Alaska Cruise Outfits

Prepare for Alaska’s unique climate and outdoor activities before taking an Alaskan cruise. The right clothes and accessories are essential to keep you comfortable. Do not make the mistake of underestimating the unpredictability of Alaska’s weather during the cruise season.

💡 Many first-time passengers underestimate how cold Alaska can be on a cruise, even during the summer months.

If you want to skip my personal experience, you may want to scroll down to the monthly outfit sections where we provide you with the essential packing tips for each month during the cruise season:

  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

However, make sure to read our essential tips about layering as well.

Outfits | Packing List Overview

On an Alaska cruise, layered outfits are required. You wear warm waterproof outer layers, middle layers like a sweater or a hoodie, additional light layers like long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts, and long underwear. Additionally, pack jeans, comfortable shoes, a hat, sunglasses, and an umbrella.

My Experience | What I Packed and Wore

My cruise in June went from Vancouver, stopped at six ports, and disembarked in Seward.

We took a bus to Denali via Anchorage. The panhandle of Alaska (southeastern coast where Juneau is located — inside passage) has a very different climate than inland Alaska, north of Anchorage.

It was hot inland. Like t-shirts and shorts. However, during the maritime portion of the trip, it was cold and raining most of the time. Even when the sun comes out, it does not warm up a lot. The sun can also be very bright reflecting off the rain.

Most people don’t spend a lot of time on the outdoor decks of cruise ships in colder climates because the wind can be up to 25 mph.

I took a tour that went on a zodiac, so wind and temperatures ranged a lot. It was chilly and uncomfortable on the boat, but when we got to the island for a hike, it was warm and I took off the coat and a sweatshirt. Anytime you take a boat tour, you need extra layers.

I also rode the tram up to the mountain peak in Juneau, and it was foggy/rainy. I also wore my winter (ski) coat that day. I didn’t bring an umbrella because my coat was waterproof and I had a hood to pull over my head.

Later that day, I went to the Mendenhall Glacier and my attire remained appropriate.

However, if I’d gotten to fly and land on the glacier as planned, I would have needed some hiking boots or something more substantial than walking shoes. They will provide crampons (spikes) if necessary.

On the land tour portion of the trip, I wore a sweatshirt in the morning and a t-shirt in the daytime hours. Even though the sun sets in the Alaskan panhandle, sunset is around 11 pm or midnight during the mid-summer months, June and July. Take an eye mask to block out the evening sun unless you’re cruising in an inside cabin.

I packed:

  • Winter ski coat
  • Fleece sweatshirt
  • A long sleeve t-shirt
  • Short sleeve t-shirts
  • Jeans
  • Walking shoes
  • Swimsuit
  • Hat/cap
  • Eyemask to block out late-night sunlight
  • I did not pack any formal clothing for dinner

Essential Packing Tips

Hubbard Glacier (Juneau): When approaching glaciers it gets cold on the deck, regardless of the month. Everybody is wearing something warm.

Before we provide detailed packing tips for each cruise month, let’s give you an overview of what you should bring on your cruise.

On an Alaska cruise, you wear layers and waterproof or water-resistant clothing items. Outfits like fleece jackets, sweaters, hoodies, and thermal layers keep you warm on colder days. On warm summer days, t-shirts and pants or jeans are appropriate.

Layers

You’ve probably heard the saying, “if you don’t like the weather here, just wait five minutes.” Well, they were talking about Alaska!

Alaska’s weather can change quickly, so be prepared. As the temperature fluctuates, layering lets you adjust your comfort.

Most first-time passengers make the mistake of not packing enough layers. Even in July and August layering is crucial as it can get chilly.

Wear lightweight long underwear or leggings. Depending on the month and temps (more monthly tips later), insulate with a fleece or sweater, then cover with a rain jacket. This combination will keep you warm and dry.

Women’s Outer Layer/Jacket Recommendations:

Good to know: Every port sells fleece-lined, waterproof jackets in case you didn’t bring warm enough outer layers. These also make great souvenirs as they are usually reasonably priced.

Every time we went on a cruise, we were glad to have layers of clothing, as we could easily remove or add layers as needed when temps changed.

Men’s Outer Layer/Jacket Recommendations:

On cooler days, we were thankful for our warm base layers and/or warm waterproof/water-resistant jackets, and on warmer days, we were able to shed layers and feel comfortable. We also found that comfortable and sturdy walking shoes were a must for the many excursions we participated in, from hiking to sightseeing.

Glacier Viewing

Keep in mind that it gets particularly cold when the ship gets close to a glacier. The viewing experience from the deck is just amazing, but the winds off the ice make the outside temp wintry cold. An insulated jacket, hat, gloves, and scarf are a good idea for this experience.

Rain Gear

Regardless of the month, it’s essential that you pack rain gear for your Alaska cruise. One of the mistakes many passengers make is not being prepared for rain during the cruise season. You will likely encounter rain in at least one of your ports or on a cruising day.

Amazon Essentials Women's Lightweight Long-Sleeve Water-Resistant Packable...
  • REGULAR FIT: Close but comfortable fit through chest, waist, and hips.

While you might experience heat waves during the summer, or even in May, and no to little rain, you may also get rain on most days during the summertime.

It’s even better to bring a jacket which is waterproof and not only water-resistant.

Tommy Hilfiger Men's Ultra Loft Lightweight Packable Puffer Jacket (Standard and...
  • WARMING FEATURES: Features our Ultra Loft Faux Down insulation providing for extra warmth and to block out cold...

However, a very good water-resistant jacket can do its job as well! Usually, we bring a water-resistant puffer jacket. Additionally, pack water-resistant or waterproof boots and a compact travel umbrella.

Do you need water-resistant pants? 

Most of the time, you are fine with a good waterproof jacket. Up until last year, we have never felt the need for any special type of waterproof pants or shoes. If it was mild or moderate rain, I typically still wore my jeans, unless I felt I’m going to get drenched.

That’s why we didn’t add special pants to the packing lists in this article. However, we just bought these and now we love them on every cruise:

They are super awesome and keep you warm and dry all the time.  So, instead of a second pair of standard pants, we pack a pair of these water-resistant ones for cooler days with heavier rain.

Comfortable Shoes

Many Alaskan cruise excursions involve walking or hiking on uneven terrain, so pack sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots. Bring sandals or sneakers for onboard activities.

Dress for Dinner

Most cruise lines do not require dinner attire and you can wear jeans and a t-shirt. However, some cruise lines have formal nights in the main dining room, so, pack cocktail dresses or slacks and a jacket.

That said, guests on Alaskan cruises typically don’t care too much about what they wear to dinner. Thus, we usually pack a nice outfit for dinner and shows. If you’re not a formal night person, don’t sweat it. Just head to the buffet or another restaurant on board.

For dinner, ladies can bring nice blouses and skirts or pants, dresses, or jumpsuits. Jumpsuits are warm, comfortable, and easy to style for dinner.

From our recent cruise with Princess, we can tell you in detail about the two different types of clothes that they expect people to wear when they eat in the Main Dining Rooms.

Dressy and Dressy Casual:

  • First, “smart casual nights” and “formal nights” refer to what you should wear to dinner each night in the main dining rooms only. Smart casual can include jeans that aren’t ripped or torn, as well as khakis or slacks. It’s just nicer clothing than ripped jeans and a T-shirt. No swimsuits, cover-ups, shorts, or other similar items (shorts may be worn on the first night and sometimes on the last night of the cruise).
  • Formal nightwear can include anything from tuxedos and suits to slacks and a button-down shirt with or without a tie and a jacket for men. For women, there are full-length gowns, cocktail dresses, nice pantsuits, and slacks with a sparkly top. On a formal night, you can’t wear jeans in the main dining rooms at all.

Again, these two wardrobes are only for the main dining rooms. If you don’t want to dress that way, there are plenty of other places to eat on the ship, like the Buffet, the Specialty restaurants, the pizza place, or the burger and fries place on the pool deck, and on some ships, Alfredos.

Even if you don’t eat in the main dining room, you won’t feel hungry. Check out the deck plans of your ship to find out where you can eat.

Swimsuit and Cover-up

Alaska’s waters are cold and not known for their beach breaks, but some cruise ships have heated pools and hot tubs. For swimming, pack your favorite swimsuit, flip flops, of course, and cover-up. You can check out big fluffy pool towels in the same area as the pool.

Good to know: Towels are being provided!

Accessories

Bring a hat, gloves, and scarf along with warm layered clothing. Even on cloudy days, sunglasses and sunscreen are necessary. And don’t forget the umbrella – rain can pop up anytime.

Backpack

Bring a backpack to carry all your layers on excursions as you take them off and put them back on.

Packing List Example | Early July

Our friend Jessica Vannasdall just came back from her seven-day Alaska cruise. She was so kind and provided us with her awesome packing list. She said, that she wore everything from the list, some things more than once!

Pants
2 jeans Only needed 1 dark wash jeans – can use on days at sea, excursions, or with a nice top and shoes for dinner
1 black Jeans Yes – Perfect for dinners
Waterproof pants Probably didn’t need these, but was nice when we went on excursions.
3 leggings (one lined) Probably only needed two – the fleece lined were great.
Long Underwear I used these almost every day, but I’m from LA so I get cold easily!
Shorts It was fun to wear them on the deck on a sunny day.
Shirts
3 Short-sleeved T-shirts Needed only two – can layer under a chambray shirt or under sweaters, etc.
2 thin sweaters for dinner or ship Used these for dinners
2 long sleeved T-shirts (layering) Used these as layers – cheap – Old Navy – solid
1 Zip-up fleece Didn’t wear this – used a vest or my hoodie instead
1 long-sleeved tunic Used for days at sea/dinner or excursions
1 chambray button up Used as a layering piece
1 hoodie YES! Wore it a lot. Tip: Fleece Full-Zip Hoodie on Amazon
Dress
Black Hardly anyone got super dressed up. A lot wore mid-length A-line dresses – most wore slacks and a nice shirt for dinners. For the formal nights, many wore shirts with sparkles or details like lace, etc. I loved getting dressed up and got a beautiful long black dress from Amazon that I paired with sparkly flip-flops.
Black jumpsuit It was great for a formal night.
Black/white scarf Didn’t wear it.
Shoes
Sneakers A must – could be your only shoes.
Hiking Shoes We did short easy hikes. I could have probably used my sneakers, but if they got wet I would have been out of luck. So if you have them, bring them. If you can, wear them on the plane to save room in your luggage.
Black dress shoes I brought black sandals that I could wear with my formal dress but also with my jeans.
Fancy flip flops Yes – multipurpose.
Outdoor
Puffy jacket Thin – but with a hood. Wore this on all excursions. This was a must. It was water resistant which helped. Tip: Amazon Water-Resistant Puffer Jacket
Puffy vest I loved having a vest and I wore it both as a layer under my jacket and as part of an outfit on days at sea, walking the deck, etc.
1 hat – beanie/outdoor I had a winter hat and a beanie. I’m always cold so I wore the beaning inside on the ship often.
Gloves I only needed/used thin gloves. No one else in my family used gloves.
Baseball cap Yes!!! Helped with hair control in windy conditions.
Other
PJs Just one to lounge in.
Underwear Of course.
Socks I wish I had more regular socks and less wool socks.
Wool socks The wool socks were hot and bulky. Only needed them for one excursion.
Bras Yes.
Swimsuit It was nice to have the option.

Packing Tips for Each Month

On an Alaska cruise, you’ll visit ports in Alaska’s inside passage, which is dense with rainforests. It has a different and more temperate climate than mainland Alaska.

But no matter where you go, Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable, but in general, the climate is often cool with temperatures ranging from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 15 degrees Celsius) during the day. Sun and rain may interchange all day long.

Night temperatures can be cooler, dipping down into the 30s Fahrenheit, depending on the month and location.

However, if you take a cruise that includes a land tour to Anchorage, Denali, or Fairbanks, you may find it’s warmer and drier, as high as 85°F. So, don’t forget the t-shirt and tank top layer.

Here’s what you can expect for each month of an Alaskan cruise, along with our essential outfit and packing tips to help you prepare.

May

May is the beginning of Alaska’s cruising season, and the weather can be quite chilly. Daytime temperatures are typically in the 50s Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), but they can drop into the 40s Fahrenheit (4-9 degrees Celsius) on cloudy days.

Good to know: The chance of rain on an Alaska cruise is minimal and at its lowest during this month. The upcoming summer months always have more rainfall than May.

Nights are even cooler, with temperatures in the mid to upper 30s Fahrenheit (1-3 degrees Celsius). You should be prepared for rain and fog, so bring a waterproof jacket, warm layers, and waterproof shoes for excursions.

Outfit and packing tips for May:

  • Waterproof insulated outer layer like a medium puffer coat, or winter ski jacket if you get cold easily
  • Middle layer like a sweater, hoodie, fleece/waterproof jacket/vest
  • Light layers like long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts, long underwear or leggings
  • Waterproof shoes or hiking boots
  • Hat, scarf, gloves
  • Slacks or jeans
  • Swimsuit (for pool and hot tub)
  • Hiking or mud boots
  • Binoculars (for nature watching)
  • Umbrella
June

June is one of the most popular months for Alaska cruising because the weather is more pleasant and the daylight lasts from 5 am to 11 pm. Daytime temperatures are typically in the mid to upper 60s Fahrenheit (16-20 degrees Celsius).

However, they can range from the 50s to the 70s Fahrenheit (10-21 degrees Celsius) depending on the location and day.

Although nights are shorter, they remain cool with temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit (4-9 degrees Celsius). June usually has dry and sunny weather, but sometimes rain or fog roll in, so bring a waterproof jacket and warm layers.

Outfit and packing tips for June:

  • Waterproof insulated outer layer like a medium puffer coat, or winter ski jacket if you get cold easily
  • Middle layer like a sweater, hoodie, fleece/waterproof jacket/vest
  • Light layers like long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts, long underwear or leggings
  • Slacks or jeans, optional shorts
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Hat, scarf, gloves if you get cold easily
  • Swimsuit (for pool and hot tub)
  • Binoculars (for nature watching)
  • Umbrella
July

July is one of the warmest months in Alaska, so the weather is quite pleasant. Daytime temperatures can range from the 60s to the low 70s Fahrenheit (16-22 degrees Celsius), but they can reach into the 80s Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) in some areas.

Nights still have brisk temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit (4-9 degrees Celsius). The weather is typically dry and sunny in July, but there can be occasional rain or fog. Even during this warmer summer month, a waterproof jacket and warm layers are important.

Outfit and packing tips for July:

  • Waterproof insulated outer layer like a medium puffer coat
  • Middle layer like a sweater, hoodie, fleece/waterproof jacket/vest
  • Light layers like long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts, long underwear or leggings
  • Slacks or jeans, optional shorts
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Hat, scarf, gloves if you get cold easily
  • Swimsuit (for pool and hot tub)
  • Binoculars (for nature watching)
  • Umbrella
August

August is another popular month for Alaska cruises before school starts. Daytime temperatures can range from the mid-60s to the low 70s Fahrenheit (18-22 degrees Celsius), but they can reach into the 80s Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).

Keep your jacket out because night temperatures are crispy with temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit (4-9 degrees Celsius). August weather is a toss-up between dry and sunny and rain and fog. So, be prepared with a waterproof jacket and layers.

Please keep in mind that even throughout a warm summer month like August it can rain more than you might think in Alaska.

For August, bring anything and everything! We’ve been twice around that time of year, one time was short sleeve beautiful weather the next time we needed sweatshirts and raincoats. There was nonstop rain while we were there. It can vary wildly

From friends and other travelers who went in August:

When we went in August last year, the weather was perfect, only needed a light, lined windbreaker jacket that we layered with long-sleeved shirts or nothing at all. The weather was perfect, not a drop of rain. However, we know that we were just lucky at that time in August. 

We went at the end of August recently. I packed a puffer and wore it unfastened on the land portion. Wore it zipped up with a hat and gloves when we went on the Hubbard Glacier tour. At all ports, I wore shorts/capris and short-sleeved t-shirts.

We went the last week of Aug/first week of Sept, and I pretty much lived in jeans and a long-sleeved tee shirt on the land portion, and twill pants and a light sweater while on the cruise ship. Layers are your friend, and also a waterproof jacket. It was fantastic weather for our 12 days, but we packed for pretty much anything.

We wore jeans and long sleeve shirts/ light jumpers during our August cruise. I still would make sure I had a beanie/toque and gloves. The only really cold day we had was in Ketchikan, a normal rainy day. I needed a waterproof/windproof jacket that day and our gloves and beanie.

A lightweight down jacket is perfect. The insulation down provides more than enough to keep you warm. A waterproof shell that fits over your down jacket is a must. You don’t need a huge puffy winter coat in August.

Outfit and packing tips for August:

  • Waterproof insulated outer layer like a medium puffer coat
  • Middle layer like a sweater, hoodie, fleece/waterproof jacket/vest
  • Light layers like long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts, long underwear, or leggings
  • Slacks or jeans, optional shorts
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Hat, scarf, gloves if you get cold easily
  • Swimsuit (for pool and hot tub)
  • Binoculars (for nature watching)
  • Umbrella
September

September marks the end of the cruising season in Alaska, and the weather can be cool and rainy. Daytime temperatures are typically in the mid to upper 50s Fahrenheit (12-15 degrees Celsius), but they can drop into the 40s Fahrenheit (4-9 degrees Celsius) on cloudy or rainy days.

Nights are getting a lot cooler, with temperatures in the mid to upper 30s Fahrenheit (1-3 degrees Celsius). You should be prepared for occasional rain and fog, so bring a waterproof jacket, warm layers, and waterproof shoes for excursions.

Last time we went during the first week of September and there was no rain. We were glad that we took an extra pair of socks for excursions. I wore a down jacket, gloves, scarf, and hat in Glacier Bay. Nice and sunny all week, but it can get cooler, especially later in September. I did wear layers and my rain jacket with a hood on top. A medium coat is useful, a heavier one is not really necessary.

Once we were on the Majestic in the middle of September and it was cool and rainy every day. Layers were necessary but nothing for extreme cold temps, like a bulky coat.

More September advice from our friends:

We went last September and dressed in layers. A rain jacket is a must. Long sleeves with a hoodie or light jacket will work. No heavy jacket was needed. I did bring gloves for the nights I wanted to sit out on the top deck.

Outfit and packing tips for September:

  • Waterproof insulated outer layer like a medium puffer coat. Usually, you don’t need a winter ski jacket (only if you get cold very easily).
  • Middle layer like a sweater, hoodie, fleece/waterproof jacket/vest
  • Light layers like long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts, long underwear or leggings
  • Waterproof shoes, hiking or mud boots
  • Hat, scarf, gloves
  • Slacks or jeans
  • Swimsuit (for pool and hot tub)
  • Binoculars (for nature watching)
  • Umbrella
Summary

Overall, the key to packing for an Alaskan cruise is to dress in layers and be prepared for variable weather conditions. Even on warm and sunny days, temperatures can drop quickly, and it can be chilly and wet on some excursions. Bring comfortable walking shoes, warm layers, a waterproof jacket, and be sure to check the weather forecast before you leave to ensure you’re adequately prepared. Finally, don’t forget your camera and binoculars, as Alaska offers some of the most spectacular scenery and wildlife viewing in the world.

Basic Packing List

Clothing

  • Waterproof insulated outer layer like a light or medium puffer coat, or winter ski jacket if you during the colder times.
  • Middle layer like a sweater, hoodie, fleece/waterproof jacket/vest
  • Light layers like long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts, long underwear or leggings
  • Dressier outfits for dinner (optional)
  • Sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots; mud boots for wetter months
  • Comfortable shoes for onboard activities
  • Swimsuit, cover-up, and sandals or flip flops to use on board
  • Hat, gloves, and scarf for May or September cruises
  • Brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Shorts (optional) for warm days
  • Single-use handwarmers if you get cold easily

Toiletries

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body wash or soap
  • Moisturizer and sunscreen
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Deodorant
  • Makeup and skincare products
  • Prescription medication
  • Over-the-counter medications (expensive to buy on board)

Electronics

  • Camera or smartphone with a good camera
  • Chargers for all electronics
  • Portable charger or power bank
  • Travel adapter
  • Cruise-compliant power strip (not surge protector)

Other Items:

  • Passport
  • Travel-sized laundry detergent
  • Travel-sized first aid kit
  • Binoculars
  • Travel umbrella
  • Pre-booked port excursions
  • Bathroom scent spray
  • Travel clock (many ships don’t have phone chargers near the bed)
  • Nightlight for bathroom
  • Magnetic hooks for the wall to hold items and papers

One of our favorite activities on the cruises is always whale watching. We were able to see humpback whales breaching and splashing in the water, and it was an unforgettable experience. Orcas are also common in the Pacific Northwest, so you have a good chance to see them nearby.

We were glad we brought binoculars to get a closer look at the wildlife and scenery. Many people think they don’t need binoculars. That’s a big mistake!

Overall, our Alaskan cruises were a fantastic experience every time, and we felt well-prepared with our packing list and outfit choices. By following these tips and bringing the right items, you can enjoy your Alaskan cruise to the fullest and create lasting memories.

In conclusion, packing for an Alaskan cruise requires careful consideration of the weather, activities, and dress codes. By packing layers of warm and waterproof clothing, sturdy walking shoes, and dressier outfits for special events, you can be prepared for any situation.

Don’t forget to bring important accessories, such as a swimsuit, hat, gloves, and sunscreen, and other necessary items like toiletries and electronics.

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