What to pack for a cruise to Alaska

What to pack for a cruise to Alaska

CRUISE TIPS: A cruise to Alaska is an unforgettable experience that takes you to remote locations to see wildlife that will wow you and scenery that’s spectacular. With such a stunning and diverse landscape, you can expect to see glaciers, rivers, vast forests, rugged mountains, plenty of wildlife and quaint towns. The Alaskan environment also has a wide range of temperatures from hot to cold, sunshine to fog – that you may experience all on the same day. Here’s what to pack for an Alaska cruise.


Knowing what to pack for a cruise to Alaska can be challenging due to clothing you’ll need for extremely wide-ranging temperatures and conditions. You might find you’ve never packed so much for a cruise ever before and may require a slightly larger or extra bag. However, by bringing clothing that can easily be layered, you will be better prepared for a cruise to Alaska.

Alaska boat tour

Jackets that are water and windproof will come in handy while exploring Alaska, along with t-shirts, sweaters, head-to-toe rain gear and even gloves and a hat.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth Alaska Dogsledding

Excursions on an Alaskan cruise can include adventures such as hiking, kayaking, dog sledding, canoeing, zip lining, wildlife watching, and helicopter or seaplane rides – all amazing activities with varying outdoor conditions. So your shore excursion descriptions may advise on clothing to help you know what to pack for a cruise to Alaska. The cruise line may have these descriptions available online.

Holland America Cruise Line Alaska Whale

By being prepared with clothing options that you can easily put on or take off, you won’t have to worry so much about the ever-changing environment. Jeans and other long pants are ideal as you never know when you may find yourself sitting on a log or grass in the Alaskan wilderness. There will also be times that you are wandering around towns in the blazing sun, so comfortable and light clothing is just as important so you don’t get too hot.

Royal Caribbean Alaska Bear

You can expect to be spending a lot of time on your feet while on a cruise to Alaska and therefore appropriate footwear is essential. Sturdy, safe, and waterproof shoes are ideal and will help prevent twisted ankles when on hilly,  slippery or uneven terrain. Hiking boots are a great option as they are perfect for a range of typical Alaska outdoor activities. But make sure your boots are well broken in prior to your trip, so you won’t have to deal with blisters or sore feet.

Royal Caribbean Alaska Bald eagle

When choosing outerwear, try to select items that are lightweight. While lightweight outerwear items tend to cost more than bulkier outerwear, they will save space in your suitcase and it will be easier to carry in a backpack while on excursions. A backpack will make carrying around all your layers of clothing much easier – as well as an umbrella and camera gear.

Alaska cruising whale mouth

Also pack a hat and gloves for a cruise to Alaska and consider gloves that have rubber grips on the fingers and palms as this will prevent your camera, binoculars or other items from slipping.


The Quest stern zodiac unloading in Le Conte Bay, Alaska

While you likely won’t need a swimsuit when on cruise shore excursions in Alaska, you may want to take a dip in the ship’s hot tub or relax in the sauna when you get back on board, so be sure to pack one.


You can expect the ship to be warm and cozy, but you’ll likely still need to wear sweaters and jackets outside to enjoy the scenery and wildlife from the ship’s open decks and your cabin if you have a balcony. Most cruise lines have blankets on deck for you to use. Wrap yourself up, order a hot toddy and sunbathe. Sunscreen and sunglasses are just as important on a cruise to Alaska — glaciers can be blinding if you’re going dog-sledding or trekking.

Holland America Cruise Line Alaska Glacier

Many cruise lines prefer a general dress code of “Business Casual” with a little more formality for dining and a little less formality for outdoor deck activities, relaxing by the pool or at outdoor dining venues and bars. Visit your cruise line website and search “Dress code” to get an idea of your cruise line’s expectations at their specific venues.

Cunard Queen Elizabeth Ship Bridge

For example, some cruise lines may require men to wear a jacket and/or a tie in some dining rooms or specialty restaurants on certain nights such as Formal Night. Other lines may be fine with collared shirts and dress pants – just not jeans. Jeans may be permitted for very casual dining venues, bars and on deck activities only and they should always be clean and not tattered or stained.

For women, dresses, skirts and pants, paired with blouses are best for dining, lounges and entertainment hubs – and bring a shawl or light sweater due to the possible extreme air conditioning at these venues.

Footwear for both men and women include dress shoes or loafers for men and for high heels and flats for women. Sneakers are generally not permitted in formal dining rooms but might be allowed at casual restaurants and bars. Sneakers, like jeans, should be clean and in good repair.

Also consider an overall colour clothing theme such as black and white clothes to offer greater ability to mix and match. Black items do well for evening wear and white clothes for casual day wear. When used together they always match.

It’s best to bring at least one complete dressy outfit so that you can get into any of the venues for at least one night. And if you’ve forgotten anything, the ship likely has a shop that can outfit you in something that’s acceptable – such as black dress pants and a white shirt for either men or women – until you can go ashore and shop for what you prefer.


Carry-on luggage

For your carry-on luggage keep your important documents in a safe place that can be easily reached for officials who need to check them frequently. Also pack a spare outfit that could be worn for site-seeing, as well as restaurant dining on the ship in case your luggage gets lost or delayed and takes a day or two to catch up.

Medication and essential toiletries also need to be in your carry-on luggage and if for some sudden reason your carry-on must be gate-checked for your flight, keep medication in one small bag that’s easy to pull out and carry by hand on board.

Reduce clothing wrinkles

While many people like to roll their clothes to reduce wrinkling, it doesn’t always conserve space due to the gaps in between. Instead, try laying each item open and flat such as an unfolded shirt with the sleeves hanging over the sides of your suitcase and the collar at the top.

Layer all your shirts or blouses open and on top of each other in the same way and tuck in all the sleeves altogether along the sides of the case. Also use the circumference of your suitcase for shoes with heels in the corners.

For pants and skirts, alternate where waist bands go. Arrange so that half the waistbands are at one end of your suitcase and the other half are at the other end, or stagger the location of belt areas like a waterfall to balance out the bulk. Consider packing a wrinkle-release spray that relaxes the fabric.

Packing organization

Another packing style many travellers like is using packing cubes to keep similar items together for great organization in your cabin. But cubes might mean fewer items will fit in your suitcase simply due to the construction of the cubes themselves taking up space.


For more information on what to pack for a cruise, here are detailed FREE Cruise Packing Checklists – one for men and one for women – that you can download and print. They include items appropriate during the pandemic to keep you safer.

Cruise packing checklist poster V2

Enjoy your cruise to Alaska!

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Cruise to Alaska on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth


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