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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.
OK, on with the 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:
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.
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 dammaged. 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 Carribbean and they were perfect to capture video and photos while we were snorkeling.
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!)
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.
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.