What to Pack for Your Alaska Cruise: The Ultimate Packing List

Published: October 13, 2023

Packing for an Alaska cruise is nearly as important as boarding the ship. If you want an unforgettable Alaska cruise, it’s essential to pack appropriately. Poor packing could lead to uncomfortable consequences, from shivering in the rain to missing out on experiences and excursions.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unpack what to pack for an Alaska cruise, covering practical and personal necessities. Follow these tips, and you’ll be well-equipped, no matter if you’re cruising in the height of the summer’s Midnight Sun warmth in July and August or during the cooler days of May and September; if you’re taking a preferred 7-day Alaska cruise, or something shorter or longer.

So, let’s dive in!

Alaska Cruise Packing Checklist and Tips From the Alaska Tours Team

Alaska cruises are as popular as ever for travelers seeking out some of the state’s greatest attractions while riding in smooth-and-steady seaward style. The cruise curiosity spike isn’t surprising for regulars, who love the unique experience. However, maximizing any cruise time comes with preparation, from booking the perfect trip to filling out your Alaska cruise essentials list.

The trusted travel pros at Alaska Tours appreciate the Alaska cruise ship travel attraction. The team of experts plan and match clients with their ideal cruise, from the opulence of Holland America’s fleet, the boutique vibes of small ship cruises on yachts, or the excitement of adventure cruises. And they help you sift through many on- and off-ship excursions and destinations.

Sometimes, the journey is the destination. A trip through Southeast Alaska’s iconic Inside Passage is the most popular Alaska cruise. It’s a genuinely mind-blowing ride filled with glaciers, landscapes, wildlife and activities, as well as Alaska Native heritage and Gold Rush history in distinct port communities.

No matter the cruise, with Alaska Tours handling logistics and acting as the go-to source for cruise-related advice, passengers can quickly immerse themselves in their Alaska cruise experience. They’re prepared for their trip, and that prep starts before leaving home by creating an Alaska cruise packing checklist.

Alaska Cruise Packing List Essentials

There’s a balance between packing particulars and considering big-picture factors every passenger strikes while drawing up their Alaska packing list for a fantastic cruise. This section provides the building blocks on what to pack for your Alaska cruise for a memorable and comfortable voyage.

Key Clothing Items

Among the most unpredictable aspects of Alaska life is its varying and often quickly changing weather conditions. Anyone taking an Alaska cruise, especially longer trips with numerous stops and excursions, must pack clothing suitable for that range of conditions. Travelers could find crisp mornings and evenings fit for versatile jackets and pants, sunny afternoons that are hoodie-and-jeans worthy, and unexpected rain and wind that test the best jackets for Alaska cruises: windbreakers and waterproof gear.

Considering those conditions, below are some top things to keep in mind:

  • Every clothing list should start with layers, the key to staying warm, comfortable and flexible in all Alaska cruise situations and destinations.
  • Begin with moisture-wicking base layers, add insulating mid-layers, and top it off with dependable outerwear, including caps, hats and gloves.
  • Layering is particularly important for long cruises, where you’ll encounter an array of elements. In fact, there’s no such thing as too much packing prep when you’re thinking of how to pack for a 7-day Alaska cruise.

Alaska cruise wear lists vary depending on cruise timing. Opt for moderate summer clothing on an Alaska cruise in August and the summer months leading up to it; pack for cooler shoulder season temperatures in May and September. Remember a cap, gloves, and a versatile scarf for chilly moments, even in summer. Trust us – warm wearables are valuable in all seasons, as rain showers and persistent winds sneak up.

Alaskans are all about versatile and durable dress, so casual attire is the norm. Follow their lead and pack comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for relaxation and exploration on and off-ship. If you plan on fine dining, a nice top and pants will do for dinner. And remember that many Alaska cruise ships have pools and hot tubs – if you’re down to take a dip, pack your favorite swimsuit.

Display of colourful winter jackets

A display of colourful insulated jackets

Footwear Choices

You might be on a cruise, but you’ll find yourself on your feet more than expected. You don’t want to miss anything.

  • Pack casual walking shoes or slip-resistant deck shoes – or a pair of each, if possible – for strolling around-ship and in any of the port towns along the way and dining out and relaxing in your cabin.
  • If you plan on spending a lot of time outside on the boat and onshore, you won’t regret upgrading to waterproof shoes.
  • For serious shore excursions like hiking and trail walking, hiking boots are best bets, especially if they are waterproof. When selecting hiking boots, prioritize ankle support and sturdy soles.
    Before your trip, break in new shoes and hiking boots to minimize blisters and weary feet and legs.

Outdoor Gear

Part of the lure of Alaska travel is exploring its majestic outdoors. Even on an Alaska cruise, consider reliable, versatile outdoor gear a necessity.

Ultimately, what to wear on your Alaska cruise for complete comfort at all times boils down to a high-quality rain jacket, a lightweight winter coat, wind or rain pants, baseball hats, sun hats and other sun protection gear, and an umbrella for that infamous Southeast Alaska rain. This gear is worth its weight, along with a stocking cap and winter gloves. And don’t forget the most important Alaska cruise outfits packing strategy: layers, layers and more layers!

Cruise Cabin Essentials

No matter which cruise you pick, from short and sweet to astonishing 8-day Glacier Bay National Park Cruises, and no matter how much time you plan to spend wandering around the boat and onshore, your cabin is your sanctuary. It is your place to rest and reflect from an incredible day and charge up for the next day and a place to store your gear. Here are some tips for essential cruise items that will make your cabin feel like home.

Travel Luggage

Much like clothing, luggage options vary, and appropriate cruise luggage depends on personal preferences and the nature of your trip. Some travelers favor traditional suitcases with rugged wheels for packing space and convenience. Others swear by duffel bags for quick packing and easy storage. Backpacks offer versatility in many sizes. A combination of these options provides the best coverage, blending storage and mobility. And one of the most important factors when shopping for any type of luggage is its durability.

When selecting luggage, also consider its size in relation to your cabin. Research the cabin’s dimensions and storage capacity to ensure your clothing, gear, luggage and, of course, you and your travel companion, all fit cozily.

Irrespective of luggage choice, it’s important to pack efficiently. The simple approach to rolling clothing in your luggage will reduce wrinkles and maximize space.

Cabin Comfort

You can enhance your cabin comfort, functionality, and organization with just a few items. Some cruise cabins have limited electrical outlets, so a power strip for your device cords ensures your devices are fully charged daily. Nightlights help on dark Alaska spring and fall nights.

Use packing cubes and travel organizers to keep cabins cozy and tidy, make essential items easy to find and in order, and streamline dressing for any occasion.

Adventure Cruise Essentials

While trips like the Glacier Bay Adventure Cruise takes passengers to a magical Alaska area, some of the most memorable moments of an Alaska cruise trip take place off the boat on exciting shore excursions. No matter how you decide to explore, here are some essentials to pack.

Excursion Gear

Whether you plan on kayaking or hiking, most Alaska adventures require essential gear. A durable, versatile backpack or waterproof dry bag will keep your essential head-to-toe gear and snacks dry and nearby.

  • Hikers understand the importance of boots, but some also love the handiness of trekking poles on their walks and climbs. Windbreakers or breathable waterproof rain jackets are also important for most excursions.
  • Kayaking is a very popular option that gets paddlers closer to wildlife, coves and glaciers most often seen from a distance on cruise ships. Kayaking requires more specialized gear: a drysuit and water shoes to stay warm and comfy, and a dry bag to protect the rest of your gear.
  • Wildlife excursions don’t demand as much variety as far as clothing goes – it’s more about staying comfortable and warm (layers!) as you’ll spend periods in one place looking for wildlife and other times traveling to and from those areas on small planes, small boats or four-wheelers.
Person's feet wearing tan hiking boots, resting on a grassy cliff

Picture of a person’s feet wearing tan hiking boots by Lisa Fotios

Wildlife Viewing Gear

Wildlife viewing is a quintessential Alaska activity; imagine seeing a bear, whale, or moose in the water or wilderness! Great guides will get you the animal access, but you can maximize these moments by packing binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens. This gear lets you easily spot and capture images of your wild finds.

  • Keep the binoculars and camera nearby when on deck or during shore excursions. You never know when you’ll spot a bald eagle soaring, a pod of whales breaching, a colorful puffin flapping above the water’s surface, or an otter curiously watching you while crunching on lunch. And then there are the landscapes: binoculars and cameras are indispensable for enjoying and documenting these only-in-Alaska vistas.
  • Many operators offer gear rentals if concerns about luggage space and weight or costs arise. However, this means you won’t have these items at all times. Rental gear might be perfect for one-off excursions like kayaking, but avid hikers should bring their own boots. If you intend on renting, book in advance during the peak summer season.
Brown Bear in an Alaskan Forest

Picture of a brown grizzly bear in Alaska by Janko Ferlic

Other Important Items to Pack for Your Alaska Cruise

There are also essential personal items that you simply can’t leave home without.

  • Securely pack prescription medications in an accessible carry-on. Same with important travel documents like passports, travel insurance, and personal insurance cards.
  • Small comforts can make cruise life more enjoyable. Miniature versions of favorite toiletries bring a sense of normalcy to busy days.
  • Even while traveling through some of the world’s most breathtaking cruise routes, and participating in onboard offerings like birdwatching or stargazing, you’ll still have downtime. A new book or e-reader and portable gadgets will keep you entertained.

Top Tips When Packing for Your Alaska Cruise

Before you zip up your luggage after packing for your Alaska cruise, remember some essential packing tips:

  • Pack light: Alaska’s unpredictable weather and extreme seasons demand smart packing, which includes getting as much gear in your luggage as possible. Try opting for lightweight versions of your layers, making room for more items like hiking boots and cabin comforts.
  • Pack right: Layering is the key to comfort in changing conditions throughout each day, so make sure you’re covered twice or more from head to toe.
  • Waterproof wearables: Include a waterproof jacket to keep yourself warm and dry. Waterproof hiking boots will keep your feet dry even on the wettest Southeast Alaska hike.
  • Secure what’s special: Keep important items like passports, medications, and travel documents in a secure, easily accessible and waterproof bag.

Ready to Set Sail on Your Alaskan Adventure?

You’ve now made your ultimate packing list and know what to pack for your Alaska cruise. You’ve found the right luggage combos and packed all the essentials. Now it’s time to book that voyage of a lifetime. With extensive expertise in crafting unforgettable cruise experiences, Alaska Tours is committed to guiding travelers to the right trip. You can choose from a diverse range of cruise packages, such as luxury small ship cruises, the iconic Inside Passage cruises, exciting adventure cruises that pack in the excursions, grand trips like the Glacier Bay Cruise Adventure and much more. All offer the chance to explore this magnificent state in style and comfort, on and off the cruise ship.

Ready to start planning your Alaska cruise? Contact us to learn more about our cruise packages and book your trip today! We can’t wait to welcome you aboard a cruise of Alaska’s wonders.