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Top 10 Must-Pack Items for an Alaska Cruise

Carnival Spirit in Alaska (Photo: Carnival)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 11, 2010. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: baggage, cruise, Cruise Critic, Kim Kazell, Cruise Critic, packing, weather.

Alaska cruises certainly aren't anything like a day at the beach. So when it comes to packing, what ends up in your luggage likely won't resemble the bikinis and Hawaiian shirts you'd choose for a tropical getaway. We were curious about what our members thought were the most essential items to pack for the unpredictable weather conditions and rugged terrain found on an Alaska cruise.

SmarterTravel's sister site, Cruise Critic asked its members—many who've already experienced a sailing in the scenic state—to vote for the most important things to remember to take for a cruise to Alaska. The results are in, and we've compiled a list of the top 10 things you can't leave home without. For anyone planning a journey to the 49th state, be sure to heed this valuable packing advice.

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10. Hiking Boots You'll need a sturdy pair of hiking boots or shoes to tread upon Alaska's mountainous terrain. Cruise Critic member sue450 recommends "a pair of waterproof hiking shoes (they look like tennis shoes but the Gore-Tex makes them absolutely waterproof). I wore these A LOT."

9. Alarm Clock You wouldn't want to miss wildlife sightings or be the last off the ship in port, so it's important to rise and shine early on port days. If you don't like wake-up calls, take an alarm clock with you (most cabins don't include one)—after all it's the early bird that gets the worm!

8. Collapsible Backpack (Gym Sack) Many of our members suggested taking a backpack that folds up and can be stored in your pocket until you need to use it (to store extra clothing layers that are peeled off or souvenirs bought in port). The sacks are very lightweight and have a drawstring to keep your belongings safely tucked away.

7. Motion Sickness Medicine The waters along the Pacific Coast and in Alaska can be particularly choppy, so if you get seasick, be prepared with a remedy. Cruise Critic reader DTEN11 says, "I get really seasick, but it was only rough one day and then pretty mild, so Bonine (motion sickness tablets) worked fine and did not make me drowsy at all. I wore the wrist bands (Sea Bands) all the time as I have had good luck with them in the past."

6. Sunscreen Don't let the chilly temperatures fool you—the sun's UV rays are strong in Alaska. Cruise Critic member UT-Volsfan says, "Definitely don't forget the sunscreen if you are going on a tour to one of the glaciers. The sun off of the ice can be very intense. On our first Alaska cruise, a couple came to the dinner table beside ours and had very red faces. They had not used sunscreen and had gotten cooked."

5. Extra Memory Cards for the Camera Make sure to bring plenty of memory for all of the beautiful scenery you'll encounter in Alaska. Not only should you have back up memory cards, but Cruise Critic reader Kyriecat says you should also have "a good zoom lens or high-pixel camera so you can crop and enlarge pictures is a must have," especially for great wildlife shots.

4. Insect Repellent Cruise Critic member Fl_Star says, "You must remember to bring insect repellent in the pump bottle. We brought the spray, only to have it confiscated by Alaska Airlines. It cost me $9.75 to replace with another spray only to have it taken again. The mosquitoes are huge, so bring the repellent and make sure it's the pump."

3. Rain Gear Things like umbrellas, ponchos, raincoats with hoods, and extra socks are advisable in case you get caught in a downpour. Cruise Critic reader sue450 advises using a "waterproof rain jacket with a hood and a fleece jacket that zips up with a high collar (then you don't need a scarf or any turtle neck shirts). Wait to buy these in Ketchikan. They have excellent quality jackets for much less than I paid at home, and they have nice, simple Alaska logos on them. There are tons of stores right off the dock."

2. Binoculars While many members suggest taking binoculars with you on your Alaska cruise, the quality of them is the key. Cruise Critic member cantw8togo says, "Take the strongest binoculars that you have. You will see so much more of the wildlife that is farther away."

1. Layers Take light jackets, fleece clothing, a warm hat, and gloves for layering in unpredictable weather. Cruise Critic reader spirlene says, "Since weather varies even if you get the best, bring all possible options from short sleeves and shorts to long sleeves and rain gear. The coldest we were was on the ship looking at the glacier for hours. That's where I wore the earmuffs and hood for wind." Another member, marysb chimes in, "Don't buy fleece and windbreakers before you go. All of the ports sell jackets and fleece very inexpensively. They are nice souvenirs, but remember to leave room when you are packing to bring them home."

Is there anything we've forgot that you wouldn't leave home without? Share your thoughts, experiences, and advice by leaving a comment below!

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