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What to Pack for a Cruise to Alaska: 3 Necessities & Casual Outfit Ideas

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

casual cruise wear for alaskaA reader asked me what to pack for a cruise to Alaska, so I thought I’d give you some ideas about what you should wear on a cold-weather cruise in a wild and wooly part of the world. Here’s the exact question I received: “I'm doing my first ever cruise in June but we are heading north... Alaska. Norwegian, I believe, is our cruise line. What do you recommend for that?”

Here is what I learned from my own packing mistakes for my cruise to Alaska... and I've included a few ideas about what kinds of clothes smart women, like you, should bring on your trip.

My Honeymoon Was a Princess Cruise to Alaska

Ten years ago, I remarried, and our honeymoon was a Princess cruise to Alaska. It was my first cruise and I brought all the wrong stuff. I packed as if I were staying in a regular, big city hotel. (So, learn from my mistakes.)

how to pack for alaska cruise ncl princess raincoat, rain hat, sweater boomerinas.com

For that trip, the first of many cruises, I brought boots with heels (unsteady, spindly heels), extremely dressy clothes (what was I thinking), and fashionable jackets (cute, but not waterproof). Well… just before leaving, I had an epiphany... I unzipped my bag and threw in a pair of jeans and some tennis shoes... just in case I might need them. It was a last-minute afterthought and it was just in the nick of time... right before we loaded the bags into the car.

Fortunately, my husband saved the day. It turned out that he had packed two waterproof jackets for himself. Without that extra jacket the whole thing would have been a disaster. His somewhat ugly, outdoorsy jacket was huge. It was miles too big for me... but it kept me dry… and being dry meant being warm.

Alaskan Cruises are Casual

You’re smart enough to know that you need socks, underwear, sunglasses, and such, so I’m just going to talk about fashion ideas for Alaska cruises or for any cold-weather cruise.

what to pack for trip to alaska cruise

Alaska is the land of the Nirvana-grunge, plaid-flannel, hard-drinking mode d'être. So, in general, people on Alaskan cruises will be wearing outfits that are quite casual. Hey, it’s Alaska, not Vienna. And, Alaska cruises are very family oriented… which makes them very cool and different, as well as very casual.

I Always Dress for Dinner

what is smart casual or cruise casual for shipsPersonally, I like to get a little dressed up a bit for dinner, no matter what, because that’s half the fun of going on a cruise, but what you wear is up to you. And, even though I’ve never been on an NCL cruise, I’ve done a bit of research, and a cruise to Alaska on Norwegian Cruise Lines is going to be about as laid back as it gets. I mean, you’re NEVER going to be thrown out for being overdressed, however it doesn’t sound like you will EVER see a ballgown on any NCL ship… on any itinerary. So, I recommend that you go for a look that’s simple and flattering, but not red carpet. On the other hand, this cruise gives you a lot of leeway! And, you can have a lot of fun with your elegant wardrobe and a bit of wild jewelry… and you can show them ‘em how it’s done!

Some cruise forums (like Cruise Critic) make it sound like an LBD is going to be “over the top” on NCL, but I always wear whatever I want and I often overdress. Hey, I don’t care if other people wear their jammies into the main dining room (as long as my husband is not one of them). I may snicker later on, but it will give me an amusing story to tell someday. (article continues)

Keep reading about what to pack for an Alaska cruise on page two.

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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  1. kay kerns

    My daughter Amber works as a Massage Therapist in the spa on a NCL ship cruising between the Hawaiian Islands so I read this article with interest....I wonder how people dress on that ship? From what she has told me, about like what you said....more dressy casual than swanky. Your advice to pack a jacket and sensible shoes + layers sounds right on for a lot of traveling situations. I am going to pin this on my Seasonless/Snowbird board because I like the outfit ideas at the end of your arrticle. Good work!

  2. Tina-Boomerina


    I took a cruise from LA to HI (roundtrip). It was freezing out in the open waters until we got to the islands, but I think your dot works on the line that goes around Hawaii. You always need to take something that's the opposite of what you think you'll need for any trip (like a sweater for Tahiti or shorts for Norway or a rain poncho for the desert) because weather is unpredictable and you may need that WHATEVER-IT-IS. But, if your dot works on the Hawaiian cruise ship, it won't be too cold. However, you should always have a pair of ballet flats or flat sandals tucked away for any cruise. You might need them for a casual night or a formal night if the sea is bumpy. Walking on crutches is not sexy... well, some women can pull it off, but it's no fun to fall down the stairs in high heels - well, I wear heels in almost all seas.


  3. kay kerns

    You're right the ship Amber works on just cruises between the 4 biggest islands . I remember being out on a boat when I did live in Hawaii and you would definitely need a rain jacket or sweatshirt! At least when it's rainy or windy, or at night. Also atop some of the highest mountains there can be snow. I never wear heels any more so no problem there! hugs, Kay

  4. Tina-Boomerina


    I've read about that cruise line and I think it's called something America... but could have it mixed up with another line.

    Yes, you would definitely want a sweater or sweatshirt or poncho or something... just in case. You know how Hawaii is. One minute rain...next minute intense sun. I hope you go. Heck, I hope I go. I've been around the islands on a different cruise but we spent a zillion days at sea and it wasn't the same. I wish I could afford to move back to HI... maybe at some point. I think I would try the big island (or Maui if I could afford it). Kauai is supposed to be WAY more expensive than other islands... but I finally got to see it on that cruise. Gorgeous. Rainy, but amazing.

  5. holly

    Hey, I love that blue dress above but cant find it anywhere but here. Where is that pretty blue dress from?? Thanks so much:)

    • Tina-Boomerina


      Oh holy heck, I forgot to put the photo credits on this article. If you're talking about the plus size blue dress in the main photo, I'm fairly sure it's an Asos dress. I'll check.

      OK, bummer... I don't see that exact dress, but I see several others that are similar and you might like them. I'll send you a link.


  6. Danial Ward

    Informative post .