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A Light Packers Guide to Alaska – (What I Brought – and 17 “Essentials” I Didn’t Bring) + Printable Checklist

If you are considering an Alaska cruise you may be wondering what you need to pack.

Unpredictable weather can make packing for an Alaskan cruise a little harder than some other destinations – but I have successfully managed it and will list everything that I packed (and didn’t pack) in this article.

My first cruise was to Alaska way back in 2005, and I took a second cruise to Alaska in 2024. Both cruises were with Norwegian Cruise Line.

My first Alaska cruise gave me a lifelong love of cruising. Above is a photo of me during my first-ever Alaskan Cruise. I was eleven, and we took this cruise in August 2005.

We will talk about the clothing I packed for my 2024 Alaskan cruise in this article.

Alaskan Cruise – Packing List: Clothes

For a 7-night Alaska cruise, I would recommend packing the following quantity of each item:

#1 Pack More Underwear Than You Think You’ll Need!

I’d always recommend packing at least 7 sets of underwear/socks for a 7 night cruise and would suggest that you pack more than this. I took 12 sets.

You might go swimming mid-way through the day and want to change or you might go on an excursion and get wet feet.

It’s always better to pack more underwear than you think you’ll need! If you do run out though, you can use the travel wash that we mentioned earlier.

Underwear is very easy to wash using a travel wash and can be hung in the bathroom to dry.

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04/04/2024 09:06 am GMT

#2 Simple T-Shirts and Tops Are Key!

7 T-shirts or tops of some kind should be more than enough. That said, you will probably want to get changed for dinner and may want to include some more formal shirts or blouses.

If you are planning on doing any exercise classes onboard you may also need a couple of workout-appropriate tops.

#3 Bring Evening Wear if You’d Like to Change

Depending on the cruise line you may have formal nights.

Norwegian aren’t a formal cruise, and don’t have “formal nights.” They have “Dress up or not” nights with a “suggested” dress code.

If you do want to “dress up” on Norwegian men can just wear a shirt and trousers and women wear either a dress or a top/trousers combination.

I usually pack 5 dresses for a 7-night cruise but remember shoes/cardigans/shrugs can be re-worn!

It isn’t against the rules to wear the same thing for multiple formal nights either, you’ll likely only be wearing it for a few hours and if you don’t spill anything down your front you are good to go!

A comfortable dress is about as “formal” as I ever get on a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line.

Find out more about dress codes when cruising with Norwegian here:

Norwegian Cruise Line Don’t Have Formal Nights – Here’s What They Have Instead

#4 You’ll Need Pants/Trousers/Jeans as The Weather is Unpredictable

The weather in Alaska can be unpredictable.

I was very lucky when I first cruised in Alaska as a child, we went in August and we had sunshine most days.

That said, even if it’s sunny in the morning it can be pouring with rain in the afternoon so it’s important you have enough trousers/jeans to wear every day if needs be.

For a 7-night cruise, I would pack around 3 pairs of pants/trousers/jeans.

I also packed this versatile jumpsuit, its great for wearing onboard, for hot weather, or with a cardigan if it’s colder.

#5 Do NOT Cruise to Alaska Without Multiple Sweaters/Jumpers/Hoodies

This is possibly the most important thing that you will pack for an Alaska cruise – and I would recommend that you pack more layers than you usually would.

For a 7-night cruise, I would recommend packing 3 hoodies/jumpers/cardigans/pullovers of some kind.

When I went to Alaska as a child, my Mum left her jumper in the car and didn’t have anything warm to wear! Luckily my Gran had a jumper with her that she had just knitted for my American uncle – so Mum had to wear that! Learn from my Mum’s mistake…

Alaska Cruise 2005
My family on their Alaska Cruise in August 2005

The southern and coastal regions of Alaska can also be cloudy with some rain showers throughout the year, with average summer temperatures ranging from 40°F to 60°F (4° – 15°C). 

Alaska Tours

It is important to note that evening temperatures in Alaska can be cool in the summer. It is wise to bring cardigans, jumpers, or sweaters if you are out and about in the evenings.

I’d always recommend bringing a small jumper/coat with you in your bag in case it does get cold/rainy.

When I went to Alaska in May 2024 the temperature was around 15°C/60°F – so a little chilly, and I often found myself putting on my “Pac a Macas an extra layer to keep warm.

#6 Bring Comfortable Shoes (and Maybe Formal Shoes Too)

For an Alaskan cruise, I would recommend that you first pack a pair of shoes which you are comfortable walking in – such as sneakers/trainers or walking shoes.

You will probably be walking quite a lot around the different ports, it’s important that you have a good grip and feel comfortable walking in the shoes.

I’d also recommend that you bring some waterproof walking shoes or boots. When it rains, it can rain a LOT, and having wet feet is not ideal.

I’ve been on cruises before where it has taken multiple days for my shoes to dry after a rainstorm.

For ladies, I would recommend that you pack a couple of pairs of heels/flats/sandals to wear onboard in the evenings. Gentlemen could just pack a smart pair of shoes to go with trousers.

It’s usually relatively warm inside the cruise ship and you don’t have to worry about your feet getting wet!

Don’t be afraid to re-wear the same shoes, by sticking to neutral tones you can avoid having to change your shoes to go with each outfit.

On this trip I took a pair of white trainers to wear on the ship, waterproof walking boots for excursions and a pair of sandals for evening wear – so three pairs in all.

#7 Consider Bringing Nightwear

This one is up to you but I’d recommend packing some nice pyjamas.

Some cruise cabins do include bathrobes, but stepping out onto your balcony in your pyjamas is nice! 

#8 The Most Important Thing to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise is a Coat

I would recommend that you pack at least one rain mac/coat.

The best thing to do is usually to wear this on embarkation day as then it doesn’t take up too much room in your suitcase.

As far as coat sizing goes bring a larger coat than you would usually wear because you’ll probably be layering up and wearing this over a sweater.

Don’t be fooled – if you are embarking in Seattle or Vancouver and the weather looks good, don’t assume it will be like that for the entire cruise.

The weather changes quickly and it can be sunny in one place and pouring with rain in another. 

When I went to Alaska I only took my small “Pac a Mac” to save space. This is a light waterproof raincoat that fits into a small pouch or bag.

Alaskan Cruise – Packing List: Essentials

Your Passport is The Most Important Item You’ll Pack

If you are from America or Australia there are certain cruises that you can take without a passport.

All guests coming from overseas will need a valid passport. Six months of validity is required on your passport after you return home.

If you are planning an Alaska cruise, you might be wondering if you need a passport if you are an American citizen.

You need to check the paperwork you will need prior to booking your cruise – no refunds are provided for failure to provide proper documentation. 

As a general rule, if you are a United States citizen, you do not need a passport on a “closed-loop” sailing. You will need a birth certificate and a Government-issued photo I.D. at the very least.

Find out everything you need to know about passports and “closed loop” cruises here:

Do You Need A Passport To Cruise? (Everything You Need To Know)

The advice of a good Travel Agent is invaluable when it comes to knowing what paperwork/visas are required for your cruise.

Find out why I would recommend using a trusted Travel Agent here:

Is It Best To Use a Travel Agent or Book Directly With The Cruise Line? (Money-Saving Hints and Tips For Booking, and Much More…)

Bring Your Cruise Ticket to Make Everything Easier

Prior to your cruise, you will either:

  • Be emailed a cruise ticket (most common).
  • A ticket will be sent to you in the mail (less common). 

If you are able to print out the cruise ticket it makes the process of checking in for the cruise much easier.

At check-in all that you need is this cruise ticket and your passport. A credit card also usually makes things easier, but you don’t need that to embark on your cruise.

In theory, the cruise line could find your booking from your passport but it’s much easier if you print the ticket yourself.

Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance Details

You will need travel insurance for an Alaskan cruise, even if you are American. If you did become unwell or injure yourself treatment onboard is still incredibly expensive and getting you back to land to seek further treatment can cost a lot.

If you are from outside of the USA this is even more important.

As well as covering medical costs, travel insurance can also cover you for things like lost luggage, and even missed ports (if your travel insurance includes this feature.)

Find my complete guide to travel insurance below – why you need it and how to get it here:

Cruise Travel Insurance – Why You Need it and How to Get It: (Step-by-Step Illustrated Guide)

If you are not yet convinced that you need travel insurance to cruise, check out this post which tells the story of a man who died when he had a stroke on a Carnival cruise. He was unable to get back to the U.S. as he didn’t have travel insurance and died.

5 Cruise Nightmares Caused by Not Having The Correct Travel Insurance (Real-Life Examples)

Bring Any Prescriptions You May Need (Plus Extras!)

When cruising it’s always important that you bring any prescription medicines you may need and also bring your prescriptions with you if possible.

This way if you run out of your medicine when on board for any reason you may be able to get a refill and it provides a useful record of which medicines you take.

It’s important that when you check in for your cruise you bring medicines in your hand luggage rather than your checked-in bag. You will be separated from your checked-in bag for a while and there is always the possibility that it could be lost.

Cruise ships do have pharmacies on board but the medications they supply are limited. To learn more about the onboard medical facilities, check out the post below:

Cruise Ships Don’t Have Full Pharmacies on Board – Here’s What They Have

Print Your Luggage Tags if Possible

Many cruise lines will send you luggage tags. Some send the actual tags and others you are required to download and print at home.

This isn’t usually mandatory and if you don’t do it you can get the tags at the port – but it makes things much easier if you have already done it at home.

The last thing you want is to have to stand in another line for tags when you get to the port!

I used PVC luggage tags like the ones shown below. You just slip the paper tags inside, and they will remain safe through wind and rain – the paper tags won’t disintegrate!

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06/18/2024 12:47 pm GMT

You NEED to Pack Travel Adapters For Your Cruise

I always make sure I have travel adapter when I cruise, you might not know what power outlets you will find in your cabin.

Generally speaking, cruise ships have a combination of UK and US plug sockets so bring an adapter for both. You can usually buy adapters onboard in the gift shop but these are incredibly expensive.

I use the travel adapter below, it is all I ever need.

Bring Your Phone/Camera to Take Photos

I think this one goes without saying, but make sure you pack your phone if you have one.

I use mine primarily as a camera and carry it with me everywhere.

If you have a separate camera or action camera bring this too – but don’t forget to bring all the chargers that you’ll need!

I’d also suggest bringing a battery pack if your phone is likely to keep running out of battery.

There isn’t much more annoying than wanting to take a photo of something and realizing your battery has run out.

Emma Cruises phone
I am rarely without my phone, and I use it to take photos and film content for my channel

You’ll Need a Credit/Debit Card and Cash

It’s usually easiest to attach a credit or debit card to your onboard account and to pay for your onboard expenses this way.

On many cruise lines, you are also able to ‘load’ cash onto your onboard account or pay in cash at the end. I also suggest bringing some cash for things like taxis and tipping.

It can be difficult to know just how much cash to bring on a cruise, I usually bring very little, to find out what I do recommend, check out this post:

 How Much Cash Should I Bring on a Cruise? Budgeting Guide

Save Money on Laundry by Bringing Travel Wash

If you think that you may need to wash some items of clothing but don’t want to pay for the onboard laundry, one option is to bring a small bottle of travel wash and wash some clothes in the sink.

I’ve done this on a number of occasions and it does work well for certain things.

Some cruise lines do have self-service laundries and if the cruise line you’re cruising with has these this is usually a way to wash your clothes easily and cheaply. That said, don’t spend too much of your cruise doing laundry!

As I have the highest loyalty status with Norwegian Cruise Line, I get a free bag of laundry as one of the perks. I make sure I always use it, and take some clothes back home clean.

Find out more about the laundry service on Norwegian ships here:

Norwegian Cruise Line Laundry – Price List, Services, and Packages

Embarkation Day Bag

When you embark you will check in your luggage and it’ll arrive later in your cabin.

For a few hours on embarkation day, you will be without access to your luggage so it is important that you keep any essentials that you need in your embarkation day bag.

I usually keep everything I need in my Mia Tui handbag. I have been using my Mia Tui bags since 2017, and would never travel without one.

A few things to keep in your embarkation day bag are:

  • Any Medicines You May Need
  • Your Passport
  • Your Car/House Keys
  • Cameras/Phones
  • Cruise Tickets and Documentation
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My Favourite Bags – Mia Tui

I bought my first Mia Tui bag in 2017 and I've not used another brand since. They come with me on every cruise and are FANTASTIC. They are beautiful, almost indestructible and have so many pockets and useful parts.

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Find out more suggestions about things to do on embarkation day below:

5 Things You Should Do on Embarkation Day – Straight After Boarding

Alaska Cruise – Packing List: Extras You Might Want To Consider

A Small Umbrella

Having a little umbrella in your bag can save the day when on an Alaskan cruise. I chose not to take one on my cruise though, as I was trying to save space.

I wouldn’t recommend bringing a full-sized umbrella as having to carry this around can be quite annoying – but a small fold-up one that can fit in your backpack or handbag is definitely a good idea.

If you are cruising with a luxury cruise line like Viking they will have umbrellas available for you to use.

To learn more about cruising with Viking, including how to make the most of the included drinks, check out this post:

 Viking Ocean Cruises: What’s included (12 things)

viking cruises umbrella
Enjoying a cruise to Norway on Viking Sea – with my Viking Umbrella!

Hat and Gloves

It can get incredibly cold and having a simple hat and gloves may be a good idea, depending on when you are travelling. That said, I didn’t take a hat or gloves and I didn’t need them.

You probably won’t need these in the peak of summer (July-August) as it’s more likely to be rainy than cold but if you are travelling at any other time of year you might want to pack some.

You May Need Suncream/Sunscreen

Many people think of Icebergs and Glaciers when they think about Alaska so they’re surprised to find the temperatures in summer can be warmer than they expected.

In fact temperatures can rise to above 80 degrees, so make certain you bring along plenty of suncream.

Use a high-SPF sunscreen and always remember to reapply.

You would be able to buy this on the ship if you forgot it, but toiletries sold on the ship are usually very expensive.

A Small Fold Up Coat

On my Alaska cruise, I took a very small fold-up waterproof coat that folds into a bag. (Known in Britain as a Pac a Mac)

Foldaway coats like this are great because they don’t make you too warm. Sometimes wearing a big coat can feel too hot even if it is raining – particularly if you are walking around a lot.

I took my lightweight “Pac a Mac” in case of rain showers.

“Tech” Items I pack

  • Insta360 and charger – great for taking drone-like shots from above
  • InstaGo (a hands-free action camera)
  • DJ Pocket Osmo 2 Camera
  • My Microphone, battery and card reader
  • Headphones
  • iPhone
Taken with my Insta360 – great for taking photos from a distance

“Essentials” That I Didn’t Pack

Obviously, what is considered essential for one person, may not be for another. Below is a list of items that other travellers consider “essential” – but I didn’t bother to pack on this occasion.

  • Hiking poles
    • Hiking poles are supposed to help you spread the weight of your load when walking – I have never used them, well apart from a charity walk I did where I walked 57km in a day, I don’t do that on cruises though!
  • Sun Hat
    • I travelled in April/ early May and I thought I was unlikely to need one – I was right.
  • Gloves and Hat
    • For the same reason as above, I didn’t pack a hat, I felt I was unlikely to need them.
  • Books
    • We had excursions booked on port days on this trip – which is very unusual for me. I had no time to read books.
  • Reusable Drinks Bottles
    • I had a drinks package on this cruise, so didn’t need them.
  • Toys/Games
    • There was lots going on onboard, I never needed to amuse myself.
  • Bug Spray
    • When I travelled it was too early in the season for Mosquitos. If I was travelling in June or July I might consider packing some.
  • Binoculars
    • As I was trying to save space, I didn’t pack any binoculars. If I returned to Alaska, I might take them as we did see Orcas when sailing.
  • Handwarmers
    • For the same reason, I didn’t pack a hat and gloves – I felt it was unlikely to be cold enough to need them (it wasn’t.)
  • Sewing Kit
    • I don’t sew at home – so I am not going to sew when I am on holiday!
  • Laundry bag/ bin
    • Some people take laundry bags to keep their dirty clothes separate. I always use packing cubes when I travel, so I use one of those to put my dirty clothes in or I put dirty clothes straight into my suitcase.
  • Umbrella
    • Although it is often handy to have a small, lightweight umbrella in your rucksack as weather can be unpredictable, I didn’t take one on this occasion.
  • Highlighter Pens
    • This is one thing I have never thought to pack – some people take one so that they can highlight things on the daily schedule they wish to see.
    • I always take a normal pen in my bag, but never a highlighter.
  • Magnetic Hooks
    • Some people take magnetic hooks to stick to the magnetic cabin walls so they can hang extra things up.
    • I never do this, I prefer to travel light wherever possible and don’t know what I’d hang up.
  • Door decorations
    • Many people (particularly on Disney cruises) like to decorate their doors with an array of decorative magnets. I never feel the need to do that although I enjoy looking at them.
  • Luggage Scales
    • Although I have a set of luggage scales at home, I never pack them. My suitcase is never heavy enough that excess luggage charges are going to be a problem.
  • Coat Hangers
    • Cruise ships have coat hangers in every wardrobe – why people need to take extra is beyond me. Clearly, they don’t pack as light as me…

Find details of the Mia Packing cubes I recommend below. They are great for saving space in your suitcase, they make unpacking simple – and I use them for putting dirty laundry in as the week goes on.

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Packing Cubes – Mia Tui

Protect your clothes from stains, wrinkles, and damage while traveling. Our packing cubes also help you avoid overweight charges and airport stress by rearranging weights between bags or taking one cube with you as a carry-on item.

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Before You Go

Find out about the medicines and first aid items I pack when I cruise here:

Staying Healthy When You Cruise, Avoiding Seasickness – Medications and First Aid Items to Pack

Winter cruises are often trickier to pack for. Find out what I packed for my winter “In Search of the Northern Lights” adventure below:

I Took a Northern Lights Cruise – Here’s What I Packed (Clothes, Accessories & More)

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