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 Backpack, LeSportsac 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