How to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska

How to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska

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Growing up in Alaska and living in Seattle, I am used to trying to look somewhat stylish when it’s chilly and/or wet. However, I realize not everyone is from a cooler weather part of the world so you might need a bit more guidance when knowing how to pack for a cruise to Alaska. Now that we’ve been on our fourth Alaska cruise, I thought it was time to blog with some suggestions.

First of all, I have to give a caveat that what is considered “warm” to one person may be considered cold to someone else. For me, if it’s 65 degrees or better, it’s warm. But YMMV.

How to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska: Absolute Must-Haves

Before I jump into specifics, I want to call out the things you will absolutely need regardless of how you spend your time on your cruise or what time of year you sail. If you pay attention to nothing else in this post, at least take the following items.

  • A coat or jacket substantial enough to protect against wind and rain, ideally with a hood.
  • Gloves and a hat. If you do not plan to spend your entire time indoors, these are a necessity.
  • Sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare and help shield the wind.
  • Tennis shoes or similar. They should be closed and comfortable with good traction. Decks can get slippery.
  • Binoculars! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten these and kicked myself later. Not only for whale spotting, but they are great for glacier viewing and eagle sightings.
  • A camera or device with a camera. I take more photos on Alaska cruises than any other!
  • A compact umbrella. Much of SE Alaska is a rainforest! If it’s drizzling on a day you are in port, you’ll be glad you have an umbrella.
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OK, on with the tips!

Tip #1: LAYER Up!

You may be cruising in August, but summer in southeast and south central Alaska is fairly mild with daytime highs reaching the mid 60’s  during the day and dipping into the mid 40’s at night. Weather can change very quickly in SE Alaska. It’s not uncommon to wake up to drizzle and clouds and be sitting on the deck in the afternoon in 65 degree sunny weather.

If you are spending the day on ship, you can run back and forth to your stateroom to change for the weather conditions, however, that’s not exactly how I like to spend my days on board. And, this is ALASKA! You are going to want to get off of the ship and explore!

Here’s an idea of how you can layer up on a typical day in port or on board:

How to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska - Cruise Mood: Packing considerations for excursions, what to have when you are glacier viewing, and how to layer up!

WHERE TO BUY: Kilnsey Vest | Hudson Jeans | Saltwater Goddess T-Shirt | North Face Jacket | Superdry Hoodie | Sperry Top-Sider Shoes
(Some links are affiliate links. Thank you!)

Tip #2: Prepare for Glacier Days

There are two things that can keep you from getting the most out of a day of glacier viewing: crowded decks and cold, windy weather. To make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you’ll want to prepare. Decks can get crowded early which means you should pack along what you think you’ll need for the day (especially if you are on your own). The last thing you’ll want to do is lose your prime spot because you had to run back to your room and grab your mittens.

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Glacier days are COLD. This is a day when you will want to pack along your gloves, hat, sunglasses, and lots of layers. You will also want to be sure your camera is charged and you have your binoculars. Last, please wear adequate foot protection (tennis shoes with warm socks should be fine). You are staying on the ship but you really need to keep your feet warm and dry on deck.

One last recommendation, I use my DSLR for most photos and my phone for photos and video. On drizzly days, I don’t want either to get damaged. We love using these super inexpensive waterproof cell phone protectors to keep our phones dry. You can operate your phone fairly easily through them so you don’t miss the shot! We also took them along with us to the Caribbean and they were perfect to capture video and photos while we were snorkeling.

How to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska - Cruise Mood: Packing considerations for excursions, what to have when you are glacier viewing, and how to layer up!

WHERE TO BUY: Columbia Jacket | Sorel Boots | Oakley Sunglasses | Turtle Fur Hat | ELMA Touchscreen Wool Gloves | H&M Jeans  | Eat Local T-Shirt | Bushnell Binoculars | Kaisifei Scarf
(Some links are affiliate links. Thank you!)

How to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska - Cruise Mood: Packing considerations for excursions, what to have when you are glacier viewing, and how to layer up!
Don’t lose your glacier viewing spot because you are cold!

Tip #3: Plan Excursions in Advance and Pack Accordingly

Unlike a warm weather destination, Alaska requires a bit more planning for certain excursions. Knowing in advance that you want to hike, ride a dog sled, or will be taking a small boat to go whale watching may dictate that you bring along additional gear like hiking boots, snow boots, a parka, hip-waders, or waterproof rain gear. In some locations, you can even go snorkeling which would require a suit to protect you from the cold water.

SEE ALSO  What to Expect on Your Alaska Cruise

If you aren’t sure what you might need to have with you, work with the cruise line once you book your excursion for information about what you’ll need.

How to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska - Cruise Mood: Packing considerations for excursions, what to have when you are glacier viewing, and how to layer up!


  • Karen Ozycz

    Hi Anne,
    I am excitedly planning for our upcoming cruise to Alaska on Princess this July 19. We have also added a land tour at the end of the cruise. We will be going to Denali and McKinley. I have found your blog to be most helpful, especially with what you pack for out trip. I love to dress up occasionally as well look smart and chic in my casual clothes. I was so happy when I read your blog and got the impression that you do too. I think, thanks to your advice, I have limited what I take in terms of clothing so that I can mix and match outfits. I also really appreciated your advice on other items we will need. I hadn’t really thought about things like multi plugs for the stateroom. One question I do have is related to ironing any clothing that might need a touch up. Princess does not allow travel irons/steamers, which take up valuable suitcase space anyway. What has your experience been with regards to using onboard irons in the laundry rooms? I did read something, somewhere that said take whatever needs ironing soon after embarking because no one is there at that time. Any insight you can offer is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

    • Anne

      Hi Karen! I am so happy you have enjoyed the blog and you have found it helpful! And yes, I do like to feel stylish and put together on cruises, even on Alaska cruises which tend to be quite casual. There’s something about dressing up a bit for dinner that makes the whole experience feel more special!

      That said I would not recommend spending your first hours on the ship ironing clothing. There is too much to see and do! There will be plenty of other opportunities to iron after you’ve had that first day experience.

      More people will want to iron in the morning than at night, so you might consider sneaking in there one evening after dinner and a show. Sea days will be busier in the laundry rooms but they are also a great day for people to sleep in, so you may find availability early.

      I highly recommend Downy Wrinkle Release. It won’t take the wrinkles out of linen or a crisp cotton shirt, but it works very well on blends and knits. I also have noticed that rolling my clothing definitely keeps things more wrinkle-free.

      And, if all else fails, Princess has laundry service and can press your items for you for a fee.

      Have a wonderful trip!

      • Karen Ozycz

        Thanks so much for your suggestions. I will definitely take all of that into consideration. I love your blog and reading it has me all the more excited for our upcoming trip.

        • Anne

          Good! That’s what it’s for! It helps me keep the memory alive of my prior cruises while we are in between trips.

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  • Dawn

    We have a balcony room. Will we see the glaciers just as well as the others on the deck? I don’t like crowds, so I would rather stay on my balcony–if the view is the same.

    • Hi Dawn,

      Typically, the captain will turn the ship very slowly a couple of times so that no matter where you are, you will have a view. However, being isolated to your balcony will mean you will get a shorter time to view the glacier and may miss the glacier calving which is very exciting. If crowds bother you, I would recommend staying on your balcony for the first view and then checking out the upper decks a bit later. The novelty will wear off, people will get cold and/or hungry, and the crowds start to dispurse. I’ve included an image where I had a lovely view of a glacier (albeit obstructed) sitting on a deck chair after the crowds thinned.

      Have a lovely trip!

  • Teresa Schiltz

    Do you recommend booking an excursion to go whale watching? Won’t we see whales along the cruise route? Also, we are doing 7 day cruise, 7 day land excursion. Are there spots that you think are must sees in Anchorage, Seward and Juneau?

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