Hopefully, you didn’t book an Alaskan cruise expecting sultry days and warm nights. Even in the height of summer, temperatures in the Inside Passage rarely surpass the high 60s, and the air gets downright cold after the sun goes down. Luckily for travelers, sunset happens between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. in Alaska during the cruise season. Sunlight will help keep you comfortable in the beginning of the evening, but warm clothing is essential for travelers of all ages after dark.

Alaska Cruises and Dress Codes

Cruises to Alaska have a reputation for having more-relaxed dress codes than cruises in other parts of the world. Every cruise line has its own policies about dinner dress codes. Often, cruisers are encouraged to wear “smart casual” attire for dinner. Some carriers require more formal dress, and each has its own ideas of what that means. Cunard, for example, has both formal and informal nights – but even on informal nights, men are required to wear jackets, and women are asked to wear cocktail dresses or stylish separates. In contrast, on Disney cruises to Alaska, guests heading to the main dining rooms may wear shorts, T-shirts, jeans, or really anything other than tank tops and swimwear.

Evening Clothes for Women

For a casual dinner, dress as you would to meet friends for pizza. Wear jeans or chinos and a short- or long-sleeved blouse. Carry a light sweater or hooded jacket. Ballet flats, booties or other comfortable shoes are appropriate. Nighttime in Alaska is too cold for sandals, and walking shoes or sneakers are just a bit too casual for a cruise ship dining room. On a smart casual night, dress as you might for religious services: neat but not formal. Wear either dress pants and a sweater, a casual knit dress, or a blouse with a skirt that hits at the knee or lower. Pack tights or stockings in case the night is colder than you expect. Formal nights call for evening dresses or pants suits. Aim for the formality level of a semiformal wedding. Look for a dress or blouse with sleeves, or wear a sequined cardigan or warm wrap on top.

Evening Clothes for Men

On the average Alaskan cruise, jeans and golf shirts or button-downs are perfectly appropriate for casual dinners. (Cunard is an exception in that they ask guests not to wear denim after 6 p.m.) Wear deck shoes or loafers with a casual outfit. Turn up the formality level for a smart casual dinner by wearing dress pants with a dress shirt and jacket; no tie required. Don polished loafers or dress shoes. If your Alaskan itinerary calls for formal nights, wear a dark suit with a tie and polished dress shoes. The ship may have men’s formalwear for rent.

Evening Clothes for Kids 

Some cruise lines relax their dress codes for children under the age of 12. Others, such as Royal Caribbean, ask that parents observe the same dress rules for their kids as they follow for themselves. Norwegian Cruise Line allows kids to wear shorts into all of its restaurants, provided they’re neat and in good condition. But unless they’re especially hardy, kids on an Alaskan cruise will probably be cold wearing shorts at night. Dress them with the same level of formality that you’re following. If Dad’s wearing a jacket and tie, little boys should wear them too. Make sure that kids’ dress shoes have soles that provide some traction. Slippery footwear can be dangerous on a cruise ship.