What I Wish I Packed for My Cruise to Alaska

Living just outside of Seattle, I have seen the cruise ships coming in and out of the local ports downtown. I've seen excited passengers before and after their Alaskan cruises wandering around the hot spots in the city. I've even driven people into the port to catch their cruise to Alaska, but I've never taken a cruise to Alaska myself. When Holland America gave me the opportunity to hop onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam on a seven-day cruise to Alaska in late August, I jumped at the chance. As I prepared for the trip, I realized I'm not the only one completely clueless about what to pack on a cruise to Alaska in the summer. There were numerous blog posts, articles, and threads on the topic. I'm used to wearing layers living in the Pacific Northwest, but then I started questioning myself about what to pack. I'm not going to lie, I packed like a Kardashian going to fashion week. After returning, and now a semi-professional Alaska cruiser, here's what I wish I had packed for my cruise to Alaska.


What I Wish I Packed for My Cruise to Alaska


Don't miss this post: Where to stay in Seattle before or after your cruise!

Comfortable shoes

I packed an embarrassing amount of shoes. I had a different pair for each day. I really wish I had my slippers. Something easy to slip on and off for walking around the cruise ship. These are really cute and under $20.

If the weather had gotten warmer, I would have loved to have had a pair of adjustable sandals that work well on uneven ground but are still sturdy. I have a pair of these and they are great for rocky beaches. 

A battery-operated light

I'm going to sound like I'm geriatric but sometimes you get up in the middle of the night for a bathroom run and man, it's dark. There is one bank of lights for the whole room and your roommate wouldn't be super appreciative to be woken up from a dead sleep if you turn on the wrong light switch illuminating the whole room. This is something I wish I had bought. I used my phone flashlight in a pinch but it's worth bringing something along. This is the sort of thing you can keep in your travel bag for other vacations too. 


Hiking Boots {That Aren't Too Bulky}

Alaska is full of adventure, so you'll be best prepared with a pair of hiking boots when you head into the ports. I brought my hiking boots but found them to be a bit bulky. These hiking shoes get great reviews, but you might want something waterproof because light rain is often expected in Alaska. These are cute and are around $30.

Reusable Coffee Cup

There were plenty of coffee cups to be found, but I like a REALLY big coffee in the morning to start the day and a lid because I just can't be trusted to walk around with a mug on the open seas. I wish I had brought my reusable coffee cup with me. Speaking of, you can buy bottled water onboard but it's $2 a pop, so pack that reusable water bottle too. I like having a water bottle that can be thrown in the bottom of a bag and I don't have to worry about it leaking. My Owalla water bottle keeps drinks cold for hours and it stays closed in the bottom of a bag!


Don't miss this post: The Best Excursions on a Cruise to Alaska

Waterproof Hiking Pants

I brought a pair of hiking pants but wish I had two pairs. I wore them every time we went on an excursion. Many of the adventurous excursions we went on didn't allow for backpacks or bulky bags, so I made sure I had plenty of zippered pockets for my phone, room key, etc...

This pair of joggers is another good option to bring with you. I wear them every time I travel now because they are thick enough to still be warm, but also has zippered pockets to keep things safe on excursions.

I also recently bought these hiking pants and wore them all around Africa and they were so light and comfortable and waterproof! 

A Sweatshirt

At home, I literally live in a sweatshirt. I have no idea how I missed packing one. I packed plenty of sweaters but no sweatshirt. A cruise to Alaska is literally one of the most chill cruises you can take. Outside of gala nights, I could have gone to dinner in my hiking pants and been dressed up. So having a sweatshirt would have been better than having the dress pants and sweater I packed instead. 

I've been buying more activewear in wool. Don't think scratchy wool sweater, think comfortable cotton but with the advantage of it not getting stinky as often, holding heat but not being bulky so it's great 
for layering and easy to wash. If you are traveling a lot, consider it an investment.

Speaking of, a cruise to Alaska is a VERY casual cruise. Even on the "dress up" nights, you will still fit right in with a pair of hiking pants and a nice sweatshirt or sweater. No need to get a formal dress or suit unless you really want to!

What I'm Glad I Packed


Fanny Pack

It's required to show a government-issued ID to return to the cruise ship along with your room key. I brought my passport along and kept it close to me in my fanny pack that I wore as a crossbody bag. It was so nice to be hands-free and keep my important items close. 

This fanny pack is another great option and it will provide you with more room to carry all the things if you are headed out on an excursion for the day.

Warm Hat

This one doesn't really need a lot of explanation. You'll be surprised at how much it helps to keep you warm.


Neither does this one. But I will say, I loved walking outside around the boat and that sea breeze is chilly in Alaska. These waterproof ones don't need to be removed if you want to use your phone to quickly snap a picture. 

Wool Socks

I wore wool socks daily. I appreciated that they kept my feet dry and warm. 




I might be the minority here, but I didn't really need binoculars. I don't feel like it helped me see anything I wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Rain Jacket

I brought a rain jacket and a puffy jacket and I wore my puffy jacket all of the time. On several excursions, rain jackets were provided though it wasn't stated that they would be in the information, so I feel like the people in Alaska have your back. They want you to enjoy their excursions and their area and have waterproof layers because it rains liquid sunshine. So if you want to save some room, leave that rain jacket at home and only pack the puffy coat, you'll appreciate the extra layer of warmth.



I had heard that in port, the weather often warms up, especially in the summer, but I didn't find myself needing the pair of shorts that I had packed. 

Mosquito Repellent

I had citronella essential oils and mosquito spray because I hear the mosquitos in Alaska can be as big as a bird. I didn't find myself needing either. The only time the bugs were annoying, we were on a floatplane ride in the Misty Fjords. And that stop was just about 30 minutes long so it was bearable.

When we traveled to Africa, this is the mosquito repellent we brought with us. 

If you really wanted to stay protected from bugs, I always spray my outdoor gear in this before I go. It does wash off after a few washings, so spray before you go!


This seems like a funny thing to put on here being Alaska and all, but I thought they were required on our helicopter flight to the glacier. The company had extra pairs we could use and while I did wear mine, even on the sunny day we visited, I could have done without. 

Finally, I'll wrap this up by saying that the internet, even the premium internet, was spotty at best. I didn't realize that I hadn't downloaded my Spotify playlist because, well, I've never been without access to at least a little bandwidth that could play songs. So download all the things. Don't count on having any internet access and appreciate it when you do! 


Have you been on a cruise to Alaska before? What do you wish you had packed? 



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Julie said...

I absolutely love your raspberry rain coat with rainbow stripe lining! Where is it from and who is it by please and thank you!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I really appreciate that you shared things you didn't need and wish you had. Some different an appreciated perspective here that I haven't seen on other posts.

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