What to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska

What to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska

I have recently been made aware of how difficult it is to pack for an Alaskan cruise. I had spent the better part of a week trying to narrow down my outfit selection for our 9 day cruise, into a 50 pound suitcase. Ben and I packed 11 days worth of clothes, toiletries, shoes, camera gear and all necessities into two checked bags. This list is designed to help you pick out what is necessary and what is not if you’re also in a similar situation.

Trip Details

The trip details heavily influence what you should be willing to bring with you, and what you’ll be willing to leave at home. In our case, we flew to Seattle a day early, and flew home the same day we disembarked our cruise. We based our outfit choices carefully around our travel days, port days, and at sea days. We are thankful that the weather in Alaska closely mimicked Maine’s (our home state) weather patterns. 


The time of year is an important detail you should note. Summer in Alaska may be hot, or it may be chilly. Bringing only shorts when you’re visiting in the summer could end up being a cold mistake. The weather when we visited in June was rainy, a little bit chilly, and sometimes sunny. I was quite happy with my choices of sweatshirts and leggings for the most part. Later in the summer when the heat picks up could be a different story.


While trying to pack minimally and keep up with airline weight limits, you should try and pack as much as you can. In the shoulder seasons you will need a full spread of seasonal clothes. I highly suggest bringing pants and shorts you’d be willing to re-wear, and enough tops to last your trip. Laundry on cruise ships is either non-existent or very expensive. 

Outerwear is a very important piece of your wardrobe. We brought raincoats, winter hats, gloves, puffy jackets, hiking shoes, and rain shoes…and we used them all. It is very windy on the top deck of the ships, and if you plan on spending any time walking around or glacier viewing you’ll want to be warm. 


Formal wear is a category we chose to be lax in. We are the outdoor adventure type and leaned into that category more. We brought one set of nice clothes, each. The cruise line that we chose didn’t have any formal nights or specific clothing requirements for the dining rooms.



Narrowing down what shoes to bring was a difficult process for me when I was packing for our trip. We are very active and outdoorsy which complicated the process even further. Our final picks that we brought with us were crocs (don’t come for us), sneakers, hiking shoes, nice shoes, and rain booties for me. I had originally thought about bringing my full size Hunter rain boots and ended up going with UGG rain booties instead. In hindsight I would recommend XtraTuf, Grundens, or Huk rainbooties based on durability. Ben didn’t bring rain boots and was fine with his hiking boots even though they did get wet. 


If you aren’t intending to be doing any hiking or any activities in the rain you could skip the hiking shoes, and I would still recommend waterproof shoes of some sort.

Toiletries and Supplies

If you are familiar with cruising you pack almost everything under the sun in your toiletries kit. Buying simple necessities onboard is quite expensive. I have a crap immune system and choose to travel with a “sick kit” so I don’t have to search out cold meds. When traveling to Alaska specifically I HIGHLY recommend a mini bug spray for your toiletries bag. Another forgettable item is sunscreen and aloe.


These may seem like some odd-ball items to add to your suitcase but for me, they were all necessities. 

  • Deck of cards
  • Travel Blanket and Travel Pillows
  • Sealed snacks (check with your airline+cruise line)
  • Waterproof bag
  • Secondary Backpack or “Ship Bag”
  • Waterproof or floating box
  • Binoculars
  • Reusable Water Bottle
  • NON-GFCI Outlet adapter 

We play cards often when we go out to eat or get drinks, and spent a lot of time doing just that on our cruise. The travel blanket I use is actually a hiking blanket I bought on amazon, and I used it a lot sitting on the balcony of our room. The waterproof bag comes in handy if you bring a backpack into town with you on port days. I had a waterproof bag that fit inside my backpack and held all of my camera gear and day clothes. We needed it when it started raining, and I used it on our kayaking tour. Which also leads me to the secondary ship bag. We brought a spare backpack to carry around the ship with us and to take on shore for port days. Bringing a reusable water bottle will save yourself from unnecessary trips to the buffet to get a cup of water. You can also use them on port days so you don’t have to buy bottled water. You may ask yourself if bringing a monocle or a pair of binoculars is worth it, and it certainly is. 

We did not bring a power strip this trip and we regretted it. You have to check with your cruise line to see what their requirements are but most of the time NON-GFCI ones are allowed.

camera equipment

Photography and videography are a fun hobby for me, and bringing along just the right amount of equipment was a struggle. I brought my camera, a 50MM, 18-55MM, and 75-300MM lens. I don’t own a larger lens, though I wish I did. These lenses were more than enough for sightseeing, close distance whale watching, nature shots, kayaking, and glacier viewing. Sadly, there were a few missed opportunities when cruising the narrower channels where I couldn’t catch wildlife on shore. Someone was kind enough to let me borrow their 800MM lens to grab a photo of a grizzly bear, which was super cool. At that moment I wished I had my own set up because I wasn’t prepared for the shot. 

I brought a monopod that I carried around regularly, and a tripod for when I thought I could set up. The monopod helped to stabilize but sometimes that wasn’t enough to ward off a case of the shakes. 


I also brought a GoPro, spare battery set, and plenty of memory cards. I have made the mistake of forgetting extra memory cards and paid the price.

Overall, how you pack is going to be determined by what kind of activities you want to pursue, and what time of year you are going. Being prepared for all types of weather is a must. I hope this post helps you pack for your Alaskan cruise!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *