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  • Writer's pictureCoastandCrownTravel

What To Pack for Your Alaska Cruise

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

You've made the decision to cruise the beautiful state of Alaska, but what next? It may seem crazy to think of a packing list so far off from your cruise date, but because there are so many variables when visiting Alaska, the packing list can take on a life of its own. So let's solve some of those issues.

The temperature in Alaska during their summer season (May to September) can range from 55F-65F, but it can climb to more than 80F and can drop to below 45F (especially in the evening). You may find sitting outside on the balcony to be cool while eating in the dining room warmer than you may like, so having options is important. Besides temperature, there are a huge variety of excursions you can choose from AND let's not forget rain! So let's talk about some clothing items that you will want to pack for your cruise!

  1. Rainproof jacket and pants - I love these for Alaska! Frogg Togs are my favorite because they are lightweight, provide good rain protection, and dry quickly. You want something that will keep you dry and also that isn't too hot in case you're wearing it during the day while it is 60F outside.

  2. Beanie and baseball cap (or a brimmed hat) - We tend to lose a lot of heat from our heads, so a knitted beanie is nice to keep your head warm when it is cooler out, but it is easy to fold up and put away once it becomes warmer outside. The baseball cap and/or brimmed hat is nice for days when it is sunny or rainy outside. They keep the sun out of your eyes and the rain off of your face. Even if you're not a big hat wearer, trust me, you want a hat.

  3. Two jackets - a thicker, warmer jacket and something like a fleece pullover or something that you can easily take on or off. The thicker jackets will be mostly needed in May and September cruises, but I would recommend having one regardless of the season, just in case. There are a few puffy jackets that are easily compacted down to saved space in your luggage. This is one of my favorites.

  4. Comfortable jeans and pants - Whether you're hiking, mushing, or walking around town having comfortable jeans and hiking pants are important. If you're going on a seven-day cruise, bring 7 pairs of pants. Your rain pants or hiking pants can dry out easily so maybe having only 1 pair of those will work for you. Definitely bring 4-5 pairs of jeans (unless you prefer wearing khakis or cargo type pants.) to wear throughout the cruise.

  5. Tee shirts - I suggest bringing 3 short sleeve tees that can be worn under pullovers or sweaters and 3-4 long sleeve tees that can be worn alone or under sweaters and jackets.

  6. Sweaters - I always carry a sweater to throw over my outfit whether I am sailing to St. Croix or to Alaska. You can't control the dining room or theater climates, so I like having options. A nice cardigan and sweatshirt both are good to have on hand.

  7. A scarf - Scarves are nice to throw on as you head out. They have many uses from keeping your head stylishly warm to keeping your legs covered if they get cold. This is one of my favorites that has lots of color options.

  8. Dining room attire: Your specific ship will have their own Dress Codes, but for this case, we will use Princess. Princess usually has 2 formal nights on a 7-day sailing. The regular dining room attire is:

  • skirts, dresses, slacks, blouses, and sweaters for women

  • long pants, shirts with collars, and/or sports jackets for men.

  • Nice jeans are acceptable with no fraying or holes.

  • Shoes (no flip flops in the dining room).

  • Now for formal nights - Some people love to dress up for formal night and others don't care for it as much, so you will see everything from a tuxedo to a suit for men (and some will have khakis and a polo!) and women will range from long evening gowns to cocktail dresses. On Alaska itineraries, you tend to have a little more casual dress for formal nights, but this is your cruise - so if you want to get glammed up in a tux and evening gown - go for it!

9. Gloves - it may get cold, so you'll definitely want gloves! But don't get just any gloves! You will want Touch Screen Compatible gloves! Fiddling with your phone while trying to grab a shot of whales breeching isn't what you want. Touch screen compatible gloves can help you not miss those once in a lifetime shots.

10. Shoes - Normally when sending a packing list for a cruise, I will tell clients 3 pairs max - flip flops, dress shoes, and tennis shoes. But Alaska is not an ordinary cruise! Here are my shoe suggestions:

  • Comfortable tennis shoes for sure! Make sure they aren't brand new!

  • Waterproof Hiking Shoes - buy them now, get busy hiking and get them worn in. Rainproof boots - I really recommend saving up some money and buying Xtratuf boots while in Ketchikan! They are made locally for the Alaskan climate - but it rains everywhere, so get some cute rain boots there!

  • Flip Flops - because I am from Alabama where we wear them year round. I don't know why, but I can't imagine not needing flip flops anywhere.

  • Dress shoes - I recommend taking one pair of versatile dress shoes for the dining room. If you must carry two pairs, that is fine, but staterooms are not large, so the fewer the better! Also, you can take heels, but if you're not carrying several pairs, having a nice, comfortable pair of flats is best.

  • Socks - They aren't technically shoes, but these Smartwool socks are great for the varied climate that Alaska offers. You don't need 7 pairs of those, but grab a few and then just use some of your other regular socks.

Now let's talk about things other than clothes that you will need to consider purchasing and packing!

  1. Binoculars - a good pair of travel binoculars are going to be needed. There is a ton of wildlife to spot, so you'll want to have a pair that are easily transported with you as you move about the ship and on excursions. I love these because they come with the ability to photograph what you see!

  2. Backpack or large purse I prefer a backpack because it is easier to keep up with while out on excursions. I have a few large backpacks from Amazon that are great to carry my laptop, book, passport, gloves, and even a change of clothes. This one is great for excursions and is perfect for packing. This is one that I like and use for onboard and for airport travel.

  3. Gallon size ziplock bags or wet bags - You will very likely have wet clothes that you will need to carry. I always throw one in my backpack and a few in my luggage. I let anything that gets wet dry but if it has mud or something on it that can get on other things, I throw it in a ziplock bag before I put it in my dirty clothes bag.

  4. Sunscreen and sunglasses - The sun glaring off of the glaciers and water will cause you to get sunburned if you aren't careful. It may even be warm enough for you to enjoy a swim while onboard, so bring a swimsuit too - just in case!

  5. Insect repellant - Did you know that the mosquito is the state bird of Alaska? Just kidding, but really, Alaska has more mosquitos than you could ever imagine, so bring some insect repellant for those excursions!

  6. Photography gear - whether this means a fancy DSLR camera with zoom lenses or your smartphone, you want to make sure you have back up batteries, chargers, and whatever external memory you will need. If you have a DSLR camera and you know how to use it (I have one but don't have a clue what to do with it), you will want a zoom lens and extra memory cards! If you want a good, but more compact camera for travel, check out this Sony a6000 mirrorless camera - this bundle comes with a zoom lens. You will also want a waterproof case for your camera and your phone! And don't forget USB converters!

Then there are those everyday things you may forget about. I suggest having:

  1. Over the door shoe hanger - Cruise ship bathrooms don't always have adequate storage (especially if you tend to have a lot of products - which I am guilty of) so I use an over the door shoe hanger for storing hair and beauty products, shaving cream, razors, etc. In the case that the bathroom does have adequate storage, you can still use this to store your gloves, beanies, hats, socks, and shoes. I love this one from Amazon.

  2. First Aid Bag - Grab a good ziplock or makeup bag and toss in these things: motion sickness medication, prescription meds, band-aids, first aid ointment, gas-x, and heartburn medication. You can grab those on the ship or on land, but they will cost you more than if you carry them with you! I highly recommend having a pair of Seabands along with Dramamine and ginger candy to avoid nausea if you get motion sickness easily. I would take a dose of Dramamine the day before or at least 8 hours before you board. The Inside Passage cruises tend to not be as turbulent, but there is nothing worse than getting sick your first day onboard!

How are you getting all this stuff onboard you're asking?

  1. A really good rolling suitcase - Everyone has their preferences when it comes to luggage, so I won't recommend one here. Just remember that you want one that can be stored away easily. Hard cases are good for protecting your items inside but make sure that they are light - you'll be packing heavy for this trip. You also will want to carry a backpack or carry on that has all of your medications and c-pap machine if you use one!

  2. Compression Packing Cubes - If you've never used packing cubes, grab these two sets now! One is compression cubes and the other is a basic packing cube set. These items will give you more room within your suitcase and keep you organized.

  3. A Mesh Hamper - You will have lots of dirty clothes (and some will be wet) so get this compact mesh hamper to keep your dirty laundry separate and allow for some drying.

If you're booked with me, you'll get a detailed packing list about 3 months prior to your cruise. But this is a great place to get started on some of those pricier items that you may not have lying around at home.

Did I miss anything? If you have any suggestions, be sure and comment below.

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