Alaska Season is Underway, So Let’s Get Packing

The wait is over! Holland America Line ships are back in Alaska for a full season of cruising to some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the state.

The glorious glaciers, stunning scenery and amazing animals await, all ready to give our guests another fabulous Alaska adventure! On May 3, Westerdam arrived back at Seattle to embark guests for the first roundtrip Seattle cruise of the season. Holland America Line President and CEO Stein Kruse was on hand to welcome the ship and speak to the media.

Westerdam arrives at Seattle and Stein Kruse speaks to a local television station.

Westerdam arrives at Seattle and Stein Kruse speaks to a local television station.

Whether you’re a cruising novice or an aficionado, packing can be a daunting task for even the savviest traveler. Different climates require different attire, and if you’re a fitness buff or active explorer, that’s another set of clothes and shoes.

And different parts of the world require different attire depending on weather and culture. When you hear the word “Alaska” you might think that you need to pack your warmest down jacket, thickest scarf and thermals to keep warm. But depending on where you are cruising, you’d be wrong.

Holland America has some excellent tips that will have you packing like a pro, especially in Alaska where the weather might be surprisingly warmer than expected. For even more tips on packing, check out Holland America Line’s Pinterest board dedicated to packing for your cruise.

Photo courtesy Alex R. and Womenz Mag.

Photo courtesy Alex R. and Womenz Mag.

The experts at Holland America Line, the largest and most experienced Alaska travel company, have some tips on packing when you’re headed north on a cruise or Land+Sea Journey.

On an Inside Passage cruise you will be traveling along the protected waterways of Southeast Alaska, also known as “the Panhandle.” The weather here is temperate, with summertime highs usually between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, climbing occasionally into the 70s and 80s.

If you venture farther North you will find the climate to be drier. Summer temperatures in Fairbanks and other parts of the Interior often reach 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Arctic, for those traveling to Prudhoe Bay or Nome and Kotzebue, temperatures are cooler, in the 40s and 50s.

Alaska is casual, but be prepared to dress for dinners (see dinner dress below). The best approach is to bring clothes that can be layered; more layers for cooler, windier weather, fewer layers for warm, dry days. Be sure to also bring:

• A lightweight, waterproof coat or jacket, as well as a sweater or warm vest for strolling the decks of the ship and for glacier viewing

• A warm hat and gloves

• Women may want to bring two or three pairs of washable slacks or jeans (combined with polo shirts, blouses or light sweaters and accessorized with a belt, scarf or jewelry this basic outfit can be worn just about anywhere. Depending on weather and occasion, add a blazer, cardigan or windbreaker jacket)

• Men may want to add an extra pair of slacks, but they’ll find that the same basic dress theme works for them, too (there is no place in Alaska a man cannot go in a sport coat and slacks. Also, a dark suit is appropriate for dinner onboard the ship)

• Sturdy walking shoes for every day use (two pairs are suggested) both leather, to stand up to rain if necessary, and a pair with a good arch support

• One or two pairs of dress shoes to accompany your dinner outfit

Evening dress onboard falls into two distinct categories; Formal or Smart Casual. Smart Casual can be defined as slacks and sports shirt or sweater for men and skirt or trousers and sweater or blouse for women. T-shirts, swimsuits, tank tops and shorts are not allowed in the restaurants or public areas during the evening hours. On festive Formal evenings, ladies usually wear a cocktail dress or gown and gentlemen usually wear a suit and tie or tuxedo. There are approximately two formal nights per week.

If you’re a fitness fan or just like to stroll around the decks be sure to pack your exercise clothes. There are aerobics classes on the ships, treadmills, exercise bikes and other equipment in the fitness center on board each ship. The free Passport to Fitness program has the added fun of a reward at the end of the cruise for participating in onboard activities. Be sure to bring your running or aerobics shoes, swimsuit and a cover-up (for lounging, if not for warming up.)


• Bulky or winter-weight sweaters or jackets

• Rain boots and long underwear (outfitters throughout Alaska provide special gear needed for their activities, such as warm “moon boots” for walking on glaciers, waterproof rainwear, boots and life vests for river rafting or sea kayaking)


• Be sure to take toiletries and prescriptions for both medication and eye glasses to aid in replacement in the unlikely event they become misplaced

• A travel alarm clock (although wake-up calls are offered on all Holland America Line cruises and at most hotels and inns)

• Binoculars if you enjoy bird watching or would like a closer look at wildlife and glaciers

Holland America Line’s ships have laundry service, dry cleaning and pressing service on all ships.

• There are self-serve laundry rooms complete with ironing boards and irons (laundry soap is available for purchase) on all ships but the Vista Class: ms Oosterdam, ms Westerdam, ms Noordam and ms Zuiderdam

• Self-service laundry facilities also are available at many of the hotels at which Land+Sea Journey passengers stay

Journalist David Cogswell wrote an article entitled “Zen and The Art of Packing” for In it he writes:

Travel is good discipline. While packing you must consider each item for whether or not it’s worth lugging around. It s a big job made up of a thousand details. You have to fit everything you will need for a week or two in one bag that is small enough to carry around the whole time you’re gone.

Packing is an organizing process that forces you to consider your priorities and the importance of every single item you might want to bring. It’s like spring cleaning, and the punishment for failing to do it right is to end up at your dream destination without some of those essentials you take for granted when you’re at home, like your deodorant, your fingernail clippers or your private little unmentionables.

The moment you step out the door you plunge into a streamlined lifestyle. While you are living out of a suitcase, your life is as unencumbered as the Japanese who live in elegant, stark spaces. Temporarily you are a nomad. Somehow you get by without all that stuff you normally feel you have to have.

He likens packing to the art of zen and “puting oneself in tune with ultimate reality.”

And when you are deciding what you can take with you on a long trip far from your customary support system, you are dealing with basic existential realities. What do I really need? Where do I draw the line between myself and my possessions? It’s a chance to free oneself of unnecessary encumbrances.

When you travel do you free yourself of “unnecessary encumbrances” or taken anything and everything you think you might need? Tell us below!


Join the Discussion


  1. Linda couce September 8, 2022 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Hi Julie are the pools open a d heated on the zuiderdam Alaska Cruise in September?

  2. Jeannie Harms May 23, 2022 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    Dear Julie. It’s now 2022. We’re sailing on the Holland America Whittier to Vancouver. Please clarify dress code, gala nights for men and women for September. We’re older, want to travel as light as possible. Prefer dressy casual for both of us at our age. Will this be allowed? (No coat or tie, but good dress shirt.

  3. Jennie Adams June 6, 2018 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    I am I need to bring a jacket for my husband. Can I wear dressy slacks instead of a dress?

  4. James Feimster July 11, 2017 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Does holland america have on board ship app to use for communication?
    Another question dress for men on formal night, are dark blues ok or does it have to dress pants.
    Thanks for you help

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