An Alaska cruise is a trip of a lifetime and I recommend that everyone do it at least once in their life. My cruise aboard the Celebrity Millennium is still one of my favorite experiences to date – a trip full of breathtaking scenery, magical wildlife encounters, and unique cultural experience.
It can also be overwhelming to plan (but don’t worry, I have plenty of tips to help!). One of the things I found especially challenging was figuring out what to include on my packing list for a cruise to Alaska.
As packing for an Alaska cruise requires you to be prepared for a variety of weather conditions and activities, it can be difficult to figure out what to pack for a cruise to Alaska. The temperatures in each of the port cities vary greatly, and you can even experience all four seasons within one single day (sort of like what I experienced in Olympic National Park). And, you also have to be prepared to spend time in your departure city (whether it’s Seattle or Vancouver).
You want to be prepared for all the situations that you encounter on your trip – yet you don’t want to overpack.
So you’re probably wondering what to include on your Alaska cruise packing list – don’t worry, I got ya!
Figuring out what to pack for an Alaskan cruise is a bit of an art form (and I played a bit of Tetris to try to make everything fit). It took me a bit of trial and error to figure out how to pack for an Alaska cruise, and even still there were tons of things I wish I brought, and stuff that I really didn’t need to bring at all.
Keep on reading to figure out exactly what you need to pack for your Alaska cruise – including what to wear on an Alaska cruise, useful items you may not have thought of, tips and tricks, what *not* to bring, and much more!
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Tips for Your Packing List for a Cruise to Alaska
Pack according to when you’re cruising
Alaska cruises usually run May-September. Even during this window, the weather and conditions can vary greatly.
Cruising during shoulder season (May-June and September) may bring about chillier temperatures. If your cruise is during this time, I suggest packing extra warm layers accordingly.
July and August bring about the warmest temperatures, although it’s probably not going to feel like the summer days you’re picturing. My Alaska cruise was in late July, and we had a little bit of rain in Ketchikan, and highs were still in the low 50s in Skagway. However, do note that highs can get up to the 80s in Juneau during this time, so bring some warmer weather clothes as well!
Pack lots of layers!
Layers are going to be your best friend when figuring out what to pack on a cruise to Alaska.
The weather varied a bit based on what port we were visiting. It was rainy in Ketchikan, warmish in Juneau, and chilly in Skagway. It was cozy on the ship, but chilly and windy while out on deck.
Even in a single day, we experienced different weather conditions.
You’ll want to pack layers to handle all the varying conditions, so that you can take them on and off as you need.
Be prepared for rain
Southeast Alaska gets 130-230 days of rain every year. In fact, it rains so much in Ketchikan that they measure precipitation by feet (13) instead of inches (141).
So, it’s highly likely that it’s going to rain at some point during your Alaska cruise – pack some waterproof layers to prepare for it and stay dry! I’m not talking about a poncho or an umbrella – bring actual waterproof clothing that can withstand the rain.
The weather can be unpredictable
Even over the course of one day, the weather can vary as the day goes on. You might even experience all four seasons in one day.
Some days may see a 25 degree variance in temperature throughout the day!
It can be rainy in the morning, clear up in the afternoon, and then be freezing cold at night. This is why it’s so important to be prepared and pack a lot of layers!
Also keep in mind that the different port cities had vastly different weather. Ketchikan is known as one of the rainiest cities in North America, Juneau can get up to the 80s in the summer, and Skagway is surrounded by mountains and chilly. This is why you dress in layers and prepare for a variety of situations when figuring out how to pack for an Alaska cruise.
Keep your excursions in mind
You’ll need to wear different things based on what excursions you pick – for example, what you wear on a chill activity such as a sightseeing cruise or train ride is gonna be a lot different than if you picked something adventurous, like kayaking, hiking on a glacier, or going dog sledding.
Alaska cruises are casual
While you might associate cruises with dressing up, Alaska cruises are different than what you may be used to.
Alaska cruises tend to be super casual (which reflects the outdoorsy nature of the area). Sure, dinner attire tends to be dressier, but it’s usually “smart casual” or “evening chic” rather than a full-on formal dress code.
While we did see plenty of people super dressed up even on smart casual night, if you don’t want to bring super dressy clothes when deciding what to pack on an Alaskan cruise, then you can leave them at home!
How much stuff do you really need?
I’m usually on team carry-on only, but I’m not going to lie – I really struggled to fit everything into a single carry-on suitcase. A packing list for a cruise to Alaska is unique because you’re packing to be prepared for so many situations and a variety of conditions.
I spent hours playing Tetris to try to make everything fit, but ultimately failed. Maybe you’re a much more efficient packer than me, but I’d suggest bringing one large suitcase, along with a backpack as a carry-on that can also double as a daypack on your excursions.
The cabins have plenty of storage to put away all your stuff, but they are still pretty compact so I wouldn’t suggest bringing more than that.
Pack a change of clothes + essentials in your carryon
It might take a while for your luggage to arrive to your stateroom after boarding, so pack anything you need immediately in your carry-on so you’ll have them with you.
Looking for more Alaska cruise tips? Here’s everything you need to know about going on an Alaska cruise!
What to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska
What to wear on an Alaska cruise
Layers, layers, layers! I briefly talked about this earlier, but I can’t stress this enough. The weather is a bit unpredictable in Alaska, so be prepared. At the same time, don’t overdo it. Like…there’s a 99% chance that you’re not going to need a parka or snow jacket.
But, you need to prepare for rain!
I suggest investing in some good quality outdoor gear as you figure out what to pack on a cruise to Alaska. If you’re on a budget, check out Columbia for good quality gear at an affordable price. Check if there’s an outlet near you – that’s where I ended up stocking up on a lot of my gear! Otherwise, checking out the sale section or outlet section at REI is a good option as well (this is how I got a great deal on my Patagonia NanoPuff jacket!).
Pack versatile items that you can wear/style in multiple ways. Be sure to pack some basic layers as well! I like shopping for basics at Uniqlo, as they are stylish but also functional, and affordable.
Outerwear for an Alaskan cruise
- A waterproof jacket or raincoat: It will likely rain at some point during your cruise, so a waterproof jacket is a must when figuring out what to pack for a cruise to Alaska! You can bring a light shell jacket, but I recommend a rain trench as it is a bit more heavy duty but still lightweight (and looks cute in photos too!).
- Packable down jacket: This adds extra warmth for those chilly days, and are also perfect when you are watching glaciers out on deck. I recommend something that is both lightweight and packable so they don’t take up too much space in your luggage. I swear by my Patagonia NanoPuff puffer (men / women) , but the Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Parka (men / women) is also a perfect budget-friendly option.
- Insulated vest: I didn’t bring one, but it’s a good layering piece for added warmth if you are cruising during the shoulder season. Like with the puffy jacket, pack something relatively lightweight and packable.
Tops to wear on an Alaska cruise
- Base layers or thermals: Base layers are a must on your Alaska cruise packing list! You want something that adds warmth without bulk, but also moisture-wicking. I’ve worn the Uniqlo Heattech shirts for years (men / women) and swear by them – they’ve come along with me everywhere from Alaska, volcano hiking in Guatemala, and even a freezing cold winter trip to Quebec City!
- Fleece: This is the perfect warm layer to add to your packing list for a cruise to Alaska. It can work as a jacket, or as another layer under your jacket for chilly days. I have one from Columbia (men / women) and it is my favorite!
- Sweaters: One mistake I made – I packed way too many sweaters! I brought something like 5 sweaters, but 1-2 is plenty. Also remember that sweaters take up room – bring lighter sweaters as opposed to your thick, chunky ones! Here is one of my favorites (the rainbow striped one) that I packed and got a lot of compliments on!
- T-shirts: Bring a mix of short sleeve and long sleeve T-shirts. They are definitely one of the most versatile items, so bring a few (I’d say 3-4)! You can wear them while exploring the port cities and on excursions, hanging out on the ship, even as pajamas or while working out at the gym.
- Flannel button-up: When considering what to wear on an Alaska cruise, add a flannel to your list. This is the perfect layering piece, and it’s super comfy and versatile. You can use it as a light outerwear piece on warmer days, or layer underneath a warmer layer on colder days. Plus – it looks excellent in photos in Alaska!
Bottoms to pack for your Alaska cruise
- Leggings: I just wore normal leggings on my Alaska cruise in July. I have multiple pairs of these leggings because I love that they have pockets and they come in tons of colors. In cooler months you might want to pack some fleece-lined leggings. Also consider packing a pair of leggings that are both fleece-lined and water resistant.
- Waterproof pants: I personally didn’t bring any as we got really nice weather, but they are probably a good idea if it’s forecasted to be super rainy during your time in Alaska.
- Long Johns: Add extra warmth under your pants on extra chilly days/nights.
- Jeans: I mostly brought a pair of jeans for wearing while hanging around the ship, but I ended up wearing mine out while in port too. If you bring a nicer pair of dark jeans, they can also be worn for one of your nighttime outfits.
- Shorts: If your Alaska cruise is during the warmest months (July-August), bring along a pair of shorts just in case – especially if you consider anything over 65 to be hot (like me, ha!). The temperatures in Juneau sometimes get up to the 80s!
Accessories for your Alaskan cruise
- Waterproof shoes: What kind of shoes you add to your Alaska cruise packing list. will depend on your excursions. I brought my winter boots, which you may think is a bit overkill, but they were super comfy and my feet stayed dry. If you’re doing an adventurous excursion or planning to hike during your time in Alaska, I’d bring a pair of waterproof hiking boots. If you’re just going to be exploring the towns and partaking in laid-back excursions, a pair of waterproof sneakers will do as well.
- Sneakers: For hanging out on the ship and/or exploring the port cities. I swear by my Allbirds sneakers – they’re my favorite travel shoe as they are super comfortable and almost like walking on clouds!
- Socks: Bringing a mix of wool socks and athletic socks will be ideal when figuring out what to pack for a cruise to Alaska.
- Scarf: You’ll be glad you have a scarf on those chilly days, when you need some extra warmth. They are also a fun way to showcase your personal style with your Alaska cruise outfits! I love this blanket scarf because it’s warm + cute + versatile (you can also use it as a wrap)!
- Beanie: They don’t take up a ton of space and they’re good to have to keep your head warm on those cold days.
- Gloves: My hands got freezing cold while hanging out on deck, so I was glad I had a pair of gloves on me. Get a pair of touch-screen gloves so you can continue to use your devices with gloves on.
- Polarized sunglasses: May seem counterintuitive because Alaska is generally associated with cold, but the sun is extra bright up there. Protect your eyes and avoid squinting with a pair of polarized sunglasses. I loved the ones from Goodr (and own several pairs) because they are super fun + affordable!
- Day pack: For carrying all your essentials when on your excursions. I like this Osprey daypack because it has an integrated rain cover and is lightweight, with plenty of pockets.
- Fanny pack: For keeping all of your essentials (phone, room key, credit card, etc.) easily accessible. I love my Herschel Fifteen pack!
When considering what to wear on an Alaska cruise, you’ll also want to bring along a few nicer evening outfits.
This doesn’t mean that you have to break your fanciest black tie attire – keep in mind that most Alaska cruises tend to be on the casual side. Most cruises don’t even have a formal night.
On our cruise with Celebrity Cruises, there were two types of evening attire. Most nights were “smart casual,” but there were two “evening chic” nights, where you’d dress up a bit more – cocktail attire, nicer pants/skirts, button-down shirts, and designer jeans. Most cruise lines follow a similar dress code.
Personally, I find it fun to dress up so it was fun to dress up a bit on the evening chic nights (although I didn’t go super formal). I saw that some people were still super dressed up, even on smart casual nights, so I say you do you and dress up as much or as little as you want!
Here are some suggested items to bring to wear in the evenings:
- Casual dresses: I usually prefer wearing dresses over pants, so I brought several dresses to wear while hanging out on the ship during the day, as well as in the evenings.
- Cocktail dresses: If you are concerned about space, I love these convertible dresses that allow you to style the top in a myriad of ways for tons of options for different looks!
- Nice jeans/pants/skirt + blouses: I’m a dress gal so I packed dresses, but you can also bring one pair of pants/skirt and bring a few different nicer tops.
- Dressy shoes: I personally HATE packing heels, as they fit awkwardly and take up a bunch of space. I’d pack flats instead – I love my Allbirds Tree Breezers as they are super comfy, stylish, and come in a variety of colors!
Other things to wear on an Alaska cruise
Here are a few more things to consider when figuring out what to wear on an Alaska cruise:
- Swimsuit: Look, it’s not going to be pool weather during your Alaska cruise – but it sure is nice to relax in the hot tub on sea days! Our ship also had an indoor pool area.
- Coverup: I suggest an oversized button-down as it can also double as an extra layering piece.
- Flip-flops: For wearing to and from the pool, or when you don’t want to throw on actual shoes.
- Underwear: Be sure to pack enough underwear to last the duration of your cruise – and maybe some extra in case you get super wet (which you shouldn’t with the proper gear!). I suggest seamless underwear and sports bras made from natural fibers (i.e. cotton and bamboo).
- Pajamas: I just packed regular PJ pants + a T-shirt and was fine, but you could bring warmer pajamas if you tend to get cold.
- Workout clothes: If you plan to use the gym.
- Light cardigan or pashmina: To throw on when you get chilly while hanging out on the ship
Toiletries + health items for your Alaska cruise packing list
- Hanging toiletries bag: Stateroom bathrooms tend to be compact, and counter space is limited, so take along something you can hang. Look for something with plenty of compartments and pockets so you can fit all your essentials and keep everything organized.
- Travel-size toiletry containers: Include travel-sized containers for your packing list for an Alaska Cruise to carry your favorite skin care, makeup, and/or hair styling products so you don’t have to lug around the full-sized versions.
- Prescription Medications: Be sure to bring any prescribed medications with you – and keep an extra supply on hand.
- OTC Meds: Bring along some pain meds (i.e. Advil or Tylenol), cold meds, and upset stomach meds (i.e. Pepto Bismol), just in case – either travel sized or in a pill case.
- Motion sickness meds or bands: If you’re prone to seasickness, then ask your doctor about motion sickness medication or bands. Otherwise, I’ve heard Dramamine helps.
- Sunscreen: The sun is more intense in Alaska thanks to its higher latitude, so protect your skin.
- Lip balm: Wind can dry your lips out – and be sure to get one with SPF for the sun.
- Bug spray: The mosquitos are said to be HUGE in Alaska – they joke that it’s the national bird! Luckily, we didn’t encounter them, but I recommend bringing some just in case (especially if you’re doing an excursion that goes through the woods or wilderness).
- Hand sanitizer: It’s important now more than ever to practice good hand hygiene! Keep hand sanitizer on hand for when you can’t wash your hands easily.
- Sanitizing wipes: For wiping down high touch points.
- Makeup + Makeup remover (I like using wipes): Alaska isn’t super fancy, so I’d recommend paring down your products to just the essentials you always grab for and using travel-size containers!
- Hair brush/comb, styling appliances: You won’t need a hair dryer, as most cruise ships come equipped with one. If you’re bringing styling appliances, consider getting an all-in-one styler for versatility.
- Hair ties: I always keep a ton around
- Toothpaste + toothbrush: Here’s a good battery-operated toothbrush that is awesome for travel.
- Electrolytes: Good to have to stay hydrated throughout the cruise. Also helpful if *ahem* you plan to really take advantage of that drink package. I swear by Liquid IV!
- First aid kit: Just in case – you can get a compact one that includes all the essentials.
- Melatonin (or other light sleep aid): It stays light out late in Alaska – if this bothers you, pack something to help you sleep.
Electronics for your Alaska cruise packing list
- Camera: Sure, you can just use your phone to take photos. But…an Alaska cruise is a once in a lifetime experience, so you’re probably going to want some epic photos to remember your trip! When deciding what to pack on an Alaskan cruise – YES, bring the nice camera! My favorite camera is the Sony a6000, which is easy-to-use, suitable for all levels, lightweight, and takes amazing photos!
- Zoom lens: This is one thing I regretted not bringing, as we saw so much wildlife throughout our cruise. A 70-300mm lens will allow you to zoom in super close, but if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of switching lenses all the time, a versatile 18-105mm lens will also do.
- Extra memory cards + camera batteries: Don’t miss out on capturing moments because you ran out of space/battery – keep extras on hand! I also suggest using high-quality memory cards that have a fast write speed.
- Camera charger: And on that note – don’t forget your camera charger!
- GoPro: Good to have for those adventurous or wet excursions.
- Selfie stick tripod: For those group shots and/or GoPro! Get something with Bluetooth connectivity for easy self-portraits.
- Power bank: Keep your phone and devices charged, especially when you’re out on excursions.
- Power strip: Plugs tend to be limited in staterooms, so bring a power strip to have enough to charge all your devices/use appliances. I like this one because it’s a wall mount and also has USB ports.
- Kindle: I spent a lot of time reading on sea days. I brought along some paperbacks that I purchased in Seattle, but they were bulky so I wish I brought my Kindle instead!
- Electronics organizer: This will help keep your chargers, cables, memory cards, etc. neat and organized.
Don’t forget these when figuring out what to pack on an Alaska cruise
These may seem like no-brainers, but absolutely do note forget these items when figuring out what to pack for an Alaska cruise – you (literally) won’t be able to sail without them!
- Passport: Even though an Alaska cruise seems like a domestic trip, you will need a valid passport as you will be sailing through Canadian waters (and most cruises also include a stop in Victoria). Also make sure your passport is within the validity window. You won’t be able to board without one so don’t forget! You’ll also need to show it when going through customs after you debark.
- Health documents: Health requirements are continually changing, so be sure to keep up on the latest guidelines before you sail and don’t forget to bring any required documents.
- Boarding documents: Either a paper document or electronic document. Ours were connected to the cruise app (which I highly recommend downloading before your trip!)
- Luggage tags: Provided by the cruise line so your luggage gets sent up to your stateroom after boarding.
- Credit card: You won’t be using cash for purchases on board, so bring a credit card. Usually, you will connect this to your cruise app and/or room key in order to make purchases.
- Cash: I know, I know, I said you won’t use cash on board. But bring some cash (preferably in denominations of $20 or less) for tips. I know many cruises already have gratuity included in their pricing, but it doesn’t hurt to give a bit extra for exceptional service. Plus, you should also tip your excursion guides.
- Travel insurance: Always a good idea!
- Excursion confirmation: These were connected to our cruise app, but it doesn’t hurt to have a printout or a confirmation number saved offline just in case.
- Travel document holder: Keep all of the above organized and easily accessible.
More handy items to include on your packing list for a cruise to Alaska
Here are more handy items to include when figuring out what to pack for a cruise to Alaska. Some of them might not be super obvious to include at first, but you’ll be super glad you have them!
- Binoculars: You’ll see tons of wildlife throughout your Alaska cruise, whether you’re on a wildlife or whale watching excursion, or just hanging out on deck. This is something I really wish I brought! Luckily, a few people in our group stayed in a room type that included in-room binoculars and were kind enough to share.
- Packing cubes: Keep all your stuff organized, not just in your luggage, but in your stateroom as well.
- Magnetic hooks: Stateroom doors are usually metal, so get some magnetic hooks so you can hang jackets, hats, etc for easy access.
- Ziploc bags in varying sizes: These come in super hang, whether you’re trying to protect your electronics from rain, using them for organization, or storing wet items.
- Trash bags/plastic bags: For storing dirty laundry, or wet/muddy shoes. I just recycle plastic shopping bags that I have lying around.
- Reusable water bottle: I *hated* the bottled water on board so I was glad I had a reusable bottle on me to fill up at the buffet. You can’t actually fill up these bottles directly from the fountain, but you can pour from a glass.
- Insulated coffee mug: For taking your coffee on the go, and keeping it warm when it’s chilly.
- Lanyard: So you never forget your room key.
- Eye mask: Alaska is known as the land of midnight sun, and although you probably won’t see the sun out until midnight in Southeast Alaska, it does stay out pretty late (until 10pm in the summer). If this bothers you, bring an eye mask to help you sleep.
- Dry bag: Highly recommended to keep your stuff dry if you’re going on a water excursion (like kayaking or canoeing). Get one that rolls up into a compact size.
- Night light: Can be helpful, especially in interior rooms, when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Bottle of wine + corkscrew: Each person has an allowance of one bottle of wine they can bring on board. This will help save you money on alcohol on board, if you don’t have a drink package.
- Wrinkle release spray: Clothing irons and steamers are not allowed on board because they are a fire hazard. This is your best option for getting wrinkles out of your clothes.
A few things *NOT* to pack on your Alaska cruise…
Now that we’ve covered all the things that you need to include on your Alaska cruise packing list, here are a few things that you *don’t* need to pack. They are unnecessary, so save precious space and leave the following at home:
- Blankets: There are plenty on the ship – on our cruise, there were even plenty around the ship to use when you’re hanging out on deck. Leave yours at home – blankets are bulky and there’s plenty of other stuff to bring!
- Towels: Like with blankets, there are plenty of towels all around the ship, so you don’t need to bring your own.
- High heels: Alaska cruises tend to be super casual, so heels aren’t necessary (they take up so much space and fit so awkwardly!). I’d pack a pair of nice flats or sandals instead.
- Umbrella: Yes, I know – I spent most of this article on how to pack for an Alaska cruise telling you that it rains a lot. But no, don’t pack an umbrella – it’s much better to waterproof gear so you don’t have to deal with carrying an umbrella and leave your hands free.
- Hair dryer: Most likely, there will already be one in your stateroom.
- Shampoo, conditioner, body wash: These toiletries are usually provided by the cruise line, so unless you are really tied to your favorite products, you can leave these at home.
- Clothing iron or steamer: These are considered to be fire hazards and not allowed on board. Bring wrinkle release spray instead.
Have you ever been on an Alaskan cruise? What would you include on your packing list for an Alaska cruise?
You might also like:
Essential Tips for Your Alaska Cruise: Everything You Need to Know
A Complete Review of the Celebrity Millennium
The Ultimate Guide to Ketchikan, Alaska
One Perfect Day in Seattle
The Perfect 2 Days in Vancouver Itinerary
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Caroline is a Southern California based traveler, writer, and photographer. She travels all around California, the US, and the world in search of the most colorful places, the most delicious food, and bucket-list adventures. Her aim is to inspire other travelers discover how to add more adventure and joy to their lives. On Pictures & Words, you’ll find detailed guides + itineraries, along with vibrant photos to help you plan the the most epic trips. When she’s not traveling, Caroline also runs half marathons.