My family is currently counting down the months to our 4th Alaskan Cruise, so I figured this would be the perfect time to update the Alaskan Cruise Wardrobe Planning post I made before our last cruise, in 2018. (Updated and reposted June 27, 2022; Originally posted June 2018; )
While curating the perfect wardrobe 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 with a general guide to the types of clothing one should pack for their Inside Passage Cruise.
First, let’s talk about what you should expect in terms of weather:
Alaskan Summers are a lot like early Spring in the rest of the U.S. The weather is fickle. You should expect daytime highs to fluctuate in the 50s – 70s, and since this part of Alaska is a Temperate Rainforest, it’s highly likely you will get rain at some points during your cruise. The good news is it will be more like a constant spitting drizzle than a heavy downpour. 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 after it’s breezy, chilly, and spitting drizzle again!
Our first cruise to Alaska was for our Honeymoon, in 2003. The weather that week (1st week of August) was beautiful and the locals told us we had arrived during a rare Alaskan Heatwave with sunshine and temps in the upper 70s most of the days. Our second Alaskan Cruise was in 2013, the same week of August, and the weather was mostly grey, windy, and rainy with temps in the 50s the entire week. Our 3rd trip was in late July 2018, with half the days dry and in the ’60s, and the other half were drizzly and in the 50s. So far the Summer of 2022 has been unseasonably warm and dry with some weeks experiencing temps in the 80s!
To get the best idea of what to expect, in the 2 weeks before your cruise, I suggest checking your weather app daily for the local weather in each port on your itinerary. But remember, Mother Nature is fickle, she could still surprise you and you should pack accordingly!
The best way to dress for this fickle weather is through LAYERS!
In terms of outerwear, I recommend something like a 3-in-1 jacket, or create your own version of this:
- Layer 1 is a fleece jacket. (Men’s Women’s) This will be lightweight but warm enough for most of your daily needs and will give a bit of light rain protection if you’re just shopping around downtown on your port calls. It’s also serviceable for more active adventures like hiking, fishing, and kayaking!
- Layer 2 is a soft shell or rain/windbreaker. (Men’s Women’s) 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 the dock to town.
- Layer 3 is a puffy vest. (Men’s Women’s) Another versatile layer that can be worn solo or layered with the fleece and soft shell for added warmth.
- Layer 4 is a packable Winter Coat: The majority of people will NOT need this layer. I’ve seen many Facebook posts by cruisers saying they regretted packing this bulky item because they never used it. HOWEVER, I have also seen people miserably cold on deck and wishing they did bring it. If you like to be cozy, you may appreciate having it at times on the ship deck (it can get cold when the ship is moving, and it gets cold at night) or if you have a glacier adventure in your plans, or if you normally live in a warm climate… I knew people from Florida who wore theirs all week and they certainly weren’t the only ones!
The Amazon links provided are for example only, I am not an affiliate. I normally buy my outerwear each Fall at Costco.com and Old Navy. These items were not available on those sites at the time this post was created.
Now that we have you warm and dry on top, let’s discuss your footwear! Your activities will largely influence your shoes. I recommend the following line-up:
- A dress shoe for dinners and formal nights.
- 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 trail shoe, rain boot, or duck boot if you are doing water or mud-based adventures 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.
- Shearling Boots – if you like to feel cozy or you tend to run cold. These are great around town or on the ship deck for the colder days/nights. Most brands of shearling boots can withstand a little rain without a problem as long as you don’t get them soaked.
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, leggings, tee-shirts (long and short sleeved), sweaters, sweatshirts, and 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 to eat at a nice restaurant, so 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 are 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 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 jackets & 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), and optional for adults.
- Hats, scarves, gloves. All optional.
- Sunglasses because when the sun does shine it’s bright and with a glare!
I’m not including an actual packing list or quantities to pack, because (in my opinion) packing is too personalized for general lists. I have never come across a packing list that matched what I would personally pack! Only you will know the size of your luggage, how many times a day you like to change, or how many loads of laundry you want to do while on vacation. Hopefully, this post will help guide you in selecting what to pack and in finding the Alaskan Cruise wardrobe pieces you’ll need to enjoy your cruise in comfort and style!
Stay tuned for my own personal, totally Disneyfied, 2018 Disney Cruise to Alaska Wardrobe!
Happy Wardrobe planning!