A popular way to see Alaska is by cruise, as it gives travelers an up-close view of its stellar coastline and glaciers. Plus, it makes covering the huge state far easier and quicker. While Alaskan sailings have similar protocols and must-take items as other cruises (think sunscreen, luggage tags, and elegant wear for formal dress nights), there are a few specific things needed for these itineraries. Below, we've rounded up eight things you should be sure to pack for an Alaskan cruise.
Editor's note: Prices are accurate at the time of publishing and may have changed.
No matter what time of year you go, there’s a high chance you’ll encounter some rain. Whether it’s when you’re hiking, exploring towns such as Skagway, or on the boat overlooking Hubbard Glacier, a rain jacket is ideal for keeping you dry and happy. This one from Columbia comes in an array of colors, is lightweight, and has zippered pockets, plus it conveniently packs into its pocket.
The average Alaskan cruiser won’t need professional hiking boots, but a pair of sturdy hiking shoes with good traction is a necessity. While essential for treks such as the Deer Mountain Trail in Ketchikan, hiking shoes will also come in handy for walks around Tongass National Forest in Juneau or to Hoonah from Icy Strait Point — particularly when the ground is wet. The Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe is the perfect (and comfortable) compromise between running shoes and hiking boots.
At embarkation for an Alaskan cruise, you’ll almost certainly pass a stand selling binoculars in the $150 to $200 range, plus the shops onboard will have some for purchase. But unless you’re serious about your binoculars, there’s no need to spend that much. These affordable binoculars from Bushnell offer excellent magnification, and come with a carrying case. With them, wildlife spotting, getting a close view of calving glaciers, and checking out the stars are all easy.
No matter when you go to Alaska, you’re undoubtedly going to encounter some chilly weather, at least early in the morning or at night. Layering is key for an Alaskan cruise, so be sure to pack a fleece sweater that will keep you toasty. The appropriately named Denali 2 Jacket from North Face is cozy and attractive, and has zippered closure so you can take it on and off with ease.
Cruisers that opt for forest excursions or go on hikes are likely to encounter some pesky bugs. Keep a pocket-size repellent on hand like this one from BugMace, which is DEET-free and made from a combination of organic essential oils. Use it to guard against mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, gnats, and more.
Sun hats aren’t always the most stylish, but this one from SiggiHat is cute and practical. Use it to keep the sun off your face while sunbathing on the ship’s upper deck or when whale watching on an excursion. The adjustable drawstring is crucial, as you’ll likely encounter some wind on your cruise. It’s also easy to pack in your suitcase.
Your cabin likely comes with an umbrella, but we’re fans of being over-prepared and making sure you have the most reliable gear possible. This umbrella from EEZ-Y hits all the high marks for durability, compactness, and price. The double-canopy structure prevents the wind from flipping it inside out, and the automatic open and close button means you only need one hand free.
You may be tempted to pack that $20 pair of sunglasses, but when you’re spending so much time outside, it’s important to have a good quality pair. Costa Del Mar’s sunglasses are polarized and have multiple lens options for various light situations. We especially love the durable Anaa sunglasses with a blue mirror lens for eye protection while out on the water.
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