What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

You might know Alaska is known as a place with cold weather, especially in the winter. But, did you know Alaska is pretty warm in the summertime too? If you’re planning on embarking on an Alaska cruise, regardless of whichever season, you might be planning out what to pack for your cruise. It can be challenging to know what to pack (I know I took quite a whileee to), but I’ve decided to create this guide to help you decide what to pack!

Pro tip: I recommend trying to pack as light as possible. In my last travels, I’ve mastered how to pack 10+ days trip into just a carry-on luggage and I find it way easier to carry around! Also, minimalism is best.

1. Check the temperatures of the day you’re traveling!

Alaska’s weather can be like what a lot of locations are like as it gets closer to the Arctic circle. It can be unpredictable! Especially during the summer, some days will be really cloudy, rainy, and cold, and some days it’ll be pretty hot and sunny (like up to 90 degrees!). In the wintertime, it can be really brutally cold (like 20 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit!), with January being the coldest month.

Therefore, it’s really important to check what the temperatures will be that day you’ll be traveling so it can help you determine which clothes to wear that day. Depending on which cruise ship you go on, they will most likely have an app where it will mention the itinerary and include the temperatures there.

2. Dress in layers.

You definitely need to layer up when exploring Alaska! Base layers are necessary as they will go underneath the jackets, sweaters, and even your pants. Some base layers to think about packing are leggings (like the yoga and running ones are the best ones than cotton!) and thermal long sleeves. Other layers to use are t-shirts and tank tops.

3. Bring waterproof hiking boots and pants.

When Alaska rains, it can get muddy and it can rain a lot. If you’re going to be exploring Alaska outside like on a hike or even just walking, I recommend bringing waterproof hiking boots. In that case too, bring waterproof pants too because walking around wet is super uncomfortable and a buzzkill!

I love my Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Boots!!! They’re as good as they look and I almost always pair them up with Dickies Performance Work Socks.

4. Bring jackets, vests, windbreakers.

The best type of jackets to bring are the ones that are windproof and waterproof. I bought a few with me from windbreakers to my Columbia Interchange Jacket that connects 2 jackets together, one is a heavier parka-like winter jacket (used for snowy activities) and the other is a lighter down jacket. You should also consider bringing vests, either as a base layer under your winter jacket (depending on the season like during wintertime), or on Alaskan summer days, which would pair perfectly with light long-sleeved shirts or t-shirts.

My mom and I wearing our down jackets.

5. Definitely bring a bathing suit! And towel.

One common thing you may not think about bringing is your bathing suit! In fact, bring a few of them. You will need it when you choose to go swim in the pool or hot tub of your cruise ship, which by the way I would definitely take advantage of from the 360-views you’ll get of Alaska!! You may even find yourself swimming somewhere in Alaska, like I got to polar plunge in one of the port stops where there was a beach area and it was an unforgettable, amazing experience because I didn’t know Alaska’s waters can be so clear!

Cruise ships will most likely have towels that you can bring with you too, but I would double check on it first before considering bringing your own.

In my bathing suit while carrying a towel from the cruise ship after I polar plunged!

6. Bring these essential accessories.

Your outfits may not be complete ever without these essential accessories. Consider bringing scarves, thick socks (which pair great with waterproof hiking boots), gloves, hats, sunglasses, and a poncho. You never know how hard it can suddenly rain in Alaska, so a poncho may be good to pack in case. Some hats you can bring depends on the season, so for winter, I’d go with beanie hats and for summer, a good baseball cap, wide brim sun hat (also known as the camping hat), and a bucket hat are ideal. 

Pro tip: If you plan to shop at one of the port stops, you may just be able to buy any of these hats in the city’s downtown shops than considering packing your own, if you also wanted to bring souvenirs home.

7. Sweaters, sweaters, sweaters.

No matter the season, I emphasize bringing them! Thick winter sweaters to light fleece ones to pull over to crewneck to turtleneck to flannels, you’ll find a use for them, especially on colder days. It’s also ideal to wear them around the ship as the ship can get very cool.

Love this denim flannel of mine! I found it while thrifting in Goodwill and it’s been such a comfortable find for cool days.

8. For summer: Bring tees, jeans, and shorts.

This is only for those planning to cruise Alaska during the summer. Bring t-shirts. (If you’re planning on being active like going on hikes, you can also consider some polyester and synthetic types of shirts since it can help combat moisture.) You should also bring jeans and shorts (from athletic ones to denim and khaki ones) for days you aren’t going to be too active, but to still get on an excursion. (Only if that doesn’t involve going out on a boat deep in the ocean or to a glacier – for this, I recommend wearing pants, a jacket, and sweater! The wind can get cold!!)

9. Don’t forget these important toiletries!

Never forget them toiletries! I would recommend bringing at least a 15+ SPF sunscreen because the sun will appear no matter if it’s midnight sun, during the day time, or on cloudy days. You definitely need insect repellent spray if you plan to go hiking… I wish I would’ve known to bring one because I got bit by a HUGE Alaskan mosquito on my hand while hiking. Lastly, don’t forget to bring any medications you have to take, including other important toiletries like your makeup, contact lens and solution, makeup wipes, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, feminine products, etc.

10. Bring some semi-formal/formal clothes!

Especially if you’re going to be on a cruise, you definitely should consider bringing a dress (for you, ladies) or dress shirt and pants (for you, men). There will be a lot of events happening through the cruise ship such as formal dining, a lot of musical performances, and there will be manyyy opportunities to get your photos professionally taken. Or you could be like me, who posed for this picture seeing the “midnight sun” at 10pm in the ocean between Canada and Alaska. :)

It was actually really cold and windy here!!!

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