What To Pack for an Alaskan Cruise

04.02.23 by Travelex Insurance
Image credit: Getty Images

Booking an Alaskan cruise is very exciting, but then all of a sudden you realize — you have to pack. You may have been on cruises before, but what you'd pack for an Alaskan cruise is altogether different than what you’d pack for a Caribbean cruise. Alaskan cruise season runs from May to September, with quite a bit of fluctuation in temperature and precipitation — weather can change in a flash. One day may be warm and sunny, and the next cold and rainy. Remember, much of Alaska is a rainforest, and not necessarily the warm kind. So let’s get you prepared with these five essential tips.

1. Pack light clothes

  • Remember, you can wear something more than once. Plan to take items that can be worn with more than one outfit, can be layered, and can also be dressed up or down. Most people dress casually for the majority of the cruise.
  • Even though Alaskan cruises are typically more casual, many cruise lines do still have “evening chic” nights where you can dress up. So packing a couple interchangeable, business-casual outfits is a good bet. In general, buffets are casual and the dining room’s dress code is nicer. If your cruise line plans for a “formal night," ladies, pack a beautiful top with black dress pants and guys throw in a sport coat with dress pants.
  • Swimsuit and cover-up (a sarong can double as a wrap).
  • Shoot for clothes that are wrinkle-free naturally, as there are no irons on board.

Shoes and socks

  • You'll definitely want several casual, non-slip, comfortable shoes for walking. Pack two pairs in case one pair gets wet.
  • Pack regular socks, plus some heavier pairs for colder excursions.
  • Waterproof hiking shoes or boots. Skip the bulky rain boots and go for comfort and warmth.
  • One pair of nicer shoes if you plan to dress up.
  • Flip flops for the pool or hot tub.

2. Think layers

Be prepared for temperatures that can swing as much as 30 degrees on any given day. Plan on packing a comfort layer, a warmth layer, and a protection layer. An example of this would be beginning with a short-sleeved shirt (comfort layer), add a hooded sweatshirt or fleece (warmth layer), and then add a waterproof, windproof jacket with hood (protection layer).

Comfort layers

When you’re planning out your clothes, think clothes that layer well. Typically, you’ll want to pack some warm weather clothes (especially mid-summer), perhaps capris/shorts and short sleeve shirts. You’ll also want a few long-sleeve shirts. But don't forget to pack jeans and/or other weatherproof pants and some long-sleeve shirts. A great option is pants that can be converted to shorts if needed. Plus, they dry quickly too.

Warmth layers

Hoodies, sweaters, or fleeces are your best warmth-layer options. With these options, you can shed that outer layer and still have warmth. You don’t need anything super bulky — just a warm layer.

Protection layers

Sometimes the wind kicks up across the ocean as you’re passing those glaciers and it can feel like it’s going right through you. An all-weather, windproof, and breathable jacket with a hood is absolutely essential. A 3-in-1 waterproof jacket is a great choice. It’s not a bad idea to pack earmuffs or a small hat if you're traveling in fall or early spring. Throwing a disposable rain poncho in your backpack or purse is also an excellent idea.

3. Tech gear

  • Camera, phone, electronic readers, and chargers
  • Headphones/earbuds
  • Outlets are very limited in cruise cabins, so pack a mobile power charger and power strip.
  • Check with cruise lines to see if you need an electronic converter. Typically you don’t, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
  • Binoculars

4. Healthy stuff

  • Sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses can cut down on glare on the water and help you see the scenery much clearer and brighter.
  • Hat with a brim. Better yet, a waterproof hat.
  • A beverage bottle that can hold cold and/or hot beverages comes in handy on board and off.
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent for excursions
  • Anti-bacterial wipes or gel

5. Other odds and ends

  • A lightweight, waterproof and foldable backpack — a must-have for excursions to carry your extra layers and gear. Ditch the purse and go for this option.
  • Needed medication, including motion sickness medicine if necessary.
  • Toiletries — save space in your cabin and put these in an over-the-door organizer.
  • Lanyards — handy to carry your room key card.
  • All travel and ID documents, emergency numbers, and money.
  • Large/small bag(s) for dirty laundry.

There are many packing checklists out there, just remember that much of what’s on those lists vary depending on what kind of activities you're planning, where you are going and your own personal needs. Now that you have a simple understanding of the basics, you can start planning your own packing list with these tips in mind. Protect your cruise with a travel protection plan. 

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