Alaska Cruise in September – Tips – Outfits

Are you planning an unforgettable cruise to Alaska in September? If so, you’re in for a spectacular adventure filled with majestic glaciers, stunning wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes.

💡 Going earlier? Check out our monthly guides:

In this blog post, we’ll start by sharing five crucial tips for any Alaska cruise. These will help you enjoy your trip to the fullest.

💡 After these 5 tips, we have a detailed outfit and packing guide tailored specifically for cruising in Alaska during September. Even if you’re eager to jump straight to the packing tips, we highly recommend taking a moment to read through the general tips first.

They could make a big difference in your cruise experience.

If you’re only here for the outfit guide, feel free to scroll down, but remember, being well-prepared is key to a fantastic cruise!

In the next sections, you’ll find everything you need to know to be ready for your Alaskan adventure. Let’s get started!

5 ESSENTIAL ALASKA CRUISE TIPS

Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned traveler, our 5 tips are essential and can make a huge difference. From packing the right clothes to planning your excursions, every detail counts.

1. Tips for Embarkation Day

Embarkation day on a cruise is the first day of your voyage when everyone boards the ship. It’s a day full of anticipation and excitement, as you check in, explore the ship’s amenities, and settle into your cabin, ready to start your cruising adventure.

Embarkation Day Tip 1: Allocate Enough Time

Consider reaching the port a day earlier if possible. Traveling to the port on embarkation day can be done, but it tends to be stressful.

I have personally traveled to ports and boarded a ship on the same day, a scenario I wouldn’t recommend, but under certain circumstances, it can be fine.

However, if you do have a choice, I suggest arriving at the port the night before you embark on your Alaska cruise. The last thing you’d want is to kick-start your journey with stress.

Living within a few hours of the port might eliminate the need for this, but do ensure you have sufficient time to make the journey.

Embarkation Day Tip 2: Expect a Waiting Line

It’s undoubtedly important to arm yourself with patience for an Alaska cruise.

Embarkation can resemble the process at an airport, so expect to wait in line for check-in or security.

Tip: Maintain no expectations, stay prepared, and relax. It’s vacation time.

Embarkation Day Tip 3: Prepare to Undergo Security Checks

The first time we went on an Alaska cruise, we were surprised that the ship security is almost the same as in an airport. Be prepared that your luggage and your body will be scanned.

Upon arriving at the port, you’ll have to pass through security. Cruise lines scan for any potentially dangerous items or prohibited articles.

The policy regarding carrying alcohol onboard is diverse and complicated. While some cruise lines permit a certain quantity of alcohol, others forbid it entirely.

Embarkation Day Tip 4: Choose The Main Restaurant

Very few people are aware of this great tip:

Upon embarkation, most people head for the buffet or the pool, both of which can get quite crowded.

On many cruises, the main dining room also opens for lunch, allowing you to start your cruise in a more relaxed manner.

These are our 7 crucial Alaska cruise tips you should know before embarking on your unforgettable journey. Heading to Alaska on a cruise is an exciting adventure, filled with stunning sights and unique experiences.

2.  Have the Essentials in Your Carry-On Bag

It’s crucial to strategically pack a carry-on bag with essential items you’ll need immediately on board. Since checked bags are typically delivered to your cabin later in the afternoon or even post-dinner, having a carry-on filled with necessities is a wise move.

Ensure all crucial items such as medications, travel documents, passports, and cruise tickets are safely stored in this bag. If you have specific dietary needs, consider packing some snacks as well.

While most cruise lines plan formal events from the second night onward, it wouldn’t hurt to include a versatile outfit in your carry-on that could transition from day to night.

An extra-special tip for Alaskan cruises: since daylight hours are significantly extended during the summer, consider packing a sleep mask in your carry-on. It will help you adjust to the ‘midnight sun’ phenomenon and ensure a good night’s sleep.

Properly organizing your carry-on bag ensures you start your journey without any hiccups, keeping the focus on the awe-inspiring landscapes and unique experiences that await you in Alaska.

3. Book Cruise Line AND Independent Excursions

Many of the excursions offered by the cruise line are great, and we recommend booking one of these.

However, you should also book at least one independent one as you will save money and tour with a smaller group. 💡 The ship will discourage you from doing this, as excursions are a big moneymaker for the cruise line. Often, their primary argument is that the ship will wait for their own tours if they return late, but not for independent ones.

However, this is not a valid reason if you a) don’t book a long tour (more than 4 hours) and b) use a provider like GetYourGuide, where you usually have 24-hour penalty-free cancellation.

Must-Do in Juneau: Whale Watching
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This tour is fantastic! And there is one big advantage: You get off your ship and you are right there where the tour starts. The duration is only 3.5 hours, so it’s safe to book it.

Again, the advantages of booking an independent tour, for example via GetYourGuide:

Smaller Groups:

  • Joining a third-party tour often means being in a smaller group, unlike the large numbers that fill cruise line tours.
  • You could find yourself in a group of less than 20 people or even just your own private group.
  • This smaller setting makes it easier to ask questions and customize your day with activities that suit you, like special stops for pictures or activities for kids.
  • You can change the pace to suit your group, making the experience more tailored to what you want to see and do.

Significantly Cheaper/Better Value:

  • Booking directly with tour providers will save you money or offer more value than the same tours offered by cruise lines.
  • While small-group or private tours might initially seem more expensive than cruise ship excursions, they provide greater value by allowing customization and more direct sightseeing time, with less waiting for others.
  • Cost-sharing with a group can make these private tours more affordable per person, enhancing the overall experience without breaking the bank.

Booking an excursion independently while on an Alaska cruise offers personalized experiences, more adventurous activities, unique explorations, and better value for your money.

4. Research Your Ship

For us, it usually takes a couple of days until we learn the ins and outs of a new ship. Many passengers I talk to are overwhelmed at first and it takes a while to figure everything out.

I always suggest studying the ship you’re on prior to the cruise and compiling a list on your phone with details. For example which restaurants are specialty and complimentary, and checking if you need to book dining and show appointments.

The more research you can do ahead of the cruise, the less time you will waste within the first days of the cruise.

Embarkation Day: As soon as you board the ship, especially if you embark early, remember your cabin might not be ready yet, so it’s a great time to roam the ship and familiarize yourself!

If you embark on your Alaska cruise around noon, your cabin might not be ready until 2-3 PM, so brace yourself for this.

Occasionally, you might be able to head straight to your cabin upon embarkation, but this isn’t standard. Considering the previous guests would have vacated the cabins only around 8 am, the crew doesn’t have

5. Don’t Pack a Hair Dryer and Towels

Bringing a hair dryer on your Alaska cruise isn’t necessary due to the amenities provided on most modern cruise ships. Cruise ship cabins typically come equipped with a hair dryer for passengers’ use, saving you the hassle of packing one.

Packing your own towels is also not required and here’s why: Cruise lines provide ample towels for their passengers. In your cabin, you’ll find towels for showering, and additional ones are supplied for use at the pool or when going ashore for the beach or water-based excursions.

Thus, bringing your own hair dryer or towels would merely consume precious luggage space and add unnecessary weight to your baggage.

 

SEPTEMBER PACKING GUIDE | OUTFITS

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

First, let’s give you an overview of what you should bring on your cruise in September, as well as other summer months.

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, for example, when approaching a glacier or in the morning. 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. Especially in September layering is crucial as it can get chilly, depending on the location and the time of day.

Wear lightweight long underwear or leggings. Depending on the time of day, 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 Tips

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.

Women’s Outer Layer Lightweight Alternative Tips
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Columbia Women's Switchback Lined Long Jacket, Black, Large
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If you pack warm enough middle layers (fleece jackets and hoodies) and base layers (t-shirts, long sleeves), you may use a more lightweight outer layer, like a raincoat, instead of a warm jacket (see above).

Women’s Middle Layer Tips
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  • REGULAR FIT: Close but comfortable fit through chest, waist, and hips.

Fleece layers are essential. We always bring a fleece zip-up jacket and a zip-up hoodie.

Layering Example 1
  1. Light Raincoat (Amazon Link)
  2. Zip-up fleece jacket (Amazon Link)
  3. Light Sweatshirt
  4. T-shirt
Layering Example 2
  1. Fleece-Lined Hooded Rain Jacket (Amazon Link)
  2. Light Sweatshirt
  3. T-shirt

This is our favorite layering method for any Alaska cruise. The fleece-lined rain jacket keeps you warm and dry. The two base layers provide additional warmth and are often sufficient when the outer layer is removed.

Layering Example 3: For Cold Septembers
  1. Winter jacket/coat (Amazon Link/Budget Tip) or medium coat
  2. Light Sweatshirt
  3. T-shirt

If you get cold easily, the jacket should be a warm winter coat. Otherwise, you may also bring a medium puffer jacket or even go with our layering example one or two.

Men’s Outer Layer/Jacket

On cooler days in June, 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 sometimes. A warm jacket is 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.

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 better to bring a jacket which is waterproof and not only water-resistant. However, a very good water-resistant jacket can do its job as well. Additionally, pack water-resistant or waterproof boots and a compact travel umbrella.

Comfortable and Sturdy Shoes
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Many Alaska cruise excursions involve uneven terrain, so comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots are important. However, we never needed hiking shoes.

Sneakers/trainers, sandals, boat shoes, and other casual footwear are appropriate for onboard activities.

💡 Tip: The best thing you can do is bring comfortable, waterproof sneakers that are sturdy enough (see our tips above from Amazon). You can use these onboard and during excursions, saving you packing space!

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 was going to get drenched.

That’s why we didn’t add special pants to the packing lists in this article.

However, we 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.

Leggings?
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We sometimes wear leggings under jeans, rain pants, and hiking pants, so in case it gets hot, we can take the pants off and just wear leggings. The extra layer is great when it’s cold.

However, many visitors say they just wear jeans and have never needed more while some passengers bring silk underwear (men and women) or cuddle duds.

Dress for Dinner
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 pant suits, 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.

More Packing Tips

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. If you take a cruise that includes a land tour to Anchorage, Denali, or Fairbanks, you may find it’s warmer and drier than on the ship. So, don’t forget the t-shirt and tank top layer.

Packing Tips for 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, but 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 brought gloves for the nights I wanted to sit 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

 

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