Even if you’ve been on a cruise before, planning and packing for an Alaska cruise is quite different. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering what to wear on an Alaska cruise.
I did a lot of research before my first Alaska cruise and wanted to make sure that I was prepared for the Alaska weather, the excursions and for days and evenings on the cruise ship. I can confirm that packing raingear and wearing layers is good advice! However, there’s a lot more to know.
Alaska temperatures range from the mid 40’s to the mid 70’s, depending on the month or your cruise. Plus, Alaska weather is unpredictable. It’s possible to have mild and sunny days, as well as rainy and cooler days during a 7 day Alaska cruise.
In this post I share what I wore during the day on Alaska excursions, as well as cruise outfits for casual and formal nights. You’ll find several photos as well as recommendations for clothing, accessories and other useful Alaska cruise essentials.
I’ve also shared an Alaska packing list of items you don’t want to forget!
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What to Wear on an Alaskan Cruise – Day and Evening
What to Expect on an Alaska Cruise
Alaska cruises are more casual than Caribbean and Mediterranean cruises, both during the day and in the evening. Even though we cruised with Holland America, which is a more traditional cruise line, we still found this to be true.
Our Alaska cruise was in May, which is one of the cooler and drier months to cruise in Alaska. If you’re going to Alaska in the summer, there are some things I brought that you can likely leave at home.
I’ve included examples of Alaska cruise outfits for daytime, evening and formal nights.
Pro tip: Check the weather forecast for your ports of call starting about a week before your cruise to help you plan your outfits.
What to Wear on an Alaska Cruise During the Day
If you’ve been looking at Alaska cruise packing lists, you know that you should plan on layering your clothing. This is because the mornings in cruise ports like Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway can be quite cool and warm up quite a bit in the mid to late afternoon.
You’ll want to pack short sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts, to wear under a fleece sweatshirt or hoodie. During my cruise, the temperature during the day was usually about 50F to 57F, so I almost always wore a lightweight puffer jacket as well.
When it got warm, we just removed our jackets, folded them up and put them in our water resistant backpack.
Sweatshirts, Jeans & Leggings
There’s no need to be fancy during the day on your Alaska cruise. I live in leggings when I’m at home, and this was great for days in Alaska too. I also wore blue jeans, which I found kept my legs warm even during a canoe excursion on Harriet Hunk Lake in Ketchikan.
I was really happy I brought these fleece sweatshirts. They were so comfortable and they kept me warm and cozy, even during our day in Glacier Bay!
Hats & Gloves
I wondered if I’d wear my hat and gloves, and I sure did! Hats and gloves don’t take up a lot room to pack, and they’re worth bringing even if you’re cruising to Alaska in the summer or fall. Mornings and late nights can be frosty, especially on glacier viewing days.
I recommend bringing thin touch screen gloves, so that you can use your smart phone to take photos or look at emails, without freezing your hands.
Recommended: Touch free gloves (love these!)
Although I live in Canada and am used to winter weather, I hate being cold. I wasn’t sure if I needed a parka or a lighter lined jacket. I’m glad I decided on a lightweight puffer jacket.
This water resistant puffer jacket kept me warm, without feeling overheated, during my days in port. I could also unzip my jacket when I was in the bus on tours and excursions.
A puffer vest is also a popular choice for outer wear on an Alaska cruise.
Pro tip: Wear your puffer jacket on your flight or pack it in your carry-on bag, to save room in your checked luggage.
If you’re going on an Alaska cruise, you need to pack some rain gear. Alaska is home to the Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rainforest in the world. While you won’t always have heavy rain, Alaska can be drizzly or misty on any given day. In fact, Juneau experiences some form of precipitation approximately 230 days a year.
We were very lucky during our Inside Passage cruise as it only rained two days out of 7! We had some rain on our embarkation day in Vancouver and in the afternoon while we walked around Ketchikan’s Creek Street and the cruise port.
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What to Pack for Rain in Alaska
A poncho is light doesn’t take up much room and can be easily brought on a summer Alaska cruise.
Recommended: Poncho (check reviews & price on Amazon here)
Wind-proof Travel Umbrella
An umbrella is optional for an Alaska cruise. We rarely used it, but did find it handy while we explored Vancouver in the rain during our pre-cruise stay.
If you take photos and videos, an umbrella can be useful as well. Some cruise lines may provide an umbrella for use in your stateroom.
Depending on the time of the year, a rain jacket is a clothing item to pack for your Alaska cruise. If I was cruising to Alaska in June, July or August, I would have brought mine and layered it on top of a long or short sleeve shirt.
Since we were there in May, it made more sense to bring a warmer water repellant jacket.
Waterproof Shoes or Hiking Boots
Alaska is all about exploring the great outdoors. Waterproof hiking shoes will keep your feet dry and comfortable as you explore rugged terrains, trek through glaciers, and walk through trails in Alaska.
While you can wear sneakers, waterproof hiking shoes are better for wet and muddy weather that you might experience on some Alaska excursions. Good hiking shoes will also give you traction and support for uneven terrain.
Thermal underwear (or Long John’s) will keep you warm during rainy and cool days in Alaska. We brought some as our philosophy was, we are going to visit Alaska, even if it’s cold and rainy!
Recommended: Thermal wear
Lucky for us, the weather was pretty good. However, it only about 50-55F most days and my husband and son found thermal underwear to be useful when worn under a pair of jeans.
I brought fleece lined leggings, and this was perfect for me.
What to Wear on an Alaska Cruise for the Evening
Planning your cruise vacation outfits for an Alaska cruise can be a bit of a challenge. While most cruise lines have dress code suggestions, in practice many cruise passengers dress more casually for the evening on Alaska cruises that on other itineraries.
If you’re on a 7 day cruise, you can expect to have mostly casual and smart casual evenings, with one or two dressy or formal evenings.
If you want don’t even want to think about what to wear, you can also eat in the cruise ship buffet or grab some pizza or a burger at a one of the casual restaurants.
My Evening Cruise Outfits
My Alaska cruise a 7 day Inside Passage cruise on Holland America’s Koningsdam. I brought a few dresses and a pair of black pants that I could wear with different tops. I also brought a light crochet cardigan to wear my tops.
If you like to wear jeans, you can feel comfortable wearing nice jeans and a top to the main dining room, buffet and restaurants.
For the Dressy Night (like formal night) I wore a black dress and my husband and son wore a suit and dress shirt, without a tie.
What Shoes to Pack for an Alaska Cruise
There’s no need to pack too many shoes for an Alaska cruise. The shoes you’ll want to pack are:
- Sneakers, walking or running shoes
- Dress shoes (for evening)
- Casual shoes (for evening)
- Flip flops or slides (for the pool & hot tubs)
- Waterproof hiking shoes (optional)
Alaska Cruise Accessories
Here are a few “must-have” items and cruise essentials to pack for an Alaska cruise.
You’ll see incredible scenery and wildlife from your balcony or cruise ship deck and binoculars are a must-bring! We even brought our binoculars for our whale watching excursion and we’re glad we did!
A good size water resistant back pack is great to bring on shore excursions. I like this one as it has a waterproof bag insert, good for potential Alaska downpours.
Recommended: 40 L Backpack (love this one on Amazon)
Waist Pouch or Cross Body Bag
One of the best things I brought on my Alaska cruise was a cross body style waist pouch. It was great to not bring a purse with me, so I could be hands free on my excursions.
These days, fanny packs or belt bags are in style for both women and men.
Alaska Cruise Packing: Frequently Asked Questions
Should You Pack Shorts for an Alaska Cruise?
Since Alaska weather can be unpredictable, it’s a good idea to pack at least one pair shorts for warmer days or to work out in the gym. If you’re taking an Alaska cruise during the summer, you may get weather into the 70’s and you’ll be happy you brought shorts and a t-shirt.
Is it Cold on an Alaska Cruise Ship?
I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t cold on the cruise ship in Alaska. In fact, the dining room was very comfortable and I never needed a sweater or shawl. The one day when it was cold on the cruise ship was our glacier viewing day in Glacier Bay. This was because the doors to the outdoor promenade and the ship’s bow were kept open for much of the time, allowing cool weather in.
Do You Need a Coat for an Alaskan Cruise?
If you get cold easily, you’ll probably want to pack a puffer jacket or lightweight coat for an Alaskan cruise. This is especially true if you’re cruising during the beginning, end or shoulder season.
A light jacket or puffer style vest worn over a fleece sweatshirt should be good for those cruising to Alaska during the late spring and summer months.
Should I Pack a Bathing Suit for an Alaskan Cruise?
You should pack at least one bathing suit and cover up for your Alaska cruise. Many cruise ships sailing in Alaska have a heated indoor pool. However, even if your cruise ship doesn’t have a covered pool area, you can still use the outdoor pool and hot tubs.
I was surprised to see a few people swimming in the outdoor pool on cool sea days during our cruise to Alaska. The hot tubs were used regularly, and were particularly appealing during our day in Glacier Bay (what a view!).
Video: Alaska Cruise Essentials & Packing Guide
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Final Thoughts on What to Wear on an Alaska Cruise
Packing for an Alaska cruise and knowing what to wear can be a challenge. However, since Alaska cruises are more casual than other cruise itineraries, planning your Alaska cruise outfits isn’t as hard as it seems.
For day, plan your outfits based on comfort. This means stay warm and dry, and wear layers to help do this. For evenings, you can pack lighter for your Alaska cruise by wearing pants or jeans, paired with different tops. Even formal nights on Alaskan cruises are less fancy than most cruises. Of course, dress how you enjoy, but don’t feel obligated to wear a formal evening dress and tuxedo.
Are you going on an Alaskan cruise? Please let me know your Alaska cruise wear questions in the comments below.
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