Alaska is one of my favorite states! To both visit and send clients to. Most people only visit a small portion of the state when they do an Alaska cruise. While I believe there is so much more to the state, this is a great way to get an introduction to the beauty and wonders this state has to offer. However, even if you’ve been on a cruise before, packing for an Alaska cruise is very different than, for example, a Caribbean cruise. So, if you’re one of those who are making the trip to the Last Frontier on a summer cruise, here are some packing tips and items you’re going to want to make sure you pack!
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Now, yes, it’s summer. So, your first thought may be to bring shorts and T-shirts. And sure, you could bring a pair of shorts. I’ve actually seen guys here in Iowa out snow-blowing in shorts, so I guess it just depends on your tolerance. If you’d like, perhaps bring a pair of shorts or capri pants, but understand you may not wear them.
Layers are your friends on this trip!
When packing for your Alaska cruise, think of protective, warm, and comfy layers. A rainproof, warm jacket will be very beneficial on this trip, especially if you are planning on going on any excursions up to the glaciers. A lightweight poncho is also a good choice for when you’re walking around the ports.
You’ll want a few sweatshirts or sweaters. You don’t need many of these, but at least two in case one gets wet. I also like taking one of my puffy vests for layering over my long-sleeved shirts. Speaking of which, you’ll want some long-sleeved and short-sleeve shirts. If possible, thermal or moisture-wicking ones would be a great option.
Personally, I wear jeans all the time. However, for a trip like this, I would also recommend something like quick dry or waterproof hiking pants. Also, some warm leggings or thermals would be great, and you could layer them under your jeans or pants.
For your feet, you’ll want some waterproof hiking shoes and/or sneakers. How much hiking you’re going to do depends on your personal preferences and what excursions you select for your Alaska cruise. You’ll also want some comfy shoes for around the ship. For under those shoes, I would also recommend you bring a couple of pairs of wool socks to help keep your toes all nice and warm.
Check out a place in Alaska you should come back to and visit in the winter!
Formal Nights on the Ship
At dinner, you may think you need to dress up after your day out exploring, and you certainly can. Yes, there will most likely be 2 formal nights on your itinerary. No, that does not mean you need to bring a ball gown and tuxedo. Think more like business casual or something. I typically recommend to my clients a pair of slacks and a nice shirt or a simple dress (I always bring one of these full-length dresses with me on cruises) for the nicer restaurants on formal nights. If you do bring a dress, just remember it may be cooler, so bring a sweater you can put over your shoulders. However, if you stick with the more casual dining options then you have no need to dress up at all.
Yes, I do also recommend you pack some hats and gloves. Touch-screen gloves would be a good idea if you’re relying on your phone for photos. And a warm beanie/winter hat. I know some people prefer, or like, to bring earmuffs. Personally, I’m more of a fan of hats. I’d also recommend a compact umbrella.
A waterproof backpack will be helpful when you head out on those excursions to keep your items like your camera gear dry. A crossbody bag/fanny pack is a good option too for things like your ID, room key, phone, etc. if you don’t need a full backpack. Speaking of things, you’ll want to take with you, you’ll want to make sure you have a portable phone charger with you when you leave the boat. You’ll also want to keep a pair of binoculars with you. I would keep it with me on the ship, and whenever I leave the ship. You just never know what you’ll see, and where you see it.
A few other packing tips for your Alaska cruise:
Even though we’re heading to Alaska, I would also recommend a bathing suit if you think a dip in the hot tub might be nice (and it would be). You also will want to bring some sunblock with you, along with some bug repellent for when you go off on those excursions. Neither of them may be completely necessary, but they could be beneficial, so I’d bring a little of both, or a little bottle of sunblock for my face and a bug-repellent bracelet.
You’re also going to want to bring an eye/sleeping mask with you. Towards the end of June, you’ll have the longest days of the year, which means sunlight when you might be trying to sleep. Yes, there are curtains, but why risk it? You’re going to want to get all your rest at night so you can take on the next day!
While you’re sailing around the inside passage area the seas shouldn’t be too rough, but that’s not a guarantee. And if you’re heading up to Seward or Whittier, you’ll be in more open water. That’s why I would also recommend some motion sickness meds. Really, whether you know you get motion sickness or not, I really always recommend people at least bring some meclizine with them. This medication works very well and does not make you drowsy.
So, how about a few of my typical cruise staples?
Cruise card holder/lanyard/waterproof phone pouch. I will typically use mine around the ship to keep my phone and room key.
Travel coffee mug and water bottle. I have a little insulated mug that I love taking with me to put some hot cocoa in while I’m walking around the ship, and a water bottle for, obviously, water.
Battery-operated nightlights, or a little flashlight, are helpful to put in the bathroom. That way when you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night you don’t have to turn the lights on.
Magnet hooks and clips are awesome! Most walls on a cruise ship will be metal, so you can put these all over the room. Use them to hang up your purse, key lanyard, jacket, etc.
Over the door shoe holder. This is helpful with keeping things off the little bathroom counter that you have.
Zip ties to secure your luggage when you leave it outside your cabin the night before disembarking.
Highlighters are great to bring so you can highlight items in your daily printout to clearly see what you are interested in going to each day.
When you’re packing for this trip, make sure you DON’T bring a blow dryer or iron. They aren’t allowed on the ship and will be confiscated. They’ll have blow dryers in the cabins. I always travel with a little bottle of wrinkle release/odor eliminator spray that comes in really handy. We’ll also take a little bottle of laundry soap. Some ships may have self-serve laundry machines, and on some you can send your laundry away (for an extra charge). Or you can use the soap and wash what you need in the bathroom sink.
Alaska By the Numbers
The two most common questions I get asked are related to the temperature and sunlight during their cruise. So let’s take a look at some of those things:
May – The average high temperature is 56° and the low is around 42°. During May we’re working our way up to the Summer Solstice, so days are getting longer. Around the middle of the month, we’re looking at a sunrise around 4:30 am and a sunset around 9:30 pm. Also around mid-month, there really isn’t any more astronomical twilight.
June – The average high temperature is 62° and the low is around 48°. This month will have the longest day in it. Sunrises will take place around 4:00 am and sunsets around 10:00 pm. And for this month there is no astronomical twilight.
July – The average high temperature is 63° and the low is around 51°. By the end of July, the sun is rising around 4:45 am and setting around 9:20 pm. Also towards the end of the month astronomical twilight will begin sticking around for the rest of the night.
August – The average high temperature will be 63° and the low around 50°. By the end of August, the sun is rising around 6:00 am and setting around 8:00 pm, and there actually is full darkness.
September – The average high temperature is 57° and the low is around 45°. By the end of September, we’re looking at a sunrise around 7:00 am and a sunset around 6:30 pm.
Couple Tips for Planning Your Alaska Cruise
Book early! I tell this to people all the time. This is a bucket list trip for many people, so it’s always filling up.
Do the cruisetour option! When you do an Alaska cruise, you get to see the lower towns, but if you do a cruisetour, this can take you up into the mainland area of Alaska.
Yes, you need your passport for this cruise. You will be heading into Canada for one stop as well, which means passports are required.
Along that note, do you have any criminal background, even a DUI? How recent was it? Unfortunately, yes, this is something you’re going to have to think of when doing an Alaska cruise because of the laws that Canada has in place.
Get the balcony! Trust me, this is a trip to splurge on and get the balcony!
Book your excursions as early as you can if there’s something you really want to do. Things can fill up, so if you have your heart set on doing something, make sure to book it early!
Try to book in the shoulder seasons. Alaska cruises run during the summer, but the earlier or later in the season you can go, the better chance you have of fewer people in ports and lower prices.
My final tip…. use a travel agent! We spend a lot of time looking at trips like this and can not only help you find the best cruise for you but offer you even more insight to help make it a trip you will never forget!
So these are my packing tips for preparing for your Alaska cruise. Have you been on one before? What item would you add?
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