How to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise

Cruise ship in Alaskan landscape
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Packing for an Alaskan cruise isn’t as easy as throwing a bathing suit, sandals, and sunscreen into a beach bag. 

Temperatures can range from the 40s to the 80s F during the April through September Alaskan cruise season. Rain is frequent. Forgotten items are harder to pick up, and having the right gear can make all the difference in the world.  

Even seasoned travelers can find it challenging to pack a bag that can keep up with Alaska’s wild temperament and unpredictable weather, especially when they also have to contend with the tight confines of a cruise ship.

The Weather in Alaska

If you’re traveling in April, pack for temperatures in the 30s and 40s Fahrenheit. In May, that warms to the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit, while June temperatures can creep into the 60s Fahrenheit.

July and August are Alaska’s warmest months, but don’t break out your flip flops and tank tops just yet. Average temperatures are usually in the 50s and 60s, though recent years have brought 80-degree temperatures to some parts of the state.

July and August are Alaska’s rainiest months. You’ll want to pack a waterproof jacket, rain boots, and a waterproof bag for your phone or other items you may want to keep dry. You may also want to pack a plastic poncho, especially if you’re carrying they kind of expensive camera a traveler might invest in before a bucket list trip like this one.

Alaska is rainforest territory, and Juneau, a stop on many cruise itineraries, sees an average of more than 60 inches of rainfall each year. Alaska also is windy, and umbrellas often can’t stand up to a robust Alaskan wind.

While it’s not unusual to see snow in the mountains of the Alaskan interior during the summer, don’t bother packing your sturdy snow boots for the cruise. Snow tends to fall between October and March. Snow outside that window tends not to stick. Glacier excursions often include the necessary gear.

What to Pack for Your Cruise

Regardless of when you’re cruising, layers are essential. Start with a solid base layer that’ll keep you warm without adding too much bulk under warmer clothes. You’ll also want a hoodie, short- and long-sleeved tops, a warm jacket, a scarf, hat, and gloves, particularly if you plan to spend a significant chunk of time outside gawking at glaciers.

Casual clothing will cover most of your needs on and offboard, though most cruises have a formal dinner event. Princess Cruises suggests cocktail dresses, formal gowns, and tuxedos for its formal dinners though a suit will suffice.

Some ports may be warm enough to shed a few layers before disembarking from the ship, so plan your wardrobe accordingly.

Bring a swimsuit to take advantage of the ship’s pools and spas and something comfortable to lounge around in on the ship. If you don’t want to let your workout routine slip too much while you’re on board, pack some gym clothes and shoes. Most cruise lines offer exercise classes as well as gyms.

Alaskan temperatures may be colder than the average sunny summer cruise destination, but you’ll still want to pack sunscreen and bug spray. You may encounter mosquitoes on excursions, especially if you’re traveling during the peak of June through August.

For those excursions, you’ll also want a daypack and sturdy hiking shoes with good tread. After all the work it takes it to get up close and personal with a glacier, you’re most definitely going to want to take the opportunity to explore it.

A good pair of sunglasses is especially crucial if you’ll be investing in an expensive bucket-list excursion like a helicopter ride over a glacier. A pair of binoculars will come in handy for wildlife and glacier peeping from the ship.

Here's Why You Should BYOB

If you’re planning to drink onboard and would prefer not to break the bank, check your cruise line’s alcohol policy. If the company you’re cruising with allows guests to bring alcohol on board, taking advantage of that policy is a great way to cut your bar tab.

Several cruise lines—including Princess and Holland America—allow passengers of legal age to bring one bottle of wine or Champagne onboard. Royal Caribbean allows each passenger two bottles.

While liquor and beer are prohibited on most cruise lines, Disney does allow one six-pack of beer per passenger on its cruises. Traveling with Viking Cruises? Bring whatever alcohol you’d like on board in unlimited quantities.

Norwegian Cruise Line allows travelers to carry on as many bottles of wine or champagne as they’d like, but it charges a corkage fee for every single bottle consumed on the ship, even in staterooms.

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