thermals underneath, depending on how cold it is.
You can also buy ones that turn into shorts if the weather suddenly warms up throughout the day.
8. Merino Wool Moisture Wicking Socks
Merino Wool Moisture-wicking socks are a great addition to your Alaska cruise packing list. You will thank me later if you wear them while it’s raining. Wet socks are the worst. Keeping dry is the most important factor.
Why Merino Wool? The material has the natural to keep your feet dry by pulling moisture away from your skin, which can be especially important in Alaska’s rainy weather. This helps prevent blisters, odors, and other foot-related issues from wet socks.
And if your feet get wet, wool socks can keep you warm, as they retain heat even when wet. So, if you want to keep your feet comfortable during your Alaska cruise.
Bring a pair of gloves to keep in your backpack if you need them. For someone that suffers from cold and achy hands, this is one of the Alaska cruise essentials we won’t forget if they are water resistant, even better.
We purchased a few pairs of gloves this past winter with touchscreen fingertips that allow you to use your phone still to take pictures and stuff. The touchscreen part was just okay. They do work, just not as smooth as we would like.
We plan to bring them with us. I also plan to bring fingerless gloves as I prefer them to handle my phone and camera without frustration.
10. Warm Hat
Alaska can be chilly, even during the summer, and temperatures can drop significantly in the evening or during outdoor activities and excursions. You want to have that warm hat accessible; if it’s water-resistant, that’s a plus.
A scarf is another item to add to your Alaska cruise packing list, adding an extra layer of warmth. It’s always great to have, and it’s easy to pack in your backpack.
We have been going about rain in Alaska and being prepared for it and the cold. Of course, if you’re blessed with beautiful sunny days, you’ll want to have your sunglasses with you.
13. A Swimsuit
You may think we are crazy after going on about the rainy, cold weather you may encounter. However, there is the other side of it. What if it’s warm enough to take a dip in the pool?
Some cruise ships have heated pools.
Some have thermal spas, like many Norwegian Breakaway ships with Vitality pools. Of course, you’d have to pay for a thermal spa to use this one.
Cruise ships also have hot tubs that you will want to take advantage of.
The point is, add a swimsuit to your Alaska cruise packing list. It doesn’t take much space to pack one.
Gear for Alaska Cruise
Binoculars are a must-have for an Alaska cruise because Alaska is home to some of the world’s most incredible wildlife and landscapes. These binoculars are the ones we purchased for our cruise, and they worked out as expected.
They will help you spot animals from a distance and help you get a closer look at the whales, bears, eagles, and other birds.
They also provide a close-up view of the stunning scenery, enhancing your overall cruise experience.
You want to buy compact, waterproof binoculars with high magnification numbers that are good enough for the abovementioned purposes.
Tip: Take the binoculars onshore with you. It will assist you in seeing the details of the landscape and wildlife that you may not be able to see with the naked eye.
15. A Packable Backpack
We always travel with a backpack. Hubby has two backpacks he loves, his Oakley that we’ve had for 15 years now, and his Hershel bag. We decide which backpack we are taking depending on the destination and what we plan to do.
This time we’ve decided it will be the Oakley as it is water-repellent and can handle almost anything. Usually, I’ll carry my camera and something small.
On top of that, we are also taking a packable waterproof backpack with us. This is so that as the day goes by and we start to peel off layers or buy anything while out at the port, we can take out this extra backpack. This is a great one on hand that doesn’t take up much space when folded.
What to pack for an Alaskas cruise? An umbrella.
With all the rain discussion in this post, an umbrella is a must-pack for Alaska. You never know when you’ll need it. This compact umbrella is one that you can use and take with you on all your travels. They come in different colors.
17. Power Strip & Outlet
We never go on a cruise without an additional power strip. Some newer cruise ships have more electrical and USB outlets than older ones.
Last Spring, the Celebrity Solstice we were on had no USB outlets and only two electrical outlets. We’ve experienced other ships that have had just one.
You want to research how many outlets you can expect to find in the cabin type you booked on the cruise ship. We always suggest packing a power strip; it takes no room to pack. We like to use this power outlet extender with USB ports.
Also, when choosing a power strip to take on the ship, they cannot have a power surge protector as it is one of the items banned on cruise ships.
18. Portable Charger
We don’t travel anywhere without our portable charger. Most Alaska cruise itineraries call for long port days, which means that some of us are on the go exploring or doing excursions, maximizing the time we have at ports.
It’s the worst feeling to have a phone with a low battery suddenly or to discover that your camera battery is almost dead. While we’d love to say put away your phone and enjoy the moment without technology, we still need our phones in emergencies.
We love our Mophie power bank. It is a little heavy, but it works for our phones and charges our camera if needed. They also make a portable magnetic charger that snaps to the back of your phone, making it easier to carry.
19. Hand Warmers
Another product I love and use all the time is my hand warmers. There is no way I’m leaving my pair at home on this Alaskan cruise. They work so well at keeping my hands warm when it’s cold out, or when my hands can’t seem to warm up on their own, I bring them out.
They are easy to stuff in your pockets, so you can reach in and wrap your fingers around them. The heat it produces is amazing.
You can purchase a set of electric hand warmers, and you’ll have to charge them every night.
Or you can purchase a set of disposable hand warmers to carry with you.
20. Camera Gear
The kind of camera gear you take with you is up to you and your preference. We recommend not forgetting to bring something to capture all the fantastic sights and experiences you will have in Alaska.
You may or may not own these items, but these are just some suggestions or reminders of what to bring:
- A good quality camera (we travel with our Sony a7iii) or smartphone with a high-resolution camera
- A zoom lens if you’re bringing a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera.
- Extra batteries or a portable charger
- Memory cards or extra storage to ensure that you have enough space for all your photo
- A mobile phone tripod or a tripod for your DSLR for steady shots, especially in low-light conditions
Toiletries for Alaska Cruise
We will leave you to choose the toiletries you need and love to bring when you travel. Here are some toiletries and items you should not forget to bring on an Alaskan cruise.
21. Insect Repellent
We hear mosquitoes can be a big issue at Alaska cruise ports. So bring insect repellent and spray yourself before you leave the ship. You may need to bring it in your backpack, especially hiking or doing an outdoor activity.
We’ve been using Natrapel for years since our goddaughter’s pediatrician recommended it because she’s allergic to mosquito bites. It works well.
Always pack sunscreen. If fully covered, apply it daily to your face to protect your skin. We don’t leave home without it.
23. Lip Balm
Bringing lip balm on an Alaskan cruise is essential because cold temperatures cause chapped lips. Lip balm will help keep them from drying, but if you choose something with an SPF, you can protect them from the sun.
It’s a practical and useful item to pack for an Alaska cruise. I don’t travel anywhere without lip balm.
24. Motion or Sea Sickness Medication or Alternatives
On every cruise, it is imperative to bring sea sickness medication or something to help curve it. Sea sickness medication, such as ginger pills, wristbands, or other remedies, can help alleviate symptoms of nausea and dizziness.
It’s a good idea to stay hydrated, avoid heavy meals before excursions, and focus on a fixed point in the distance when you start feeling sea sickness.
Of course, you should also consult with your physician before taking anything.
25. Prescription Meds
This is your reminder to pack the prescription meds you must take daily. Keep them in your carry-on backpack when you fly to take your cruise and take them with you when you get off the ship because you never know.
Other Miscellaneous Important Items
If you’re a US citizen and the cruise starts at a US port and ends in a US port, you don’t need a passport to cruise to Alaska. However, you will need a passport if you have an excursion that will have you crossing over into Canada.
For example, in Skagway, we went on a White Pass Yukon Railway and Bus Excursion that took us into the Yukon, and then we took the iconic train back to Skagway. We needed our passports because we were crossing into Canada. Border patrol checked our passports at the Canadian and US borders.
It’s important to check with your cruise line and the Canadian government to determine the specific documentation requirements for your itinerary. If you are not a US Citizen, you may need a visa.
We always recommend bringing your passport when you travel. Give it a quick check to make sure it is not about to expire.
What to Pack for Alaska Cruise: FAQs
How to dress for Alaska?
If traveling to Alaska during cruise season, it’s important to dress in layers. Bring long underwear, a base layer, a fleece sweater, an insulated jacket, and a waterproof shell to protect you from the elements. Pack light and warm layers and bring a backpack to store them as the weather changes. Comfortable shoes that are waterproof with good traction are also a must.
What shoes to pack for an Alaska cruise?
Sneakers or hiking shoes are a good choice, and if they are waterproof or water-resistant for rainy days or if you plan to do any hiking or kayaking, that’s a plus
Remember to choose shoes that are comfortable and practical for the activities you have planned.
You may want to pack shoes for the main dining room dinners. That depends on your cruise ship dress codes, but cruising to Alaska is a much more relaxed atmosphere.
Do you dress up for dinner on an Alaskan cruise?
Alaskan Cruises tend to be more relaxed than other cruises, so that you can dress casually for most dinners. If unsure, think smart casual, nice tops with jeans, pants, or simple dresses.
Also, some cruise lines have formal nights (chic nights), so it’s a good idea to check with your specific cruise line to see if there are any dress codes for dinner. We would, however, leave the tuxedos and gowns at home.
For the most part, try to focus on being comfortable.
How do I not overpack for an Alaskan cruise?
To avoid overpacking for an Alaskan cruise, try to create a capsule of complementary colors to mix and match clothing to create different outfits along with your essential items. Choose versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down, and consider packing items that can be worn multiple times.
For example, you could bring a pair of jeans that can be worn with a casual T-shirt during the day or dressed up with a blouse for dinner.
Additionally, try to limit the number of shoes you bring (this is difficult, we know), and choose items that can be worn with multiple outfits.
Creating a capsule wardrobe allows you to pack efficiently and avoid overpacking while having many options for different occasions.
- Print this checklist
- Check off every item as you pack
- Have a fantastic Alaskan cruise vacation!
Now that you know what to pack for a cruise to Alaska, don’t miss our Cruise Essentials Packing List and Cruise Cabin Tips, as there are multiple items from it that you will want to add to your Alaska packing list.
In advance of your cruise, don’t miss these related articles:
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Quick Cruise Planning Guide
Where to book a cruise?
We like to shop around before booking by going directly to the cruise line and checking out the deals on GoToSea, CruiseDirect.com, Costco Travel, and Cruise Compete. Ultimately, the best advice is to find a travel agent you can trust to help you book a cruise.
Hotels for pre-cruise and post-cruise stays
We always use Booking.com or Hotels.com to book international accommodations and Expedia or Hotels.com for US accommodations. Airbnb or Vrbo for vacation rentals.
Can I book my own shore excursions?
Yes, you’ll save money booking your own excursions and not with the cruise ship. We like to use Viator or WithLocals. Don’t forget to read up on our tips for booking.
We like to rent a car at cruise ports and for the freedom to explore on our own when the destination makes sense. We also sometimes rent cars during our pre-cruise stay or on embarkation day.
Should I book cruise insurance?
Yes! Cruise insurance is essential. We always book with a third party rather than the cruise line. Compare pricing on Insuremytrip.com.
Packing for a Cruise? Don’t miss our essential cruise packing list.
Meet Kathy Ava – a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena. With over 20 years of experience planning trips and logistics at her full-time job and for herself, she’s become a pro at crafting unforgettable travel itineraries. She’s always looking for delicious, fun cruise itineraries and travel destinations and is slightly obsessed with Italy. Her passion and curiosity for travel started in childhood on her yearly and sometimes bi-yearly trips to PR. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it – so let’s explore the world and make some incredible memories.