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Alaska Cruise Packing Tips

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What to pack on an Alaskan cruise includes both shorts and warm clothing.

That advice may sound odd, but Alaska cruise weather is a bit odd itself.

Warm weather is common at embarkation ports such as Seattle and Vancouver. It’s even common on some days at the Alaskan ports. So shorts, light shirts and light jackets are worth bringing for anyone who spends a little time as we did at any port.

But shorts and light shirts don’t work with cold and rainy weather along with strong winds and chilly water. This kind of weather may take place on the water during cruises along the Alaska coast, especially in the mornings.

Some passengers actually spend time on the decks during this kind of weather. They usually walk the decks for exercise or read in lounge chairs.

Packing Tips


We packed too much on our first Alaskan cruise. We literally had to sit on top of our suitcases to get the zippers to close all of the way. Obviously, we packed too much.

People who take the cruise at the beginning or end of the cruising season in May and September should pack more heavy clothes because of cooler temperatures during those months. But how much to pack depends on the weather forecast.

Check the forecast right before going on the trip. It’s critically helpful in knowing how much warm clothing or rain gear to bring.

The following list suggesting what to pack is based on what we learned from that trip.

What kind of pants? I found two pairs of jeans more than enough for an eight-day cruise. My wife thinks that’s not enough. Maybe it’s a guy thing.


Otherwise, anyone who wants to dine in style on the ship should also bring nice slacks for the formal dining. Passengers who are willing to walk through cruise ports on days with heavy downpours might also want to bring rain repellent pants and galoshes.

What kind of shirts? On cold mornings, my favorite combination was a long-sleeve woolen shirt over a long-sleeve T-shirt. Long sleeve T-shirts are efficient with space in suitcases.

What kind of coats? We didn’t bring any heavy coats because we didn’t need them. The weather in July is warm enough to skip them, and two layers of shirts plus a jacket was more than enough even in 45-degree mornings. Besides, heavy coats take up too much room in suitcases. Anyone who takes the cruise in the cooler May or September may simply want to take a third shirt layer.

What kind of jackets? We each took two jackets and used only one. That one jacket should absolutely be rain repellent. A jacket with a hood is the best option.

What kind of hats? I took a woolen cap and never used it. Instead, I wore a baseball cap. I could have used the woolen cap on the mornings I spent sitting on cold decks with heavy winds. But I was listening to audiobooks and had ear protection from headphones. Otherwise, a baseball cap was more than enough on days with clear skies, light rain or lower temperatures.

What kind of shoes? Of course, tennis shoes are a must for many miles of walking around cruise ports and major attractions. We also brought hiking boots but didn’t use them, even though we took hikes in the national parks. The parks had clear and dry paths.

Light packers who don’t plan to take hikes deeper into the parks should bring just one pair of tennis shoes. That’s all we wore the entire trip. Do bring galoshes in case of rainy excursions or water activities such as kayaking.

What kind of socks? I brought both lightweight and medium weight socks. The medium weight socks weren’t necessary. The weather was warm enough that my feet never got cold, even in the mornings on chilly decks. Cruisers during the cooler May and September trips are more likely to need heavy socks. Again, check the weather forecast right before the trip.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Planning Tips   

August 23, 2018

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