Alaska Cruise Packing List

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Outside the Caribbean, Alaska has been one of the destinations that I’ve sailed multiple times and I thought it might be helpful to know what I bring when I go on an Alaskan cruise.

Please be aware that weather varies from month to month and even day-to-day so do some research about the expected weather during the time you plan to visit and keep checking the forecast as the cruise gets closer. Also, “cold” has a different meaning to someone born and raised in Florida than someone living in Minnesota. Take into consideration your own weather tolerance when deciding what to pack.

In general for clothing, I have experience with and highly recommend these brands:

If you need to buy new outerwear for your trip as I did, I recommend checking out the Women’s Outerwear and Men’s Outerwear on BradsDeals and subscribe to their daily deal alerts. They seem to have great deals on jackets and cold-weather apparel all the time. Most sporting good stores have an end-of-season clearance sale near the end of winter (February/March) so if you know you’re going to Alaska during the summer, shop early!

Clothes to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

  • 3-in-1 Jacket: The key here is a 2-layer jacket. The outer layer is a waterproof shell that will keep you dry in the rain and the inner layer, usually a fleece or puffy jacket, keeps you warm. On those days when it’s just a rainy or windy but not that cold, you can wear just the outer shell. On days where it’s just a little nippy but otherwise nice, you can wear the inner layer only. I have the LL Bean Storm Chaser Jacket and my husband has the Columbia Men’s Rail Jam for many years now so they may be discontinued. Just look on Amazon for the latest jackets with good reviews.
  • Waterproof, low-top hiking shoes: Comfortable enough to wear all day while walking around port and can traverse uneven terrain if you go exploring in nature in rainy weather. We like the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoes for women and men.
  • Convertible Pants: Quick dry hiking pants that converts to shorts so didn’t need to pack them separately. Yes, we actually wore them as shorts in Skagway!
  • Gloves: These should NOT be giant ski gloves. They should be warm but slim and easy for you to use your hands. Look for ones that are good for outdoor activities like running or hiking and touchscreen compatible to you can use your phone without taking them off.
  • Swim suits: There’s nothing like sitting in a jacuzzi or heated pool on glacier cruising days!
  • Flip flops: I didn’t pack these and wish I did to walk around the ship on sea days
  • Socks that can be worn with pants or shorts
  • Shirts: A mix of short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts to wear on the ship or in port
  • Crossbody or backpack purse that can be easily cleaned and waterproofed for ports. My favorites are Lesportsac Basic BackpackLeSportsac Classic Deluxe Everyday Bag, and Lesportsac Classic Hobo. If they get dirty (or smell like fish!), I throw them in the washer on the hand-wash cycle and then hang dry.
  • Waterproofing treatment – This is a spray that I put on my Lesportsac bag and Chris’ backpack so they repel water. It does NOT make them completely waterproof but it helps a lot if you get caught in the rain, which is likely in Alaska!

I want to stress how awesome convertible pants and a good waterproof jacket are. The convertible pants were really lightweight, water resistant, and converted to shorts when it got warm so not only did we not have to pack shorts but we already had them on!! Forget bringing jeans or sweatshirts. They soak up water and are heavy. Stick with a waterproof, windproof, and breathable jacket with a hood that is light enough to pack into your backpack.

Non-Clothing Items to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

  • Bushnell 8×42 H2O waterproof binoculars – one pair turned out to be fine for both of us because we would switch off between looking through the binoculars and taking pictures but make sure it is at least this strength. We brought a smaller pair (10×21) and never used them because they weren’t good enough. Also glad we bought waterproof & fog proof binoculars because we needed it during our Prince William Sound cruise!
  • Insect repellent – our favorite is Off! Deep Woods which comes in towelettes or spray
  • Collapsible, insulated lunch bag – used to store snacks and packed lunches. We have 2 small ones that we found at the Dollar Store and they fold completely flat when not in use.
  • Sunscreen – It’s the Land of the Midnight Sun!
  • Travel sized toilet paper & toilet seat covers because you’ll be visiting National / State Parks whose bathrooms and portable toilets may not be well stocked

Other Things to Consider Packing

These are some thing you should consider packing depending on the weather for your cruise, if you get cold easily, or the excursions you are taking:

  • Bear Bell for bear viewing excursions or if you plan to hike on your own in Denali
  • Fleece hat: I wore mine while we were cruising Glacier Bay
  • Fleece pullover or sweatshirt for extra layering: I run “hot” so I didn’t wear it and found my 3-in-1 jacket to be sufficient
  • Rain Pants if you’ll likely be out in heavy rain for a long period of time, like we were in during the Prince William Sound cruise in Whittier, or if you plan to brave the elements out on the open decks to see glaciers and wildlife, regardless of the weather.
  • Thermal Underwear for layering if you tend to get cold easily
  • Scarf – For the most part, our jackets when fully zipped up was enough to cover our neck but if you get chilly easily, you may want one

Things to NOT Pack

These are things we brought but did not use:

  • Alaska Cruise Companion book – Princess had someone reading from the book on the TV
  • Denali Mile-by-mile guide – I forgot I get carsick when I read while in motion so I couldn’t read the book while on the shuttle bus
  • Hand/toe warmers
  • Ponchos – They flap around and get blown up by wind. Waterproof jacket with hood worked much better and easier to wear
  • Umbrella – Same as a poncho, plus we wanted our hands free
  • Waterproof pouch for camera – We brought this for our Denali rafting trip but we were worried that we might lose it and we had to hang on to the safety line the whole time so we didn’t use the camera at all. Instead, we bought the photos that the rafting company took of us.
  • Thick/wool socks – Not cold enough to need them, not even on the glacier


28 thoughts on “Alaska Cruise Packing List”

  1. I just ran across your page through Cruise Critic! Thank you so much. This packing list will help us so much! DH and I are preparing for our first cruise and it’s to Alaska! Coincidentally I just got home from REI and bought a 3 in 1 Columbia jacket and Merrell hiking shoes! I’m glad you recommended those as well. I’ll keep reading all your great information.

    Thanks again!


  2. This is so useful – I am also an obsessive trip planner/very detail oriented and your “specifics” in this section and all other sections are very much appreciated.

  3. First of all you and your husband are such a cute couple!!! Those are great pics of you. I can only imagine the time you have spent putting this website/blog together and anyone who finds it is LUCKY!! Thank you so much. We are going on a family-4of us- cruise in August- soooo excited. Hope we catch some big Salmon and see bears. 🙂

  4. Hiya,

    I was wondering, what all did you get to used from the Alaskan TourSaver coupon book? I went through the list and didn’t see anything on top of my head that I saw I could use. Just curious. :=]

    Thanks in advance.


  5. Hi Rebecca,
    Your packing list was the starter for my planning, and now that my cruise is finished, I have about the same “used / didn’t use” comments as you.
    The water/wind-proof jacket, layered over quick-dry fleece, layered over wicking T-shirt, plus quick-dry convertible pants, were my excursion uniform — worked really well. I loved my small Osprey Daylite backpack; what came off me went right into the backpack — clothing, camera, binoculars, maps & passports, souvenirs.
    Also, strongly recommend an ultrazoom camera — ours is a Fujifilm 30x S4000. Ordinary point&shoot with 3x or 4x optical zoom is useless for wildlife and Alaska-size scenery.

  6. I saw your listing on cruise critic when I was looking at suggested binoculars. I’ve “stolen” your packing list. It looks very useful. I’m thinking we will have a colder adventure because we’re going May 12-19, 2012, the first HAL Westerdam Alaskan Cruise of the season. I’ll take cold over rain anyday. I hate to be wet, but I live in Houston so I’m use to it.

    Just wanted to say thank you for the great suggestions.

  7. LOVE your website…..great job and fabulous reporting!
    We are considering the Prince William Sound trip with 26 Glaciers…do you think it was a worthwhile excursion?

  8. You are amazing Rebecca! I am making you my official Alaska tour guide. Thanks for all the great info. Didn’t realize we need all the water proof clothing and the binocular is a great suggestion. Just a quick question: wondering if what you see on the glacier cruise in Prince William Sound would be more or less the same thing you would see on your princess cruise ( trying to save some bucks where possible).

    1. The PWS cruise is definitely a different experience. You get much closer to the glaciers on the smaller boat and the PWS area has many more glaciers that calved. While you may see whales on the ship, you’ll also see them closer on the PWS cruise and you’re more likely to see them. We didn’t see any otters from the ship at all. I’d still highly recommend you go on the PWS cruise, if you can afford it.

  9. Hi Rebecca,

    Your website contains so much great information that I am so lucky to find it before my first cruise trip to Alaska.

    I have a question re: collapsible insulated lunch bag. You mentioned that you used it to store the packed lunch. Where will I get the packed lunch or snacks if I will be on the full-day port excursion which starts in early morning each day?

    Thank you so much for the help.


    1. I recommend packing snacks from home or buy them before you board the ship. I usually bring stuff like granola bars, crackers, cookies, and other stuff that won’t need to be refrigerated. I often travel with snacks and pack them in a plastic container (like Tupperware) to keep them from getting smashed. For the packed lunch, bring your own a bunch of Ziploc bags from home. The night before you need a packed lunch, order sandwiches from room service. They usually come with chips too. Pack them into the Ziploc bags and keep the sandwiches in your cabin fridge until the next morning. You can also wake up early and order room service the morning of but I don’t do that because you never know how long they will take and I don’t want to stress about it, plus I’d rather not wake up any earlier than I have to!

  10. Thanks for all the info.
    Did you use many of the offers in the Toursaver? Have any trouble booking tours? I noticed on one of the flightseeing tours that they only take two a day, one morning and one afternoon and that they can change reservations.
    I just noticed your recent post for 2012 Alaska. We are doing that cruise July 27th. We have never been and I am just now trying to plan everything. Normally I plan for months but not this time and I’m beginning to feel stressed!
    Thanks again,
    I guess I’m the visitor from Springville but I actually live in Odenville AL

    1. Hi, Robin! You don’t need to use many coupons in the Toursaver in order to save money. In 2010, I think I only used 3 coupons but saved around $600. This year, I’ll be using 2 coupons and saving $330. Still worth buying the book for only 2 coupons. But yes, some of the tours do book up so it’s best if you reserve ahead and make sure you can get a reservation before buying the book.

      Yikes! You are cutting it close. It does get harder to find space once it’s closer so you should try to firm up your plans as soon as possible.

      Best of luck!


    2. “I guess I’m the visitor from Springville but I actually live in Odenville AL”

      SMALL WORLD- I have lived in Odenville. That is where my parents lived when I was born 29 years ago.

      Thanks for the packing list! It will help me not forget anything when my family and I go to AK in just a few weeks.

  11. Rebecca,
    Thanks for the quick reply. When using the Toursaver I read that you give them a code number off the coupon and then do you present them with the coupon when you arrive for the tour? I ask because if I could find someone to share the book, would we have to pass it around or just need the numbers when making reservations? I doubt I have enough time left to find someone to share with but it’s a thought.
    Thanks again,

    1. Many vendors don’t ask for the book number at all. (The 2 that I am using in August did not.) You just need the book when you show up. For those that ask, you just need the number so once you find someone to share the book with, ask them for the number.

  12. WOW, your site is amazing. I’ve just read it all and made lots of notes. Loved the photos too. Looking for a camera for our upcoming trip (Diamond Princess) and made a note about that too….will start researching that next. Our first Alaska visit and we only booked it 2 weeks ago, so I’ve been cramming in all the info I can get. Thanks for all the effort you put in to help the rest of us out.

  13. I have found your blog through cruise critic and it’s great btw. I noticed you have a defog sponge on your list. This is a great idea, I would even use this at home for my camera lens. I cannot seem to find this product. Can you tell me more about it or where to get it? Thanks!

  14. I only wish I had found your info first! So helpful and thorough. We are taking our first cruise and going to Alaska on Celebrity Solstice. Their website is very vague, so I have been piecing this information using a variety of sources. You have everything in one place – perfect! Thank you for your detailed information, much appreciated.

  15. Love this blog and the packing tips especially! Did you find that you needed the waterproof hiking boots or would regular running shoes suffice? I have both but am concerned about weight/space.

    1. It really depends on what you plan to do. I thought the hiking shoes (not boots) were very useful for some of our excursions that involved walking in the forest. I recommend low-top hiking shoes which are similar size and weight as sneakers but with extra grip and weather resistant. I have a pair of Merrell‘s. If you don’t plan to bring hiking shoes, you should consider weather-resistant shoes as it rains pretty often to the point where your shoes may become soaked.

  16. Hi Rebecca-
    Thanks so much for this list! We are taking an Alaska Cruise with our 3 boys in late August so starting to make sure we have everything.
    As far as excursions, if we plan to do a white water rafting trip at Mendenhall Glacier, what do people wear on that (including footwear)?
    Besides clothes, I have no idea how many pairs of footwear to bring for all of us. Flip flops, regular sneakers and water resistant boots? you think that is enough?

    1. I personally don’t think you need water resistant boots. Instead, I would try to get water resistant hiking shoes (low-top) and also use them as sneakers. If you just get regular hiking shoes, you can also buy a water repellent spray and spray them on your shoes. That will cut down the number of shoes you need to bring to flip flops, hiking shoes, and maybe nicer shoes for dinner.

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