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Alaskan cruises are a unique blend of breathtaking glacial landscapes, thrilling outdoor activities, and diverse wildlife sightings. But, the state’s weather can be rather unpredictable – from sunny and warm afternoons to frigid evenings, we’ve got you covered with this ultimate Alaska cruise packing list!
The secret to packing right for an Alaskan cruise is layering. Stick with us as we delve into the specifics to ensure you’re prepared for this exciting Alaskan experience.
From the proper attire and essential gadgets to the smaller items you might not have thought of, we’ll guide you through packing for every situation you might encounter on your journey through the Last Frontier.
Best Alaska Cruise Packing List 2023
We’ve broken down this list into a few sections including the essentials (for everyone in your group), some specifics for both men and women, as well as a few key items you may want to remember to bring along for the young ones in your group!
The lists I’ve included have been created for a 10-day trip around Alaska (the most common Alaska cruise duration), so depending on the length of your specific trip, you may need to bring more or fewer items.
You can also do a quick search before departing to see if your ship has laundry services available, which may also allow you to bring less clothing than what I’ve mentioned below.
Let’s start with the essentials!
Having a rain jacket at your disposal is vital when embarking on an Alaskan cruise. Alaska’s weather is notorious for its unpredictability, and sudden rain showers are not uncommon, even during the summer months. A good, waterproof rain jacket will keep you dry during those unexpected downpours, allowing you to continue your exploration comfortably. Furthermore, most rain jackets are lightweight and compact, making them easy to carry around during your on-shore excursions. Opt for a versatile style that is large enough to be layered over warm clothing during colder weather, ensuring that you’re prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
Layering is key when packing for an Alaskan cruise, and a pair of rain pants should never be overlooked. Waterproof rain pants will come in handy during hikes with low, wet brush, or if you’re keen on staying out on the deck for photos during some bigger swells. By pairing them with a thermal inner layer, your lower half will stay warm and dry.
To protect your head from cold and wet weather, pack a warm hat that will keep you comfortable in any condition. Choose one with a good fit to ensure you won’t have to worry about it slipping off when you’re out exploring the ship on windy days. Opt for something lightweight but still warm, such as a wool or fleece beanie. Though it may not seem like an essential item at first glance (especially if you’ll be cruising in the summer months), you’ll be thankful to have one when the chilly evenings set in.
Gloves are another must-have item for your Alaska cruise packing list. Choose a pair that is water resistant to keep your hands comfortable whether you’re heading to dinner or are opting for a fishing tour in Ketchikan. Additionally, consider packing touch-screen compatible gloves so that you can take phone photos without sacrificing chilly fingers!
Tall, Moisture-wicking Socks
Moisture-wicking socks are essential for keeping your feet dry and comfortable. Select a pair that is tall enough to cover the ankle and made of breathable fabric. Wool or synthetic fibers are great choices as they will provide warmth while also wicking away sweat and moisture, ensuring you stay comfortable no matter what activity you’re taking part in.
Waterproof Hiking Boots or Shoes
When creating your packing list for an Alaskan cruise, don’t forget to include a pair of waterproof hiking boots or shoes for any on-shore adventures. Opt for sturdy soles that will provide traction and stability during hikes or other outdoor activities. Additionally, look for models with waterproof fabric and insulation to keep your feet dry in wet conditions, as well as extra cushioning to ensure you won’t end up with sore feet at the end of the day. The decks onboard a cruise can also get quite slippery thanks to rain and sea mist, so they’ll also prove to be useful while roaming the ship.
Though Alaskan cruises are known for their casual atmosphere, it’s always a good idea to have formal wear when packing. Since most cruise lines will provide at least one black-tie dinner or evening event during the trip, having at least one option is always a good idea. Opt for timeless classics such as black trousers and a collared shirt or a simple solid color dress. In my opinion, don’t worry too much about packing those heels… your feet will be under the table anyway! A pair of flats or boat shoes will do just fine.
A bathing suit is essential for any cruise, regardless of destination. Whether you’re looking to lounge on the deck or take a dip in the pool or hot tub onboard, you’ll want to be prepared and make sure it’s on your packing list for Alaska. It’s also good to have if you plan on doing any water activities such as fishing, kayaking, or paddleboarding so you don’t get your everyday wear wet.
A sturdy day bag will be essential when you’re out exploring ashore. At the very least, bring a reliable backpack that is large enough to fit your water bottle, wallet, some snacks, sunscreen, and extra layers. Look for one with multiple compartments or pockets so you can easily store all of those small items you’ll need during your excursions. One with a water-resistant rain cover is also a good option in case you find yourself caught in some unexpected rain.
A dry bag is a must-have item if you plan on spending lots of time out on the water. This simple yet essential piece of gear will keep your phone, camera, or other valuables safe from water damage during kayaking, fishing, or any other kind of water activity. You can also use it to store clothes, towels, and other items that you want to keep dry while onboard. Ones that float are an extra perk!
No matter where your Alaskan cruise takes you, a portable charger will prove to be invaluable. Select one with two USB ports so you can charge multiple devices at once, and look for one with a large capacity that won’t run out of juice too quickly. I have one from Amazon and it’s lasted me over 5 years!
Reusable Water Bottle
Staying hydrated is crucial when exploring the great outdoors, so including a reusable water bottle on your Alaska cruise packing list is a must. Not only will it keep you from having to spend money on water whenever you get off the ship, but it also helps reduce waste onboard. Opt for one that’s made with high-quality material such as stainless steel or BPA-free plastic, and make sure it’s large enough to hold plenty of water. Don’t forget to pack a carabiner so you can easily clip your bottle onto your bag!
No matter what time of year you’re cruising in Alaska, sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes from the bright sunshine reflecting off the sea or ice. Look for a pair with polarized lenses that will reduce glare and block out UV rays, as well as frames that are comfortable and won’t slip off your head too easily.
While Alaska is stocked full of plenty of shops in the ports all selling hair supplies including shampoos, conditioners, oils, etc., it’s best to bring your own from home. The shops near the cruise terminals charge exorbitant prices for these basic necessities, so you can save yourself a lot of money by packing your own.
Oral Hygiene Products
When packing for your Alaskan cruise, it’s important to include some essential oral hygiene products. Bring a toothbrush, toothpaste (or powder), floss, and mouthwash that will keep you feeling fresh throughout the voyage.
Deodorant is a must-pack item when going on an Alaskan cruise. Look for a long-lasting, waterproof deodorant that won’t give up during your adventures and will keep you smelling pleasant no matter how warm it gets outside. I wouldn’t recommend trying anything new on the cruise, however, just in case it causes skin irritation. If you have a brand that you know and love, stick with that!
Cologne or Perfume
Whether you’re getting dressed up for dinner or want to smell nice during the day, having a signature scent can go a long way in making you feel good. Opt for a travel-size version that’s preferably made of plastic instead of glass so it won’t take up too much space in your suitcase and is unlikely to break.
First Aid Products
Cruise ships are exceedingly well stocked with medical supplies, but if you’re planning on leaving the ship to explore during your vacation, then it’s important to have some basic first aid items such as antiseptic wipes and bandages on hand. Additionally, bring any over-the-counter medications that you may need such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or motion sickness pills if you’re prone to seasickness. Don’t forget to bring any prescription medications, as well.
No matter where you’re traveling, snacks are always a good idea. Packing your own is not only cheaper than buying from the onboard gift shop or convenience stores in port, but it’s also typically healthier and faster when you find yourself onshore and several hours out from your next meal.
Important Travel Documents (& Copies!)
When putting together your Alaska cruise packing list, it’s important to bring all of the necessary documents with you. This includes a valid passport or proof of citizenship, any visas you may need, as well as your ship ticket and a valid driver’s license or other forms of ID. You should also make copies of these documents to have in your luggage and to leave at home in case they are lost or stolen.
These packing lists for both men and women have been designed for a 10-day cruise without the use of laundry services while onboard. Depending on the length of your trip and whether or not you’ll be budgeting time to do laundry, you may need more or less clothing than what I’ve listed below.
10-12 Pairs of Underwear
1 Pair of Long Johns
2 Pairs of Shorts
2 Pairs of Jeans or Khakis
1 Pair of Sweatpants
2-4 Long Sleeve Shirts
2-4 Short Sleeve Shirts
1 Sleep Outfit
1 Pullover or Quarter Zip
Accessories such as a watch, jewelry, etc.
10-12 Pairs of Underwear
1 Regular Bra
1 Strapless Bra
1-2 Sports Bras
2 Pairs of Shorts or Skirts
1-2 Pairs of Leggings
1-2 Pairs of Jeans
2-4 Long Sleeve Shirts
2-4 Short Sleeve Shirts
1 Dress or Romper
1 Sleep Outfit
1 Pullover or Quarter Zip
Tablets or Coloring Books
Their Personal Water Bottle
Their Favorite Sleepy Time Ritual (i.e. a stuffed animal, favorite nightlight, etc.)
FAQ: Alaska Cruise Packing List
In this next section, I’ll be answering some essential questions for your cruise around Alaska so you have everything you need before departing.
What Should I Pack for a 7-day Cruise to Alaska?
For a 7-day cruise to Alaska, you should prioritize packing layers to adjust to the varying temperatures. Start with thermal underwear and socks, followed by a base layer of moisture-wicking t-shirts and long-sleeve shirts. Include one or two fleece jackets or wool sweaters for added warmth.
Don’t forget a waterproof outer layer, like a rain jacket or windbreaker, to protect against precipitation. Pack two pairs of durable pants, preferably one thermal and one water-resistant. In terms of footwear, waterproof boots are crucial. Don’t forget essentials such as gloves, a warm hat, and sunglasses. Alaska can have its hot days too in the summer, so be sure to leave room for a swimsuit, some shorts, and a couple of lighter outfits.
For formal dining nights, pack a semi-formal outfit. Lastly, carry all necessary toiletries, medications, and personal items in your carry-on.
How Do You Not Overpack for an Alaskan Cruise?
Avoiding overpacking for a cruise can be achieved through careful planning and prioritization. Start by checking the weather forecast for your destinations and the duration of your trip as your departure date approaches to help you determine the type and amount of clothing you need. Focus on multipurpose items that can be worn in multiple outfits and layering pieces for different weather conditions.
Invest in travel-size toiletries and consider sharing items like shampoo or toothpaste if you’re traveling with others. Instead of packing bulky items like towels or blankets, confirm beforehand if these will be provided on the ship. For clothing, opt for materials that are lightweight, quick-drying, and wrinkle-resistant to save space and reduce the need for laundry services.
Remember to leave some room in your suitcase for some authentic Alaskan souvenirs you might purchase during your trip. Lastly, once you’ve packed everything, review your items and ask yourself if you really need each item.
If you’re on the fence about bringing something, ask yourself “can I buy this in my destination if I absolutely need it?” and if the answer is yes, then don’t bring it. This will help you determine what’s essential and what can be left behind.
What Do I Need for a Shore Excursion on an Alaska Cruise?
For a shore excursion on an Alaskan cruise, you’ll need a variety of items to ensure that you’re prepared for any weather or activity. Start with comfortable, sturdy footwear suitable for walking, hiking, or any other activities you might participate in. Having some extra layers on hand for warmth and protection from precipitation will also prove to be invaluable resources.
In terms of non-clothing items, consider packing binoculars for wildlife viewing, a camera to capture the beautiful Alaskan scenery, and any medications you may need. Always carry a copy of your ID and ship information in case of emergencies. Remember that all of this including some snacks, your water bottle, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. can all fit inside that one day bag I mentioned above.
Each excursion may have specific requirements or suggestions on what to bring, so it’s always a good idea to check the details of the activity and confirm with the tour operator beforehand.
Do I Need to Pack for Formal Nights on a Cruise to Alaska?
Yes, formal nights on Alaskan cruises are a tradition and a wonderful opportunity to dress up for an elegant dining experience.
While the dress code varies by cruise line, generally, men are recommended to bring dress pants with a collared shirt and tie, and women are encouraged to pack a cocktail dress, elegant pantsuit, or formal skirt and blouse.
However, if you prefer to keep things casual, many cruises offer alternatives to formal dining where the dress code is more relaxed. It’s always a good idea to check with your specific cruise line for their dress code guidelines.
How Much Spending Money Should You Take on an Alaskan Cruise?
The amount of money you’ll need to take on your cruise depends on several factors including the package you chose, your dining plans, shopping habits, and whether you intend to participate in any shore excursions.
However, as a general guideline, it’s recommended to budget around $50 – $100 per person per day. This will cover any additional dining, drinks, gratuities, and incidental expenses onboard, as well as some shopping and activities at the various ports of call.
Keep in mind that every port will have ATMs available and many cruise lines also have ATMs onboard, so you don’t need to step on deck with tons of cash. This isn’t a safe idea anyway, so just have enough to get you through the first day or two after you have a chance to see how much spending you and your group are doing on average.
Is it Cold on a Cruise to Alaska?
The weather on an Alaskan cruise can vary greatly depending on the time of year and the specific regions visited. Generally, summers (June to August) in Alaska are mild with temperatures ranging from 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can drop lower, especially in the evenings.
During these months, Alaska can get cold particularly when you’re out on the deck of the ship. You’ll also experience cooler temperatures as you cruise through the stunning Kenai Fjords when you’ll be surrounded by icy glaciers.
This is why layering clothes is highly recommended to adapt to fluctuating temperatures. Always have a warm jacket or sweater and a rainproof layer handy.
Which Cruise Lines Sail to Alaska?
A variety of cruise lines sail to Alaska, each offering unique experiences and itineraries. Some of the most popular options include:
- Princess Cruises
- Holland America Line
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Royal Caribbean International
- Celebrity Cruises
To make sure your priorities and preferences are met, it is essential to compare these cruise lines and what they offer. Each is unique in its packages, ports, and ambiance, so do your research so you can select the one that best suits your needs.
When is the Alaska Cruise Season?
The Alaska cruise season typically runs from late April to early October, with the peak season being June, July, and August. These months provide the warmest weather, longest days, and the best chance of spotting wildlife such as bears, whales (among a variety of majestic sea life), and eagles.
However, the shoulder months of May and September can offer discounted rates and less crowded ports. So, depending on your travel style, you may want to consider traveling during the less popular months if you’re looking for more of a budget-friendly or “off-the-beaten-path” experience.
Final Thoughts on Alaska Cruise Packing
An Alaskan cruise is a unique experience, and packing for it requires a bit more planning and consideration than a typical vacation. Remember to pack clothing that you can layer to adapt to varying temperatures, and don’t forget sturdy footwear for your shore excursions.
Consider formal wear for elegant dining nights, and budget your spending money wisely for any additional onboard expenses and port activities. Most importantly, strive for minimalism— pack only what you need and what cannot be purchased at your destination. Your Alaska cruise packing list is long enough, and you need to leave room for some fun souvenirs!
About the author:
Emily Concannon is the face and storyteller behind Emily Embarks and Sea to Summit Alaska. A full-time travel blogger, she is committed to sharing her top travel advice and adventures with the world.
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