Wondering what to wear on an Alaska cruise? In this guide we will tell you exactly what to pack for an Alaskan cruise no matter the length of cruise, cruise line or your ports of call.
But before we get onto to wear for an Alaska cruise, we first will turn our attention to what non clothing items you should pack for your Alaska cruise.
What do I need to pack for an Alaska cruise (non clothing)?
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Passport and identification
I always pack my passport and identification no matter where my cruise goes, even if I am not leaving the US. If your Alaskan cruise is a closed loop, i.e. leaving from and returning to a US port i.e. Seattle and only stopping at US ports in Alaska like Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan for instance without stopping in Candian ports like Victoria or Vancouver, you can just take ID rather than a passport. However I like to have my passport with me on all cruises.
And remember that this needs to be in your embarkation day carry on bag.
Documentation including Covid 19 related paperwork
Alongside your passport and identification you will also need all other important cruise travel documents which includes but is not limited to:
- Travel insurance
- Covid Related paperwork such as vaccination certificates and PCR/Lateral Flow test results depending on your cruise line and port requirements.
- Cruise Suitcase labels – these are provided by the cruise line but are usually required to be completed and put on your suitcases before you arrive at the cruise terminal.
I would say this is an optional item, however in my experience most cruisers like to have a lanyard. Cruise cabin keys are the most important thing on a cruise as they are used as your form of identification to get back on and off the ship in ports, pay for things on the ship and is used for photographs, dining reservations and more.
Many people find a lanyard the best way to keep their cabin key safe and on them at all times on a cruise. The best ones are waterproof so can be used on shore excursions where you will be spending a lot of time in the water and can also be used to keep small amounts of cash and a government issued id.
Waterproof Phone Case
As well as the lanyard for your card we also recommend having a waterproof phone case. If you plan on heading in the sea it is important to keep your valuables such as your phone and wallet on you at all times so they do not get stolen or lost.
The best way to keep them safe on shore excursions where you are doing beach days and watersports is a waterproof phone case.
Universal Travel Adaptor
Depending on where you are from, who you are sailing with and where you may need to take a travel adaptor with you to ensure that all your electronics will work. Newer ships also tend to have USB charging points in the cabins so you may also want to have a USB charging cable with you.
You will also need to pack any medications you need in your carry on and be sure to have prescriptions with you.
As well as prescription medication some other medications you may like to travel with include:
- pain medications such as Advil, paracetamol, Tylenol and Ibuprofen
- Reflux Meds such as Gaviscon, Tums etc.
- Birth Control
Sea sickness medication or motion sickness bands
I personally have never gotten sea sick on a cruise ship. And the seas around Alaska aren’t notorious for been excessively rough but it is always possible. For this reason or if you are concerned about seasickness be sure to pack some sea sickness meds and some anti motion sickness bands.
Although most ships provide toiletries I will always pack some on my own as I think they are better quality than those you get on board
For more information on the best toiletries to bring on a cruise check out this post.
On top of the regular travel toiletry essentials we also recommend packing bug spray, after sun / aloe vera as well as a small first aid kid including blister plasters.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Although toiletries are usually provided you will need to bring your own tooth brush and toothpaste.
Although when you think about Alaska you may think first about glaciers and colder weather. However you can still get sun burnt in Alaska so be sure to bring sunscreen with you.
Note: Sunscreen is usually available onboard but will cost you a premium if you wait and buy on board. Therefore you should bring this with you if you can.
The contrast between the nice weather on a warm weather cruise with the cruise ship air conditioning and the cooler air around glaciers such as the Mendenhall Glacier is the perfect recipe for dry lips.
We always recommend packing lip balm that has an SPF so your lips are protected when on beach excursions etc. Again our favorite brand is sun bum.
A backpack is another essential for an Alaskan cruise. The variety of activities on board an Alaskan cruise range from train trips, glacier walking, helicopter rides, whale watching and rainforest walks. For this reason we think a backpack is the type of bag that suits this range of activities most.
If you plan on doing some long day activities where you will spend lots of time outside we recommend also having a waterproof cover for your backpack.
Alaska is beautiful be sure to have a good quality camera with you.
What to wear for embarkation on an Alaskan cruise?
So now you know what to pack non clothing wise for a Alaskan cruise we will turn our attention to clothes to pack for an Alaska cruise.
I have split the clothes into those that you should pack in your main case and those to put in your carry on bag so you can enjoy your embarkation day.
Day to night transition outfit
Embarkation day is certainly a fun day on any cruise ship. However you are unlikely to get your luggage in your stateroom until after your first dinner.
Therefore we recommend packing a day to night transition outfit that is comfortable for day times out on deck in the sun but also is suitable for the main dining room.
Note: the main dining room usually operates a casual dress code on the first night but I still like to have an outfit that is a bit smarter than jeans and a t shirt.
And as the dining room can get chilly with the air con as well as the cooler temperatures you will experience the further North you go we recommend packing a pashmina. I usually pick something in a neutral color to go with all my cruise capsule wardrobe outfits.
Comfortable walking shoes
And for the first day I also recommend packing a comfortable pair of shoes.
Also if you plan on using the pool on day one you may also want some flip flops and shoes for walking around the deck.
Depending on the cruise line and ship you are traveling on will affect whether or not the pools on your ship are heated. However even if they aren’t you might want to take a dip in one of the pool deck hot tubs.
If you want to do this on day one be sure to have one piece of swimwear in your carry on.
What to wear on an Alaska Cruise
So now you know what to wear on and pack for embarkation day, we will turn our attention to what else to pack for a Alaska Cruise.
Daytime Casual Outfits
Whether you are on the cruise ship or are out in port, you are going to need some casual day time outfits. When we pack for daytimes in Alaska in Summer we usually pack:
Alaska cruises tend to run in May, June, July, August and September which being summer months may make you think that you don’t need to pack a jacket, but you absolutely should pack a jacket. I packed a puffer jacket that was the perfect weight for the activities we did.
If you can find something that has at least some water resistance then that is a good idea but I also had a pack away waterproof cagole with me in case of a downpour.
Next read: want to know the best way to pack winter coats check out this post.
Layers are the most thing on your Alaska packing list as weather can change quickly in Alaska.
I will normally pack a combination of hoodies, sweaters and a fleece. For days where you are outdoors a lot and there is a chance of rain I would select a fleece as it will dry out quickly and can pack away into your day pack easily.
I used my fleece on our Tongass rainforest hike in Ketchikan and aroun the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau or cruising around Glacier Bay.
Hat and Gloves
When I was packing for my Alaska Cruise in September I did wonder whether a hat and gloves would be necessary. However I used these on multiple occassions including my hike near Mendenhall Glacier, our whale watching experience and when we did our scenic cruise of Glacier Bay.
For this reason I recommend always adding a hat and gloves to your packing list no matter the month you cruise in Alaska.
We recommend getting gloves that are touch screen compatible as then you won’t need to remove them to take photographs.
Although I had a jacket and pants with me I also took a waterproof packaway jacket and some waterproof trousers. Rainforests like the Tongass are temperate and liable to.
But if you don’t want to splurge on a packaway rain jacket then you could also pack a poncho. They are readily available on Amazon and are very cheap.
Trousers / Pants
For pants I packed:
- hiking pants – convertible type
- pair of shorts
for daytime activities.
I never go on any cruise without a t shirt as a base layer. I personally stick to plain tees in neutral colors that work best as part of a capsule wardrobe.
Although swimming on shore excursions is not likely, on sea days and when you get back to the ship you will want to use the hot tubs and maybe even the pool. Therefore we recommend at least packing one swimsuit or bikini.
We recommend either packing a baseball cap or wide brimmed hat. And if you have an excursion booked to somewhere with still water you may also want a mosquito net as the bugs can be pretty fierce in Alaska in summer.
For more information on how to pack hats for travel click here.
The sun is strong even in Alaska so sunglasses with UV protection are an essential.
What to wear on a Alaska Cruise at night
Whenever we talk about our cruise packing lists perhaps the thing we get most questions about is cruise dress codes and what to wear on cruises at night.
Now what to wear on a cruise at night will largely depend on which cruise line you are traveling on. That is because some cruises have more formal dress codes such as Cunard and Holland America. Whereas some offer freestyle dining such as Norwegian which means there is no enforced dress codes.
For more information on cruise lines dress codes check out the below posts:
- Carnival Cruise Line Dress Code
- Celebrity Cruises Dress Code
- Disney Cruise Line Dress Code
- Holland America Dress code
- MSC Cruises Dress Code
- Norwegian Dress Code (NCL)
- Princess Cruises Dress Code
- Royal Caribbean Dress Code
Personally I would normally pack 1 more formal wear outfit, no matter the cruise line because I like to dress up at least one night on every cruise. For women this is usually cocktail dresses and for men a combination of chinos and shirt, or even tux if you want to go all out.
On top of this I would pack at least 2 smart casual outfits for evenings otherwise. All items in this category will be interchangeable as a capsule wardrobe and I may partner a top from a dinner with different bottoms for a casual shore excursion look.
For me this usually consists of some smart trousers and some blouses, or a dress or maxi skirt of and top.
Also as the air conditioning on ships is fierce and Alaska nights even in Summer can be chilly. Therefore be sure to have a pashmina or something like a cardigan or jacket with you expecially if you plan to go out on deck.
Now I don’t like to bring too much jewelry with me on cruises as I don’t wear it on shore excursions. However if you want to bring some with you for formal nights be sure to take in your carry on and put in your safe once in your stateroom.
For more tips on how to pack jewelry for travel check out this post.
Best Shoe for an Alaskan Cruise
So now you know what clothes to pack for a Alaskan cruise we will look at the best shoes. Now Alaska cruises are different to Caribbean cruises , Bermuda or European cruises where you will be doing beach excursions and city tours. Instead in Alaska you will be doing rainforest hikes, whale watching and more outdoors activities. For this reason we recommend packing:
These are the most comfortable walking shoe for me no matter where I am heading? I like to use these on sea days, and in ports when I am doing things like walking tours and helicopter rides. If you want to use them for doing something like whale watching we recommend bringing a waterproof pair as you will get your feet wet.
My favorite waterproof sneaker is the Ecco Soft Seven.
And remember to pack sneaker socks so your sneakers don’t smell in your stateroom at the end of a long day.
Of course no Alaska capsule wardrobe is complete without sandals. Sandals are breathable and are good in the heat. We just recommend you picking one with arch support. We also like to wear these at night too so be sure to pick a pair that can double up.
I also took a pair of hiking boots with me to Alaska. One of our excursions was a private hiking tour of the Tongass rainforest. This and for the day we went to the Mendenhall Glacier I wore my hiking boots. I found having the hiking boot sole really useful for both of these excursions.
If you plan on doing some of the more outdoorsy excursions I recommend packing hiking boots too.
Flip Flops (Optional)
Flip flops are not good for walking however I always take them for a Alaska cruise. They take up very little space in your case so don’t really cause overpacking. And they are great for hot tubs and for using on the pool deck.
Other Alaska Cruise Essentials
Note: the above has dealt with a women’s Alaska cruise packing list. However for men’s cruise wear essentials check out this post.
One set for a week.
I will also have underwear enough for the cruise and a few spares.
What to pack for an Alaska cruise (Optional)
You will only need workout wear if you plan to use the gym on board your cruise ship.
A travel umbrella can also be another good idea as Alaska is a rainy place.
Alaska has some amazing wildlife. I spotted whales, bald eagles, bears and moose. Binoculars really helped with our spotting. Normally we take a pair to use between us however there is so much to see in Alaska we recommend getting a pair per person.
FAQs about what to wear on an Alaska Cruise
How many outfits should I pack for a Alaska cruise?
The number of outfits you require will depend on how many days your cruise is.
For this reason we have created packing list for specific number of day cruises:
- 3 day cruise packing list
- 4 day cruise packing list
- 5 day cruise packing list
- 7 day cruise packing list
- 10 day cruise packing list
- 14 day cruise packing list.
to give you some perspective on the amounts you should take.
And it will depend on the dress codes aboard the line you are sailing with as well as whether or not you want to do laundry or pay for the laundry service on your cruise.
Do you have any other questions about what to wear on a Alaskan cruise? Leave us a comment below and we will do our best to answer.
And if you are traveling to other parts of the world on a cruise ship be sure to check out our other cruise destination guides: