Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage is absolutely dazzling. Between the glaciers, the wildlife, the cute seaside towns, and the food you’ll undoubtedly have an awesome time! Cruises to Alaska are from May to September and often have excellent deals included. If you haven’t already booked your cruise, talk to me here — I’m a travel agent and I also work seasonally on Princess cruise ships!
So you’ve got your cruise booked, your tours planned, your flight worked out, and maybe even a night in a hotel or Airbnb reserved. Now here comes the next fun part (ha!) — packing. As a seasonal youth staff on ships, I’ve spent a total of 4 summers cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage (and from 3 different cities). Each time I went I packed my bags, got onboard, and realized that I had forgotten a key item. And while you can purchase most items in port or on the ship itself, you’ll be looking at a much higher price if you do.
This post doesn’t cover everything you should pack, but it does cover things you might not have thought about along with special extras that will make your trip even more fun! Make sure you’re prepared for all situations and events by packing these items on your cruise to Alaska!
1. Proper Outdoor Clothing
Other than a waterproof (not water “resistant” — there’s a difference!) rain jacket, you’re going to want fleece or flannel, wool, and quick dry synthetics. Pack a few t-shirts for under those layers or for smart casual nights, and a tank top as a backup in town if it gets hot. And yes, it can get hot in Alaska. I always bring a tank top with me while hiking on sunny days. Dressing in layers is a lifesaver, because the weather here can change in an instant!
Pack one or two pairs of wool socks for outdoor adventures and don’t forget a couple hats to keep your ears and your head warm, or the rain out of your face! Another must-have is a pair of polarized sunnies. They’ll especially come in handy when you’re staring at the reflective water all day! And remember to put your swimsuit in that suitcase! There’s nothing better than sending home photos of you in the hot tub with a glacier in the background!
2. Proper Formal night attire
“This ain’t the Bahamas, baby.” said a gentlemen to his scantily-clad (freezing cold) wife. Formal night on a cruise to Alaska is done a bit differently. You can’t just waltz across an open deck in your cutest cocktail dress without that glacial breeze chilling your skin. I’d suggest bringing a formal dress that’s longer in length or one with sleeves. And don’t forget to bring a shawl or a nice jacket to cover up with.
As far as shoes, go for heels if you like dressing to the nines or flats if you want to be comfortable. The Alaskan itinerary is pretty calm, so you won’t really have to worry about your balance in those heels with the boat swaying — your balance after cocktails is another story.
3. Umbrella or Poncho
Be forewarned : None of the locals use umbrellas or ponchos. Alaskans are bada$$es. They invest in durable rain jackets and rain boots and simply go about their business in the temperate rainforest downpours. You’ll look like a tourist, but I guess you kinda are one — and you’ll be glad to stay dry if you’re caught in the rain!
4. Volumizing hair products & Waterproof mascara
The reason I say “volumizing” is because you’ll probably be regularly facing one of life’s greatest evils — hat hair. When walking around the open decks or in port, you’ll want to wear a warm hat or a baseball cap. If you’ve hopped on the solid shampoo train like I have (less use of plastics and no surprise leaks in your suitcase), look for one that helps with volume. Dry shampoo is also your best friend when it comes to hat hair. Another beauty product to consider bringing along is waterproof mascara/eyeliner. Nobody likes getting stuck in the rain and looking like a drowned raccoon.
5. Bugspray & Sunscreen
Mosquitos are the pigeons of Alaska. Or so the saying goes. Basically, they’re like the size of birds and they can be fierce in the summer months. If you plan on doing any hiking or taking tours that bring you into the forest, don’t leave that ship without insect repellent! You’ll want the sunscreen for more than just the sunny warm days, but for any glacier trekking you do. Speaking from experience — the sun reflects strongly off the ice and can quickly turn your face into a lobster.
6. Dry bag or shower cap
Dry bags are much more eco-friendly than using plastic bags which can wind up in landfills or oceans. They can be great for storing and transporting wet or dirty clothing, or for keeping clothing and gear safe from water (depending on which type you buy). Shower caps are the perfect size for wrapping around muddy shoes to keep your suitcase or travel bag clean until you can get them washed off.
7. Camera Gear & Binoculars
Having a DSLR camera will definitely come in handy if you’re hoping to get great shots from your cruise. A zoom/telephoto lens is perfect for capturing those far-away wildlife sightings! If you opt for bringing a telephoto lens, you’ll want a lightweight and easy to setup tripod to keep your camera from shaking in your hands and creating accidental blurry images. The tripod will also help stabilize your camera if any choppy waves are hitting the ship when you’re photographing those whales in the distance.
Speaking of whales, loads of passengers bring binoculars to spot them with! As for being on a ship surrounded by water, or if touring on a smaller boat or kayak, the waterproof phone case and GoPro in its waterproof housing will certainly make you feel more secure about bringing along your pricey technology.
8. Day pack & Shoulder bag/Tote
If hiking or outdoor adventuring is on your Alaskan cruise bucket list, make sure you have a reliable daypack. Preferably with a CamelBak hydration system inside it. You can fill the CamelBak with water for your hike before you leave the ship, or at water fountains near the restrooms in port. A shoulder bag or tote is ideal for casual walks and shopping trips through town. It can also be used to store any layers you take off as the day gets warmer, or a rain jacket in case the day turns to crap. And remember to pack a clutch or a bag for formal night too!
9. Water Bottle
If you don’t have a CamelBak hydration system for your daypack, or don’t plan on even bringing a daypack, take a water bottle with you! It’ll be nice to have on long tours or in town when you don’t want to purchase the over-priced drinks available. I like bottles that keep my cold drinks cold for 24 hours and my hot drinks hot for 12, like these S’well bottles. Plus, how perfect are their Wood collection bottles for those Alaskan wilderness adventure shots I know you’re dying to put on Instagram!
10. Seasickness bands or meds
Fortunately, I’ve never felt the slightest bit seasick in all the cruising I’ve done. Also fortunately, cruising through Alaska is fairly smooth and calm. If you’re prone to feeling seasick, there are a few preventative measures you can take. Wear seasickness wristbands or a patch behind your ears. Ask your doctor about prescription medication that helps with motion sickness or bring along some Dramamine. Reserve a cabin that’s midship and near the water line. And make sure you’re eating light bland foods such as pretzels, saltines, and bread. I’ve also heard apples work to calm the stomach too.
Funny thing about ships — they’re basically floating metal! This means your stateroom is magnetic! I always bring along a magnet or two for hanging any important papers (or photos of loved ones) up on the wall. It helps me to see and remember any events I’d like to check out, and it keeps me and my cabin organized.
12. Cash for tips
The tipping pool, aka the gratuities you pay at the end of your cruise, isn’t split between everyone. Youth staff onboard — who are caring for people’s loud hyper kids all day — aren’t typically included in the gratuities that parents and guardians pay. This means you should be a good person if your kids are in the youth program and tip the lovely staff who’ve made their trip fun (wink wink). Tour guides and bus drivers also deserve a tip! These people can come from all over the world to live and work in remote Alaskan towns, to bring you on memorable adventures!
US Dollar Cash Tips
To see more examples of my favorite products and gear, check out my What I Use page! To print your very own Ladies Packing List for Alaskan Cruises, click the list below!
Do you have an Alaskan cruise planned? Have you ever cruised to Alaska before? Tell me about it in the comments!
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