By Patricia Doherty
Updated February 28, 2020
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If most of your cruises up to this point have been tropical cruises, European cruises, or river cruises, you might be looking for some advice on packing for your first cruise to Alaska. Yes, it’s cold among the magnificent icebergs, and you’ll thrill at being close to them as your ship passes by. You’ll want to be on the deck to see whales, orcas, sea lions, otters, and those cute puffins, even with a chill in the air and maybe some rain.

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You’ll have a chance to walk on a glacier, stroll through a historic Gold Rush town, hike up a snowy mountain, and glide over the icy terrain on a sled pulled by powerful — and adorable — dogs. You might even paddle a kayak or hop into a Zodiac to get even closer to Alaskan wildlife or icebergs. And you want to be prepared for all those experiences.

Still, it is a cruise, so on your ship, you’ll have dinners, evening entertainment, and time to relax. We’ve put together a list of items you’ll want to pack so you can be sure to enjoy every minute of your Alaskan cruise.

Warm, Waterproof Coat

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You’ll probably encounter some rain, and even if you don’t, you’ll look good in this water-repellent, down jacket with hood, hand-warmer pockets, and elastic cuffs. Best of all, it packs into a small, lightweight pouch, taking up barely any space.

To buy: amazon.com, from $51

Hiking Boots

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Be prepared for a hike in one of Alaska’s lush rainforests with sturdy waterproof hiking boots. You'll want soles that provide traction on slippery surfaces, and a pair that's lightweight, comfortable, and good looking enough for walking around town.

To buy: amazon.com, from $80 (men's, left); zappos.com $105 (women's, right)

Swimsuit

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You may be thinking about cold weather, but a dip in a relaxing pool or soothing hot tub at the end of the day is part of the fun aboard your cruise ship. Be sure to pack a favorite swimsuit or buy a new one for the occasion.

To buy: nordstrom.com, $118

Touchscreen Texting Gloves

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Keep your hands warm while you use your phone to text, follow directions, and of course, post some of the gorgeous photos you’ll be taking. These unisex, cable-knit gloves are made of soft, stretch acrylic and feature SmartTips technology, making them both practical and stylish.

To buy: amazon.com $11.49

Lens Kit for Phone Photos

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If your phone is your favorite camera, you’ll want to enhance your photos with this lens kit that provides a wide angle view, perfect for Alaskan landscapes, mountains, and the small town harbors you’ll see during your cruise. The macro lens is great for closeups of memorable meals, and the clip-on fill light will make them look as good as they taste. Almost, anyway.

To buy: amazon.com, $40

DSLR Camera

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If you want to go beyond your phone for photos, this camera is the way to go. Built in Wi-Fi makes it convenient to post your photos, and features like auto focus, optional lenses, 24.2 megapixel sensor, and low light capability make it easy to take fabulous photos.

To buy: amazon.com, $799

Binoculars

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You won’t miss a thing if you take these high-quality binoculars on your cruise. Whether spotting seals, whales, or otters from the ship or wildlife like moose, sheep, or mountain goats while on a shore excursion, you’ll want to have these compact, waterproof high quality binoculars nearby. The convenient included neck strap will make that easy.

To buy: macys.com $120

Sunscreen

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This is something you might not think about when heading to a cold climate, but protecting your skin from UV rays is important no matter where you are. This high quality SPF 50 is transparent and weightless, ideal for all skin types.

To buy: dermstore.com, $66

GoPro Waterproof Action Camera

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Capture your adventures as they happen with this convenient, streamlined camera. Stabilization options smooth out super action like zip lining, dog sledding, or whales frolicking near your ship. You can also choose the perfect single frame shot to hang on your wall when you get home.

To buy: amazon.com, $407

Small Backpack

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For convenient, hands-free carrying of all your needs when you head out for the day on an exciting shore excursion like a hike, visit to an Alaskan town, or Zodiak cruise, a small backpack will come in handy and ensure you have your camera, phone, portable charger, etc. nearby.

To buy: adidas.com, $30

Portable Phone Charger

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When you’re out all day taking photos, posting them, texting, and using your phone for directions and details, you’ll probably drain your battery before you’re back on the ship to recharge. Take a portable charger along and you won’t have to worry.

To buy: amazon.com, $23

Beanies

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You’ll need some cute hats to keep your head warm. Take several along to change your look as you stay cozy. Put an extra in your backpack in case of rain.

To buy: amazon.com, $19

Journal

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While you relax at the end of the day, maybe with a glass of wine in your stateroom, recap the adventures of the day in a journal. You’ll enjoy reading your notes when you get home, and along with your photos, you’ll have the perfect remembrance of your Alaska cruise.

To buy: amazon.com, $14

Flyby Hangover Cure & Prevention Pills

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It may be tempting to overindulge in cocktails and wine with dinner or during an evening of fun. You’re on vacation, after all. But you want to be ready for your next adventure in the morning. Take these along just in case.

To buy: amazon.com, $18

Formal Dress

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During the day, you’ll be casual and outfitted for the outdoors while you explore Alaska’s quaint towns, ride with sled dogs, or hike through a rainforest. But you’ll want to clean up and look your best for the evening, so be sure to pack something pretty. A little black dress always works.

To buy: nordstrom.com, $198

Comfortable Dress Shoes

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You’ll be able to dance all night in these super comfortable heels. They look and feel great, and you have a choice of solid colors or cool animal prints.

To buy: margaux.com, $245

Fitness Tracker

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You’ll be logging lots of steps on your trip if you take advantage of shore excursions on your cruise, and even on days at sea you can keep up your fitness plans by walking or using the ship’s gym. It’s the best way to indulge in all the delicious offerings and return home without an extra ounce.

To buy: amazon.com, $96

Workout Pants

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Wear these for exercise or all day, even on a hike. Lightweight and slim fitting, they look good and feel comfortable with some stretch. Front slant pockets and one zippered pocket make these practical too.

To buy: nordstrom.com, $59

Bluetooth Headphones

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Lightweight and ideal for listening to your music, podcast, or audio book when it’s time to relax. They’re convenient and reasonably priced as well.

To buy: amazon.com, $100

Sunglasses

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Protect your eyes when it’s sunny or on bright days with lots of reflection from the snow and sea. It could be time for a new pair of shades, even if just for something fun to take along on  your cruise.

To buy: ray-ban.com, $140

Pajama Set

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This might be the right time for new PJs, and a matched set for nighttime comfort and warmth would be ideal.

To buy: saksfifthavenue.com, $178

Cashmere Sweater

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Warm and soft, there’s nothing like a cashmere sweater for looks and comfort. And what better time to treat yourself to a new one? Casual for daytime and pretty for evening.

To buy: macys.com, $189

Travel Wristbands for Motion Sickness

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If you tend to get queasy, take these along just in case. They take up little space, and they come four to a package, so you might even be able to rescue a fellow cruiser as well as yourself if the sea gets a bit bumpy.

To buy: amazon.com, $17