Alaska Cruise Wardrobe Planning

Alaska Cruise Wardrobe Planning

So you’re heading on an Alaskan cruise and it’s time to start planning your wardrobe!  While this may be MY favorite part of vacation planning, for many people it’s a little bit daunting.  If that’s you, don’t worry, I’m here to help guide you in your Alaska Cruise wardrobe planning! We are about to embark on our 3rd Alaskan voyage so I feel I have a little experience to share!

This is a general guide to the types of clothing one should pack for their Inside Passage Cruise. In my next post I’ll be sharing my personal, Disneyfied, Alaska Cruise wardrobe, as we’ll be taking a Disney Cruise!

First, let’s talk about what you should expect:

Alaskan Summers are a lot like early Spring down in the northern half of the Lower 48. The weather is fickle. You should expect daytime highs to fluctuate between the 50s – 70s. I suggest checking the local weather reports the week before your cruise to get an idea of what to expect. But remember, she is fickle, she could still surprise you and you should pack accordingly!

This part of Alaska is a temperate Rainforest so you will likely get rain at some points during your cruise, unless you’re really-really lucky! It will be more like a constant spitting drizzle than a heavy downpour. Our first cruise to Alaska was for our Honeymoon, 15 years ago. The weather that week (First week of August) was beautiful and we were told by the locals we had arrived during a rare Alaskan Heatwave with sunshine and temps in the 70s most of the days. Our second Alaska Cruise was 5 years ago, same week of August, and the weather was was mostly grey, windy and rainy with temps in the 50s the entire week. It’s also common to have fluctuations in the day’s weather, where at one point the sun will pop out and things start to warm up pretty quickly but shortly later it’s breezy, chilly and spitting drizzle again! Not a problem for us as we’re from the Pacific Northwest and that is our Spring, but people from warmer, less temperamental regions were struggling with it, especially since it’s mid-summer and everybody is acclimated to much hotter temps.

The best way to dress for this fickle weather is through LAYERS! I recommend something like a 3 in 1 jacket, or create your own version of this:

  • Layer 1 is a fleece jacket. This will be lightweight but warm enough for most of your daily needs and will give a bit of rain protection if you’re just shopping around downtown on your port calls. It’s also serviceable for the more active adventures like hiking, fishing and kayaking!
  • Layer 2 is a soft shell or rain/windbreaker. This can be worn solo on rainy days that feel too warm for the fleece layer, or layered over the warm fleece providing a higher degree of rain protection and/or cutting the wind which can bite through your fleece. Skagway, in particular, has the potential to act as a wind tunnel on the walk from dock to town.
  • Layer 3 is your winter jacket. You will need this at times on the ship deck (it can get cold when the ship is moving, especially at night!) or if you have a glacier adventure in your plans. If you are a person who gets cold easily, you might wear it more. I knew people from Florida who wore theirs all week! If you’re the always runs warm type, you might not need this layer at all.

Ok, now that we have you warm and dry on top, let’s discuss your footwear! Your shoes will largely be influenced by your activities. The one shoe you won’t have much use for is a sandal! I recommend the following line-up:

  • A dress shoe for dinners and formals.
  • A comfortable, closed toe shoe for walking around town. Closed toe, in case it’s chilly or drizzly. For most people this will be a sneaker, or a bootie. Something that won’t be ruined if it gets a little wet, but isn’t too warm if it happens to be sunny and around 75 degrees.
  • A waterproof shoe like a rain boot or duck boot if you are doing a water or mud based adventure such as fishing or kayaking.  Waterproof Trail Running Shoes are perfect for hiking adventures. I DO NOT recommend buying Hiking Boots for any of your hiking adventures. Hiking boots are very heavy, hard and stiff, they almost always cause blisters and take a long time to properly break in. Plus you won’t be doing that type of hiking on these family friendly adventures. Trail shoes are the way to go. Lightweight, waterproof, comfortable. Duck Boots can also serve as a hiking shoe if you will be on an easy to moderate hike. I don’t recommend them for more advanced trails or longer range hikes. Duck Boots also work great for Glacier adventures if you insulate them with a couple layers of heavy socks. You can buy insulated duck boots, but they tend to get uncomfortable (too warm) if it’s over 50 degrees out. Uninsulated duck boots will give you the most versatility.
  • Shearling Boots or Winter Boots – if you tend to run cold. These are great around town or on the ship deck for the colder days. Most brands of shearling boots can withstand a little rain without a problem as long as you don’t get them soaked. If you have the more rugged, waterproof, all weather variety you can use them in lieu of duck boots on active adventures.

Now, on to Clothing: All Cruise Lines have their own dress code and you should check your ship’s dress code for specifics. Some lines are more formal and strict about their dress code than others. Here is, in general, what you should pack:

  • Casual clothes for daytime. Alaska is not a formal or dressy place! Think jeans, tee-shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, athleisure.  Layers are your friend.  Dress as you would for Fall/Spring transitions.  A long sleeved shirt for over your tee.  Leggings for under your casual skirt/dress.  This is not the place for your cute designer pieces or your flowy sundresses with espadrille sandals. And I would avoid white jeans as puddles and muddy streets cause stains!
  • Nice Dinner clothes… you’re going out to eat at a nice restaurant, you should dress appropriately for that. Some cruise lines call it “Cruise Casual” but that term’s definition is entirely relative to what cruise line you are sailing with. For instance, some cruise lines define Cruise Casual as a pair of dressy jeans & a nice top;  others say NO jeans allowed in the dining rooms at all, and still by other definitions, you may wear almost anything in the dining rooms except for swimsuits & coverups! My advice is to dress as you would going out to a nice restaurant and you will be fine on any ship.
  • Formal Wear. Most (not all) cruise lines have a formal night. Men in suits or tuxes. Women in evening dresses. Have fun with it and don’t let it intimidate you! If dressing up in an evening gown is absolutely NOT your thing, you can find an inexpensive, long (maxi), black, jersey knit dress and glam it up with accessories!
  • Semi-Formal wear. Many cruise lines will also have a Semi-Formal night. Men in suits or sports jacket & slacks, women in cocktail or party dresses. The classic Little Black Dress would be perfect for this. Again, you can dress up an inexpensive, black, jersey knit dress.
  • Theme Night dinner wear. Some of the cruise lines have a theme night. Check your itinerary for details and bring something appropriately fun to wear!
  • A swimsuit. This one’s a must for the kids (the pools are heated), optional for adults.
  • Hats, scarves, gloves. All optional.
  • Sunglasses because when the sun does shine it’s bright and with a glare!

Hopefully this will help guide you in finding what you’ll need to enjoy your cruise in comfort and style!  I didn’t include an actual packing list as I firmly believe packing is too personalized for general lists and most lists I’ve come across are not good matches for what I would really bring!

Stay tuned for my own personal Disney Cruise to Alaska Wardrobe!

Happy Wardrobe planning!


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