What to pack for a cruise to Alaska? What should you add to your packing list for a cruise to Alaska?
Last summer, we cruised to Alaska on Norwegian Encore, and it was one of the most memorable cruises we’ve ever been on. So much so that we came back and booked another. Before our cruise, we prepped for our Alaska cruise, fearing the cold weather, grossly unprepared with the lack of cold-weather gear as residents of sunny Los Angeles, living in a predominantly warm climate.
To ensure we’re well-prepared, we collaborated with Kim, our seasoned cruising friend, and expert who has embarked on numerous Alaska cruises over her lifetime (she’s lost count). Together, we’ve prepared a comprehensive Alaska cruise packing list.
Unlike our Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise preparations, the must-haves for an Alaskan cruise demand items like binoculars, a rain jacket, and waterproof shoes. We had ordered ten pairs of waterproof shoes until we found the perfect fit.
What to pack for a cruise to Alaska? Add these Alaska cruise must-haves to your Alaska cruise packing list.
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In this article, we’ll share our Alaska cruise packing list, essentials, and a printable version below.
Share your Alaska cruise insights with us! If you’ve been on an Alaska cruise or you’re getting ready for it, what is on your Alaska cruise packing list?
What to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska?
Our full list consists of 28+ items you should pack for a cruise to Alaska. If we had to narrow it down, these are the most important five things to focus on.
- Layered Clothing
On this trip, layering is key, so you need a good mix of light and warm clothes. Keep in mind if you usually run cold or hot.
- Waterproof Gear
Consider bringing at least a rain jacket. You might not even need waterproof boots at all, but a rain jacket will come in handy at some point during your Alaskan cruise.
- Comfortable Shoes/Sneakers
In port, you’re probably going to be walking a lot. Bring comfortable shoes that your feet will be happy with, and if they are water resistant, even better.
So much wildlife to spot from the cruise ship and even at port. Don’t leave home without them. The ones they sell on the ship are expensive.
- A Good Camera
You will witness some incredible sights and wildlife, and taking photos and videos will be a way to cherish those moments. Make sure that even if you’re planning to bring your phone, it is updated, not one still taking pixelated photos from several years ago.
Alaska Cruise Packing List Must-Haves
- When packing for your Alaska cruise, consider the port activities.
- If you’re not hiking, your everyday or Goretex sneakers may be sufficient to save space.
- Prioritize comfort, warmth, and staying dry.
- View purchases as an investment for future Alaska cruises.
Essential Clothing for Alaska Cruise
Contrary to a common misconception, a summer cruise in Alaska doesn’t guarantee warmth. The weather is highly unpredictable, and you never know what weather you will get during summer. When we cruised in July, we had 3 out of 7 warmish days on a cruise. So it does help to be prepared for it all.
According to Kim, Alaska’s weather can be quite unpredictable and varies a lot depending on where you are and the time of year. She’s cruised there every month from April to September, so she’s seen the full spectrum of conditions.
1. Rain Jacket
Must-have for an Alaskan cruise: a packable rain jacket. Alaska is known for its rainy weather, especially in the summer, which makes it a must. It’s also the top tip from many Alaska cruisers. The rain jacket proves handy on excursions or ship walks, especially in Ketchikan’s rainy setting. Consider one with a fleece combo.
For budget-friendly options, check Costco for quality rain jackets. My husband snagged one for $15 two winters ago. He wore the rain jacket with warmer layers mostly throughout the cruise.
2. Insulated Jacket
For an Alaska cruise, a hooded insulated jacket, preferably water-resistant or waterproof, is great for staying warm. Temperatures can swing from 60˚ F to 30˚ degrees F in hours. If needed, an insulated jacket can also be worn as a mid-layer under a waterproof outer layer.
Consider the Columbia Interchange Jacket for versatility – two layers with insulation inside and a softshell outside. It serves as a 2-in-1 solution, eliminating the need for a separate rain jacket.
3. Fleece, Sweaters or Hoodies
Include a fleece sweater or zippered hoodie in your Alaska cruise packing list for a warm, comfortable mid-layer that pairs well with a waterproof outer layer. Fleece is lightweight, breathable, and insulating, perfect for layering in cooler temperatures. It’s versatile for milder days or evenings when temperatures drop.
Easy to zip and unzip for quick removal, a fleece is a convenient layer to add on and off the ship. We recommend affordable options like a basic Hanes fleece hoodie – our go-to throughout our cruise for the week.
4. Thermal Underwear
Thermal underwear may not be necessary, but if you want to throw them into your luggage just to be prepared, you can. It depends on how cold you get. You may want to use them if you’re going on an excursion requiring you to be outdoors on a glacier or even hiking. Keep an eye on the weather when you plan to cruise because if it’s been sunny and on the warmer side, you may not need them.
5. Long and Short Sleeve Shirts as Base Layers
For glacier hikes in Juneau, consider more insulating layers. During a beautiful day, wear the T-shirt under your mid-layer and jacket. You’ll want to shed outer layers and enjoy the day in a T-shirt as it warms up. Create layers with year-round clothing, and you’ll be fine.
We had an unexpectedly warm day in Skagway Port on our excursion into the Yukon. I found myself peeling off layers until I was in my tank top. Don’t let that fool you. I was in Juneau the day before, walking around Mendehell in the cold, wet rain.
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. 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. And you know, wet footwear takes forever to dry when you’re traveling.
Footwear for Alaska is one of those hot topics that cruisers, including Kim and me, have in-depth conversations about. Realistically, as many do, you probably can get away with just wearing your everyday sneakers or footwear. You can even waterproof them with a spray. It’s all going to depend on the weather when you arrive and what you plan to do for the day.
I found these Columbia Waterproof Boots so comfortable and lightweight, and I had every intention of taking them with me. Long story short, after an exchange, Amazon sent me a mismatched pair I didn’t notice until I started packing.
So I packed Kim’s recommended boots on Amazon (for women) and wore them all day in rainy Juneau and during Glacier Day. And I packed my everyday Brooks sneakers, which I wore the most. I’m glad I had both pairs with me.
Hubby wore his waterproof onCloud Waterproof Sneakers for most of the cruise.
7. Water Resistant Quick Drying Pants
You can include water-resistant, quick-drying pants in your Alaska cruise packing list for rain and moisture protection. They offer breathability and comfort, ideal for outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking, or glacier dog sledding. Consider thermals underneath for added warmth, and opt for convertible ones if the weather changes throughout the day.
8. Fleece Lined Leggings
Fleece-lined leggings are such a great wardrobe option for Alaska because they are comfortable and keep you warm at the same time. I lived in them on and off the cruise ship. You can also find ones that are also water-resistant.
9. A Pair of Shorts
Bring a pair of shorts just in case. We had some warm, sunny days on the ship, and I was happy I had brought shorts. The temperatures are colder in the mornings and at night, but once that sun is out in the afternoon on a good day, it. Plus, the cruise ship inside is kept at a warm temperature.
10. Merino Wool Moisture Wicking Socks
Add Merino Wool Moisture-wicking socks to your Alaska cruise packing list for essential comfort, especially in rainy weather. Merino Wool naturally keeps feet dry, pulling away moisture and preventing blisters and odors. Even if your feet get wet, wool socks retain heat, ensuring warmth throughout your journey.
Include a pair of gloves in your backpack – a crucial Alaska cruise essential, especially if you suffer from cold and achy hands, as I do.
You can also try the touchscreen-compatible ones for phone use; however, note they don’t work as smoothly as they should.
12. 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 may want to have that warm hat accessible; if it’s water-resistant, that’s a plus.
A scarf is another optional 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 preparing for rain and cold weather in Alaska. If you are lucky enough to have beautiful sunny days, remember to bring your sunglasses with you. The sun shines bright in Alaska, too.
15. A Swimsuit
While we’ve emphasized the cold and rainy aspects, don’t rule out the chance of nicer days. Certain cruise ships feature heated pools, solariums with indoor pools (Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity), and thermal spas (e.g., Norwegian Breakaway with Vitality pools, though an extra fee may apply). Hot tubs are also available. Include a swimsuit on your Alaska cruise packing list – it’s a small item that might come in handy.
Gear for Alaska Cruise
Don’t forget binoculars for your Alaska cruise – necessary for spotting incredible wildlife and landscapes. We recommend compact, waterproof binoculars with high magnification for observing whales, bears, eagles, and birds and enjoying the stunning scenery.
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.
17. A Packable Backpack
We suggest bringing a backpack with you so you can take it with you out at port, one that is at least water-resistant.
What to pack for an Alaskas cruise? An umbrella.
With all the rain discussed in this post, a windproof 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.
19. Power Strip & Outlet
Never cruise without a power strip – newer ships may have more outlets, but it varies. Sometimes, you can board a ship and find out too late that there are no extra USB outlets and only one US electrical port. We recommend one without a surge protector, as cruise ships typically ban them. Our go-to is an outlet extender with USB ports; it takes minimal space in your luggage.
20. Portable Charger
Our go-to for any travel is a portable charger – a must for Alaska cruises with long port days. Exploring and excursions can drain your phone and camera batteries, so having a reliable power source is essential. We recommend the Mophie power bank; it’s heavier than others but also one of the best we’ve purchased.
21. Hand Warmers
My hand warmers are a product I swear by for any cold weather, especially on an Alaskan cruise. They were a must to keep my hands warm in chilly conditions or when they wouldn’t warm up.
Not only do I use them daily during the colder months at home, but they were a godsend on our Alaska cruise. They easily slip into sweater or jacket pockets for quick access and provide amazing heat.
You have two options:
22. Camera Gear
The choice of camera gear is personal and depends on your preference. However, we strongly recommend not forgetting to bring something to capture the fantastic sights and experiences you’ll encounter in Alaska.
You may or may not own these items, but these are just some suggestions or reminders of what to bring:
- Good quality camera (e.g., Sony a7iii) or smartphone with high resolution
- Zoom lens for DSLR or Mirrorless Camera
- Extra batteries or portable charger
- Memory cards or extra storage for ample photo space
- Mobile phone tripod or DSLR tripod for steady shots, especially in low-light conditions
Tip: Save money by renting camera gear instead of purchasing expensive equipment, especially if you won’t use it frequently. Lensrentals.com is a good option, but always add insurance.
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.
23. Insect Repellent
Mosquitoes can be a problem at the cruise ports in Alaska, and they are quite large, so it’s important not to forget your insect repellent. Make sure to spray yourself before leaving the ship or carry a few of the wipes with you, especially if you’re planning to go for a hike or any outdoor activity. Our family has been using Natrapel for many years, and we highly recommend it.
Always pack sunscreen. If fully covered, apply it daily to your face to protect your skin. We don’t leave home without it.
25. Lip Balm
Bringing lip balm on an Alaskan cruise is essential to prevent chapped lips in cold temperatures. It keeps them from drying, but choosing one with SPF adds sun protection. It’s a practical and indispensable item to pack for an Alaska cruise – I never travel without it.
26. Motion or Sea Sickness Medication or Alternatives
On every cruise, bring sea sickness medication or remedies like ginger pills or wristbands to alleviate nausea and dizziness.
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid heavy meals before excursions
- Focus on a fixed point in the distance if you are feeling seasick
- Always consult with your physician before taking any medication
27. Prescription Meds
Always pack your prescription meds. 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.
Other Miscellaneous Important Items
- US citizens on an Alaskan cruise that starts and ends in a US port may not need a passport unless they cross into Canada for an excursion.
- For example, the White Pass Yukon Railway excursion from Skagway to the Yukon required passports for Canada border crossing, checked at both borders.
- Non-US citizens might need a visa.
- Check the cruise line and the Canadian government for specific documentation requirements.
We strongly advise bringing your passport when you travel and ensuring it’s not close to expiration.
What to Pack for Alaska Cruise: FAQs
How to dress for Alaska?
Embrace the art of layering for your Alaskan cruise wardrobe. Think of it like dressing as an onion—easy to peel off or add layers as the weather shifts throughout the day.
- Start with a base layer
- Add a mid-layer for insulation
- Top it off with a waterproof outer layer
This strategy ensures you’re ready for whatever weather Alaska has in store.
What shoes to pack for an Alaska cruise?
Select sneakers or hiking shoes, preferably waterproof or water-resistant for rainy days, hiking, or kayaking. Choose comfortable and practical shoes based on your planned activities. Consider packing appropriate shoes for main dining room dinners, depending on cruise ship dress codes – Alaska cruises generally have a more relaxed atmosphere.
Do you dress up for dinner on an Alaskan cruise?
Alaskan Cruises has a more relaxed dress code, allowing casual attire for most dinners. Opt for smart casual with nice tops, jeans, pants, or simple dresses. Check your specific cruise line for any formal nights (chic nights), but generally, leave tuxedos and gowns at home. The key is to prioritize comfort.
How do I not overpack for an Alaskan cruise?
To prevent overpacking for an Alaskan cruise, create a capsule wardrobe with complementary colors for mix-and-match options. Choose versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down, and opt for items that can be worn multiple times. For instance, jeans can be paired with a casual T-shirt during the day or be dressed up with a blouse or sweater for dinner. Limit the number of shoes and select ones that go well with multiple outfits. This approach ensures efficient packing with a variety of options for different occasions.
Printable Packing List for a Cruise to Alaska
We’ve created a printable PDF of the Alaska cruise packing list of the items mentioned in this post. You can cross off anything you don’t plan to take or don’t make sense for your traveling style. Check mark things you plan to pack as you add them to your suitcase.
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.
BEFORE YOU SET SAIL, HERE ARE SOME RELATED ARTICLES YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS:
- Avoidable Alaska Cruise Mistakes and Tips
- Cruise Clothes for Women: Packing Light
- Cruise Attire for Men Guide With Packing Tips
- What Not to Pack for a Cruise?
Meet Kathy Ava, a food, travel, and cruise writer based in Los Angeles/Pasadena, and the owner and main writer of Tasty Itinerary. 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 tasty itineraries. She's always on the hunt for delicious, fun travel destinations and cruise itineraries. She firmly believes that life is short and we must make the most of it, so always say yes to dessert.