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Cruise Diva's Packing & Planning Suggestions 
for Cool Cruise Destinations

by Linda Coffman
Alaska Cruising - Wildlife

Binoculars are a must-have for wildlife sightings

Packing for a cruise to Alaska, or other northern destinations, isn't a lot different than packing for most other cruises. After all, these cruises are seasonal and you will be there in summer. While you might think the weather is chilly, don't be surprised to see residents in shorts.

Begin planning where you normally do—with Cruise Diva's Original Packing List (tailored for women), where you'll find the basics. Unless you choose a cruise line with an "elegant casual" dress code, you'll need the usual dressier outfits for formal nights. Packing for Men has that covered.

Now, for those special Cool Cruise requirements...

~ Dress in Layers: Trust me on this, you'll be far more comfortable in a cotton turtleneck topped with a light sweater and windbreaker-style jacket than bundled up in a parka. Add and subtract layers as the weather warrants. You will find that temperatures can fluctuate wildly. If you intend to purchase long underwear, consider silk—it feels nice and is extremely effective.

~ Pants: Jeans and corduroys are fine for days ashore in cool climates. Yes, you're on a cruise and you won't want to wear jeans to dinner, but they are quite acceptable for daytime.

~ "Wind Suits": These are a staple in some women's wardrobes and the nylon suits lined with cotton are ideal for cool weather. You might want to add a pair of leggings under the pants if temperatures dictate something heavier.

~ Jackets: No, you won't necessarily need a down parka; however, if you are visiting the North Cape you will need a warm jacket or coat. With layers beneath to trap warmth, an anorak-type jacket, lined windbreaker, or a slicker (particularly useful if it rains) should be sufficient. Items made of Gore-tex are very effective at cutting the wind. Remember, with all the spectacular scenery, you'll want to spend some time on deck, especially the day your ship stops alongside a glacier. Extended time outside can mean you'll be cold if you're not properly dressed.

~ Accessories: Comfortable shoes go without saying—try to make sure yours are water-resistant and wear warm socks with them. Gloves and a hat or knit headband that covers your ears are necessary for that day at a glacier.

~ Gear: Bring along your camera, plenty of film, and batteries. Binoculars are a must for viewing wildlife—you don't want to miss seeing a bald eagle up close! A lightweight backpack or tote bag is handy for carrying your gear, both on board ship and ashore. You never know when a whale or a bear will decide to take a look at you and you'll want your binoculars handy.

~ Miscellaneous: I find that if I have an umbrella, I won't need it—pack one that folds up. Insect repellant is also handy in Alaska in summertime when the native mosquitoes can be fierce. Good facial moisturizers and body lotions will keep your skin from feeling dry and chapped.

Does that sound like a lot of extras? Keep in mind that by dressing in layers, you can mix-and-match for versatility. Three or four light tops can take up less room in a suitcase than one heavy sweater or sweatshirt. You'll get a lot more in your suitcases by compressing garments, as outlined in Cruise Diva's Planning & Packing Tips

A few words about sweatshirts—if you plan to buy one as a souvenir, wear it during your cruise and don't pack one.

And, because you're on a cruise, DO pack bathing suits and at least one pair of shorts. Most cruise ships have a heated or covered pool and hot tubs for relaxation and you may find the weather balmy on the southern reaches of your itinerary.

Photo © Author's Collection


Cool Cruising - The Alaska cruise experience by Linda Coffman

Cruise Norway & The North Cape - By cruise expert Mary Ann Rizzo

Ports of Call - Exclusive Alaska port profiles from

Cruise Diva's FOCUS on Cool Cruise Destinations - What you need to know before you go!

Explore North - The world's largest gateway to the circumpolar North, from arts and culture to science and tourism. Alaska history, articles, and links to related resources by Murray Lundberg, historian, writer and photographer.

You'll find great gear for serious travelers in Magellan's Catalog, including Eagle Creek packing organizers and the Pack-It Compressor Set.

Baltic Ports of Call - From the white cliffs of Dover to intriguing St. Petersburg, the centers of power, charm, history, and art in Northern Europe. 

Baltic Cruise Diary - Follow our progress from Dover to Stockholm.

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Cruise Reviews by Cruise Diva & Past Passengers

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