Top Alaska Cruise Tips: Be Fully Prepared

Alaska cruise tips

Alaska is one of the most stunning destinations on earth for cruise passengers. To be prepared as possible for your epic adventure, we have compiled our top Alaska cruise tips.

Although you'll love your cruise no matter what you do, it's always best to be fully prepared so you can get the most out of it. We often speak to people after they've been to Alaska and realise they missed out on certain things which leaves them feeling a bit disappointed. No one wants that.

These Alaska cruise tips will guarantee that you don't miss a single thing - or forget to bring anything! 

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Top Alaska Cruise Tips

Bring The Right Clothes

Alaska cruise tips - clothing

There is no escaping the fact that the weather in Alaska is often less than ideal. You will almost certainly encounter rain and frequent high winds. The weather is also quite unpredictable and can change from one moment to the next without warning.

As such, you need the right clothing. A good rain jacket is paramount, as is a warm parka. Make sure your jacket is both wind and waterproof. You'll also need base layers to keep the heat in below your fleece. We recommend base layers made from merino wool as these will keep you the warmest while still being able to wick away moisture. Make sure to bring a good pair of hiking boots also. If you're taking an expedition cruise then you'll also need a par of muck boots for 'wet landings' via zodiac. 

For a full Alaska packing list, please click here

Choose The Right Cruise Line

Alaska cruise tips - cruise lines

The cruise line you travel on will have a great impact upon your experience. Different cruise lines cater towards different clients and it's important to know the differences prior to booking.

For example, families with kids will want to travel with either Disney, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or Norwegian. Disney is certainly brilliant for children, but Norwegian offer a 'freestyle option' which means you can eat at whatever time you like throughout the day. For young couples cruise lines like Princess or Celebrity will be best. Older couples may prefer Holland America. Luxury lines like Seabourn, Crystal, and Silversea aren't very good at catering to children - but the luxury element excellent. For more information on cruise lines please click here

There is also the option of taking an expedition cruise with someone like National Geographic or Silver Explorer. These ships are much smaller and focus on wildlife viewing more than anything. These cruises cater towards adventure lovers, photographers and nature enthusiasts. 

Book Optional Activities 

Alaska cruise tips - activities

Taking part in shore excursions and activities is one of the best things you can do during your Alaska cruise. A great tip is to head to Youtube and check out some of the activities on offer. This will give you a good sense of what will suit you. If you like you can see our page (and videos) on Alaska shore excursions here.

There are loads of excursions to choose from including salmon fishing, whale safaris, dog sledding, sightseeing flights, glacier hiking, rafting, snorkelling etc. We strongly advise to book ahead to avoid disappointment. Each cruise line will offer different shore excursions, however, you can book your own excursions separately - you just need to make sure you are in the right port/town and have enough time.

Alternatively you can book an Alaskan cruise tour which will givr you more time on land for activities.

Book Well Ahead

Alaska cruise tips - 1

We really can't stress this enough - please book your Alaska cruise well in advance! You'll hear people talking about last minute offers which save hundreds of dollars. Whilst last minute offers are often good, they're no cheaper than booking a year in advance and getting the 'early bird' deals. 

Also, the earlier you book, the more time you have to prepare and plan your trip. This means you can book everything else well in advance like hotels and flights which will also be cheaper than last minute prices. 

Seasickness Prevention

Alaska cruise tips - seasickness

Although the waters throughout Alaska's Inside Passage are fairly calm, you can still sometimes feel a little motion. This is mainly on the smaller luxury boats and expedition ships. Large mega lines feel very little motion, if any. So the first thing to do if you suffer from severe motion sickness is to book your cruise aboard a very large ship - one with 3,000+ passengers will be enormous.

We also suggest booking a cabin low down in the ship where the motion is felt less. The centre of the ship will also receive less motion, but you won't get a cabin with a view if you are in the centre of the boat (it will be cheaper though). If you feel sick during your cruise, try ginger tea, get some fresh air and look towards the horizon - this always helps a little. If you're still struggling then medication is the only route available and generally works very well - even for severe sufferers. 

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Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

Extra Camera Gear

Alaska cruise tips - photography

For people who love their photography, there will be ample opportunities during your trip. Both the landscape and wildlife of Alaska is breathtaking and you'll be clicking away on your camera throughout your cruise. As mentioned above, rain is common - so a weather sealed camera body is important. You'll also want to bring extra batteries as the cold weather can drain them more quickly than normal.

If you see a bear, you'll find you've taken 500 shots within ten minutes and run out of space on your memory card - so remember to bring extras! For wildlife lovers, a long lens is paramount. Aboard your ship you'll never be that close, so you'll want lens that can reach 400mm minimum. If you do love photography and wildlife, you're best off taking an expedition cruise as there will be better viewing opportunities.  

Sail In The Shoulder Months

Alaska cruise tips - months

When to sail during the summer is quite a contentious point among Alaska cruise passengers. There is no denying that the peak period of summer (June - August) has better weather and more active wildlife. However, we would argue that the shoulder months of the season (May and September) offer a more relaxed cruise experience. You may even witness the Northern lights during this period.  

For one thing, there are far less people during the shoulder months which is quite a relief. It's also much less costly and the major deals are found in these months. Yes, the weather is worse, but we personally prefer dramatic weather for photography. However, the weather is often fine - so you never know. For a full guide on when to cruise Alaska, please click here

Listen To The Naturalists 

Alaska cruise tips - naturalist

On all expedition cruises (and most mega cruise lines) there will be onboard naturalists. These people are very experienced and know the geography and eco-system of the environment extremely well. They often give daily talks about the flora and fauna and can really help make the region around you come alive. 

We strongly recommend you going to a couple of the talks. They're not boring lectures, they're more like fascinating chats about the local ecology. Very informative if you have a love of the environment and the wildlife. 

Bring Binoculars

Alaska cruise tips - binoculars

Because most Alaska cruise ships are very large, you'll never be super close to the wildlife whilst onboard. Don't panic though, there are plenty of shore excursion opportunities that will get you closer. However, for onboard sightings, we suggest bringing a good pair of binoculars.

We're not talking about the big pair of binoculars you found in your grandparents house, we're talking about modern, sharp binoculars that will do the job properly. Trust us, after you've tried a great pair of binoculars, everything else seems tragic in comparison. If you want to go all out or are planning on doing more cruises, then seriously consider image-stabilisation binoculars - these will change your life. 

Try The Local Food

Alaska cruise tips - local food

Last tip but not least, try the local food. Yes, we know the food onboard your ship will be delicious - it always is - but make sure to have a meal or two in port at a local restaurant. 

Local favourites include the famous salmon bakes, Alaskan King Crab, smoked salmon chowder, and Crab-Stuffed Halibut. The Red Dog Saloon in Juneau is a great place to start. Wash it all down with some local craft beer. 

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.


If you have any queries or questions regarding our Alaska cruise tips, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.

Thank you and happy travels!

Expedition Cruise Team

About the Author Burnham Arlidge

Burnham started his career as a professional tennis player before retiring due to injury. Since then Burnham has thrown himself into adventure travel. He has cruised to some of the most iconic and obscure parts of the planet.

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