How do you pack for an Alaskan cruise? That is the question. When packing for our first Alaska cruise we had to do some serious thinking. Since then, we’ve taken two other Alaskan cruises plus a cruise to Antarctica and Greenland, so we have learned a lot about packing for polar regions. When traveling to Alaska you have to be prepared for every type of weather. Like other cruises, there are formal nights and cocktail evenings, but in Alaska, days are more casual and the dinner attire is more relaxed. Alaska weather changes quickly, so you will need layers to take on and off as needed.
What To Pack For An Alaska Cruise
Packing for a cruise vacation to Alaska is completely different than a Caribbean cruise. Caribbean cruises are easy to pack for. Throw in swimwear, beachwear flip-flops, and a few smart outfits for evenings and you are good to go. When cruising to Alaska, you will have a mix of hot weather and cold weather, so you need to pack layers.
Weather in Alaska can be unpredictable, ranging from warm and sunny to cold and rainy, often within the same day. Also, onboard the ship, you’ll have a mix of casual and formal events, and you may be participating in shore excursions that go beyond walking tours. You might find yourself on a zodiac or kayak in the middle of a Fjord.
To see exactly what we packed for our Alaska Cruise skip to:
We’ve taken three different Alaska cruises and our latest took us down the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia on the Nieuw Amsterdam ship by Holland America Cruise Line. This ship offered the perfect mix of luxury with adventure, but it makes packing a little more involved because you’ll want adventure and activewear, but also some formal and smart casual clothing. Don’t worry, we’ve created the ultimate Alaska Cruise Packing list so you will be comfortable and look good.
We have also taken a cruise to Alaska with Princess Cruises and UnCruise. Princess Cruises is very similar to Holland America Cruise Line, but if you want more of an expedition cruise on a small ship to Alaska, check out our experience with UnCruise.
Alaska Cruise Packing Tips – Layering
When packing for an Alaska cruise, it is important to think about layering. Southeast Alaska can be very warm during the cruise season, but you are still going to be cruising Arctic waters close to glaciers and icebergs so you’ll want both shorts and t-shirts with a mix of thermal layers and water-resistant clothing.
Layered clothing: The weather in Alaska can change rapidly, and layering will allow you to adapt to varying conditions. Consider packing T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and jackets. Waterproof Pants that convert to shorts are a great option for Alaska as you can change quickly.
Also remember, if you are cruising early or later in the Alaska cruise season, the weather will be cooler, so pack some warm wool socks and a heavier sweater for your mid-layer.
Even if the sun is shining, there will be a very cool breeze. Standing on the deck you will want to have windproof and waterproof layers with a hat and gloves.
You’ll want to be comfortable so you can really take in the beauty of this once-in-a-lifetime scene. (don’t be that guy in shorts popping out for only five minutes because he was too cold)
On land, it can be just as unpredictable. When stopping at different Alaska cruise ports, you will encounter completely different weather and shore excursions.
The weather can change quickly throughout the Alaska cruise season and it can be surprisingly wet in the summertime. Juneau may be hot and balmy while Ketchikan could be rainy and cold. In fact, Ketchikan is one of the wettest places in North America. So, you’ll want to have an outer layer that is both windproof and waterproof, you’ll want a mid-layer to keep you warm on chilly days, but you’ll also want summer clothes for the odd beautiful, and balmy day.
Alaska Cruise Packing Checklist
So, now that we understand the unpredictability of the weather in Alaska, here is a list of suggested items you may want to pack for your Alaska cruise.
When packing for Alaska, keep in mind that you will want layered clothing, waterproof outerwear, warm clothing, formal attire, and casual attire and most importantly don’t forget comfortable footwear. Plus, just because you are in Alaska, doesn’t mean you won’t be swimming or enjoying the hot tub, so make sure to pack a bathing suit!
An outer waterproof layer is essential if you want to enjoy your Alaskan cruise to the fullest. We’ve become big fans of Fjällräven and this Fjallraven High Coast Jacket is not only wind and waterproof, it looks smart as well. So whether you are going on a forest hike or sitting in a historic saloon, you’ll look great.
Even in the middle of summer, it can be cool, so having a smart mid-layer is a good idea. I found that I wore my mid fleece layer all the time, so having one that doubles as mid-layer but is also stylish enough to wear on its own is a great idea and Fjällräven has choices for men and Women’s Fleece.
On the water, you may want to go for something a little warmer than a fleece mid-layer. We love our Canada Goose Hybridge puffy coat, but it is expensive. Dave also has this Marmot puffer jacket and it works great. Wear it under your windproof and water-resistant jacket or into town, either way, it looks classic. Buy it on Amazon here.
Whether you are taking a whale-watching tour, hiking to a glacier, or walking through town, trekking pants are great for an Alaska cruise. We like these Fjällräven Pants because they look like a million bucks while still having durability, breathability, and quick dry of performance wear. See it on Amazon here.
If you don’t have waterproof pants at least plan to have water-resistant ones because there is nothing worse than being damp and wet. If you don’t have waterproof pants, these hiking trousers are lightweight and quick-dry.
A good trekking shirt can double as smart casual eveningwear. This trekking shirt by Fjällräven is breathable and wicks away moisture for more adventurous excursions and activities while looking good enough to wear to the restaurant at night. You can buy it here.
If you plan to do a lot of glacier excursions, dog sledding, hiking in the Tongass Forest, or heading out on zodiacs, we highly recommend waterproof hiking boots. We have also used waterproof shoes in Alaska. These waterproof boots are our go-to. Wearing hiking boots gives you proper ankle support for uneven terrain, and when landing on a glacier or going dog sledding, you can put on some wool socks and stay toasty warm.
You don’t need to pack heavy hiking boots. If you are walking around town or on the ship, these work fine as well. We’ve even worn just waterproof shoes on excursions like whale watching since we aren’t going into any muddy areas, but it still may be wet on the boat. If you aren’t doing major activities, water-resistant shoes will be enough.
We like Merrill brand and Moab 3 waterproof hiking shoe is what we wear and it’s a good all-around shoe that will keep your feet warm and dry.
Gadgets and Gear for Your Alaska Cruise
You’ll likely see wildlife like eagles, whales, and bears, and binoculars can help you get a closer look. Even if you have a zoom lens, binoculars will really help make the most of spotting wildlife and taking in the beauty of glaciers and icebergs up close. We like these Tasco binoculars.
Camera There will be plenty of beautiful landscapes to photograph. We go into camera gear further below, but remember you will want to have more than your smartphone in Alaska. You’ll want a zoom lens to capture wildlife and a wide angle lens to capture the massive glaciers and landscapes.
Lanyard for Cruise Ship Card
When going on a cruise, you will have a cruise card that you use to purchase everything. Even if you have an all-inclusive package, you will need to swipe your cruise card. We found that a lanyard works great to hold our cards so we don’t have to carry around a back while on board. This package offers 4 waterproof lanyards and luggage tags.
There are never enough hooks in cruise cabins and when cruising in Alaska, you are going to have more sweaters, jackets, and layers hanging around. Magnetic Hooks are a great idea as cruise ship walls are made of metal. You can put them on a wall and hang your clothes out of the way with ease.
A refillable mug is a must when on a cruise. Unless you are ordering a specialty coffee (or have a package) you’ll be using the small mugs at restaurants. With a mug, you can fill up your coffee and carry it around the ship with you. We have found this to be invaluable for coffee or tea drinkers. This personalized insulated coffee mug is great for carrying on the ship as it captures the adventure.
Bathrooms can be small on a cruise ship and we love this hanging toiletry bag. We put everything in it and it keeps our toiletries clean and out of the way. We simply hang it on the back of the door or on the magnifying mirror when in use. When finished we can zip it up and store it away. See more details.
Lanyard for Mobile Phone
When on a ship, I really love having a safety hook on my phone or camera. This waterproof floating case is universal and will keep your phone dry while having it safely attached to your neck or wrist.
For more packing tips, read our articles
Refillable Water Bottle
Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is important, especially when you’re active and it’s a great way to have water on hand while on a cruise instead of constantly needing to purchase water.
Backpack or Daypack
A small day pack is very useful for carrying items during shore excursions. We recommend a waterproof pack as it can rain a lot and if you are going to do whale watching or other excursions on the water, this will keep your valuables safe from splashing. Purchase it here.
Sunglasses and Sunscreen: The sun can be surprisingly strong in Alaska, especially when reflected off of snow and water. We love the classic Aviators by Rayban. But the truth is, I just put these in because they are what I wear, any sunglasses with proper UV protection will work.
Chapstick and Hand Moisturizer
The constant change in Alaska weather can be tough on your skin and lips. We love this travel-size Burt’s Bees essentials kit that
As we mentioned above, Alaska cruises aren’t as formal as Caribbean Cruises or other cruises around the world, but there are still formal nights and you can dress up as much as you like. To spruce up cocktail dresses or formal attire, I love having a choice of jewelry, and keeping it organized is key, especially when staying in small cabins. Having storage and organization is key. See it here.
Just like my jewelry case, I like having my makeup and lotions organized. Having it all in an organized place makes getting ready easy. Check it out on Amazon.
Packing Cubes have become a staple for all our travels. They keep clothing and gear organized and we use them for storing laundry as well. Once you’ve traveled with packing cubes, you’ll never go back. Purchase them here.
Hygiene and Disinfectant
In today’s world of cruising, everyone is very aware of cleanliness. Holland America Line (and other cruises such as Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean for that matter) are very aware of hygiene and keeping passengers safe with servers handing out food and plastic barriers covering the buffet.
But it is still a good idea to pack a few travel essentials for hygiene and cleaning. We like having this Antibacterial Spray – Lavender Scent on hand and Travel Size Lysol Disinfectant Wipes always come in handy.
See more Tavel Gear and Gadget Ideas at
Electronics packing list for Alaska Cruise
We carry a lot of electronics. But we’ve outlined what we think most people should bring and will feel comfortable with to capture those amazing moments and stay connected. We’ve rounded up certain things that are specific for an Alaska cruise.
Belkin Mini Surge
You will want to have your own multiple outlets to plug your electronics in as charging is limited in cabins. This Belkin has two USB ports and 3 plugs, so you can charge multiple electronics while only taking up one plug in the room.
Portable Hard Drive
You will want to store your photos nightly. I’ve seen people lose their cameras on an Alaska cruise and all of their memories went right into the water. This Samsung portable hard drive is so tiny, you’ll barely notice it in your carry-on and it holds 1 terabyte of memory.
We are iPhone users and the iPhone 14 Pro does a great job getting photographs and video on the fly. It has a good zoom to capture wildlife and a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display featuring Always-On and ProMotion plus a 48MP Main camera for up to 4x greater resolution.
Portable Power Bank and USB Portable charger
A portable charger is a staple in our travel gear no matter where we go. I keep this in my bag at all times so I can charge my iPhone, cameras, and GoPros. Imagine running out of battery while on an excursion and you see something amazing like a bear feeding on salmon. I never have to worry when I have a portable charger with me. Buy it here now.
Read more to help you with Electronics and Camera Gear
Camera Gear for Alaska Cruise
An Alaska cruise is a trip of a lifetime and a place that you may only visit once. You will want more than an iPhone for your camera gear for an Alaska cruise. You will want at least a zoom lens for wildlife and a wide-angle lens for landscapes. I am a Sony guy, so I have a full list of camera gear that I take with me on my travels, but here are some basics you will want for an Alaska cruise.
We use a complete Sony System for travel and love it. I use a Sony A1 but that is ridiculously expensive and not needed if photographing isn’t your job (or if you have money to burn). A good option for a more affordable Mirrorless camera is the Sony A7R IV. The dynamic range and the resolution of this camera will capture Alaska’s breathtaking landscapes beautifully.
Here are some recommended items to complement your camera for this trip:
Wide-angle Lens: For capturing sweeping landscapes and expansive views from the deck of the ship. Something like the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM or the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM would be ideal.
Telephoto Lens: To capture wildlife at a distance, consider a lens like the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS. If you need even more reach, the Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS might be a good choice.
To see more about travel photography gear and my complete camera gear list, see these articles below.
GoPro Hero 11 Black
We never travel without a GoPro and the GoPro Hero 11 Black is the latest model. GoPros are perfect for capturing photos and videos when on the water or when doing any adventures. If you are going dogsledding, doing a glacier landing, or kayaking, you will want a GoPro. However, I use my GoPro a lot when filming, even walking around town.
GoPro Hero 11: A waterproof camera is highly recommended. Chances are you will be out whale watching, zipping around Fjords, or simply out on the deck in the rain and we never travel without a GoPro.
Dave’s Alaska Cruise Clothes
Now that you have an overview of the essentials for packing for Alaska cruises, we want to break down exactly what we brought with us. You don’t need to dress up at night if you aren’t planning on booking specialty restaurants or joining the formal nights, but we say, “You are on a cruise, why wouldn’t you get your fancy on for an evening?” So we’re going to include formal dress and dressing for land tours for both men and women.
- 1 dark suit
- 1 Dinner Jacket or Vest
- 2 dress shirts to mix and match with suits.
- 2 ties
- 2 casual/dress pants
- 3 smart shirts for dinners
- 1 pair of dress shoes
- 1 pair of jeans
- 3 shirts
- 1 set of workout clothes
- 2 pair shorts
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 pair flipflops
- 1 pair of casual shoes or sneakers
For On Land
- 2 pairs of water-resistant or waterproof trekking pants
- 1 pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (Waterproof or at least water resistant)
- 2 trekking shirts
- Wool Hat
- Waterproof jacket
- light pair of gloves
Deb’s Alaska Cruise Clothes
Alaska cruises tend to be more relaxed (formal attire-wise) than other cruises. They aren’t strict on dress code and you don’t need to dress up a lot. But there are formal nights and if you splurge on one of the specialty restaurants you may want to dress up. For me, part of the fun of going on a cruise is being able to dress up so I packed cocktail dresses and high heels to boot!
- 2 cocktail dresses
- 2 casual dresses
- 2 pairs of dress pants
- 2 blouses
- 2 pairs of dress shoes
- 2 casual shirts
- flip flops
- 2 sarongs
- 1 set of workout clothes
- 1 pair of yoga pants
- Fleece jacket
- 1 pairs shorts
- 2 T-shirts
- Waterproof Jacket
- Wool Hat
- 1 pair jeans
More Packing Tips for an Alaska Cruise
The Above list of packing for an Alaska cruise is specifically for a cruise portion down southeast Alaska. This is the main route most cruise lines take and the route we took on all three of our Alaskan cruises.
It seems almost impossible to pack light for such a trip. It was a difficult task scaling down our bags to include 1 suitcase each.
But overall we were quite happy with our packing choices. With just a few adjustments, you will have the perfect packing list for Alaska by learning from our experience.
An Alaska cruise requires a little more planning than a Caribbean Cruise or even a European River Cruise when it comes to packing. You need many more layers and you really need to think about waterproof and water-resistant clothing.
You also want to be comfortable working out in the gym, hanging around the indoor swimming pool, sitting in the lounge enjoying coffee or a glass of wine, and looking good when going to see a Vegas-style show.
Packing for our Alaska cruises was definitely a learning experience for us. But the one note we have is you don’t have to worry about overpacking. This is the one time we say, it’s okay to bring too much. All your luggage is taken care of for you so you can bring more luggage.
Once you get off the plane, you never have to worry about carrying it again and then you are in one cabin for the duration of your cruise, so you can unpack and enjoy. So bring what you want and have a choice of clothing. Half the fun of going on a cruise is dressing up. Note: Just be sure to check with your airline for luggage limits. The only thing you may have to worry about is having to pay for excess baggage.