Samantha Brown’s Tips for Cruising Alaska

Travel expert Samantha Brown viewing glaciers with family and National Park ranger.

We asked Samantha Brown, celebrated travel expert, what her tips would be for first-time cruisers to Alaska. Here’s what she had to say!

Note: Holland America Line is a proud sponsor of “Places to Love.”

Cruising the Inside Passage of Alaska was one of the most incredible bucket-list adventures my family and I have experienced in my many years of travel. During our Holland America Line cruise, we were able to learn more about Alaska’s indigenous culture, see some truly jaw-dropping sites, and dine on the freshest sustainable seafood you could imagine. It’s a trip we still remember fondly today. If you’re planning to go, here are some of my top tips for cruising Alaska so your vacation can be as seamless as ours.

Picking where to go

As the largest state in the United States (it’s over twice the size of Texas), there are a lot of potential routes you could cruise to Alaska. Holland America Line alone offers over a hundred different award-winning options that range from 7 days to 28 days. The best part is that they’re all great for multiple generations so the whole family can come along to enjoy.

Travel expert Samantha Brown with family in front of Juneau Alaska sign.

For our 7-day Inside Passage Cruise, we traveled with our kids and my in-laws. That’s three different generations to cater to! Because of the way the cruise was designed, everyone could split up to do what they wanted to do, and we all met back to share our stories over dinner. For example, while my mother-in-law, daughter, and I boarded the Aleutian Ballad to learn more about crab fishing, my father-in-law, husband, and son joined Baranof Fishing Excursions to catch us some dinner. And when my in-laws wanted to relax a bit over some oysters and champagne, we took the kids for a cultural experience at Sealaska Heritage.

Even on the ship itself, Holland America Line has the Kids Club for ages 3-17 and is run by full-time, professional staff. They put on a ton of different activities for each age group.

Packing for your cruise

Though your Alaska cruise will likely be during warmer months, that doesn’t mean it’ll always be warm out! We were there when it was unseasonably warm for July, but temperatures still dropped down to 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. That means less swimsuits and flip flops and more layers and sneakers.

With this in mind, you’ll want to pack for two occasions:

Many of our excursions included getting outdoors both on land and on water. From dogsledding to whale watching, we always wanted to make sure we were comfortable. This meant wearing layers! I recommend packing a long-sleeved shirt, sweater and a lighter, waterproof jacket. If you tend to get cold, consider adding another layer.

As far as footwear goes, we also made sure to pack sturdy, waterproof shoes meant for walking thousands of steps, and nice thick socks to keep our feet warm and dry.

It can’t hurt to have gloves, a hat and a scarf for extra warmth and protection against the wind.

Travel expert Samantha Brown with family on whale watching shore excursion.

You’ll have a variety of dining options to choose from, and that can influence attire. Check out dinner dress tips for more information. Just remember no shorts in the dining room during formal nights.

Cruise Dining

Speaking of dining, did you know Holland America Line has a team of world-class celebrity chefs? From steaks and seafood at Pinnacle Grill to French dishes at Rudi’s Sel De Mer, you will have plenty to choose from for specialty dining. And if burgers and fries are something you crave, you’ll find those dishes onboard as well!

Travel expert Samantha Brown and family in dining room on Holland America Line cruise ship.

Planning for Excursions

I recommend booking excursions when booking your cruise, as popular ones like dogsledding are more likely to fill up fast. A personal cruise consultant should be able to help you navigate what’s available based on the ages of those in your group, the destination, and any safety concerns you may have.

Also, check out their “Have It All” Premium Cruise Package. This helps you maximize the cruise experience while saving some money at the same time.

Choosing your room 

Cruise ships typically offer a variety of room options, and the most inexpensive options are any interior rooms that won’t have any views. If there’s one cruise you want to enjoy with a view, it’s Alaska, so spend a little extra to upgrade your room. Contact a personal cruise consultant to determine what offers may be available for upgrades.

Download your cruise’s app

Most cruises have an app that makes the whole experience more seamless. Holland America Line has the Navigator app which helps you access your digital boarding pass, make dining or shore excursion reservations, order food, plan your daily activities, chat with others onboard and more.  It really makes it easier having these options in the palm of your hands.

I hope these tips for cruising Alaska help you as you prepare for your own cruise. If you have any questions or any tips to add, comment below!

Travel expert Samantha Brown with family holding puppies in Alaska.

Join the Discussion


  1. Nick Mecham March 23, 2023 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Do men need a coat and tie on “formal” night?

    • Julie March 31, 2023 at 8:37 am - Reply

      A jacket and tie is the preferred attire in all fine dining restaurants on Dressy nights, though this is not required. Guests without a jacket and tie have always been allowed in fine dining restaurants, so this is not a policy change.

  2. Toni Vitanzq March 18, 2023 at 9:39 am - Reply

    I wish I knew the policy for the Sea View pool. Is it, or is it not, adult only? Is it a different policy for different ships at different times? Does the captain decide?

    • Julie May 26, 2023 at 10:50 am - Reply

      When the cruises have a large amount of children, it is supposed to be adults only. Some ships have it adults only the majority of the time regardless. The captain does not decide.

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