Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Mexican Riviera

Mexican Riviera Cruise Packing Tips

What to pack for a Mexican Riviera cruise depends on the time of year. Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license
What to pack for a Mexican Riviera cruise depends on the time of year. Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license

What to pack on our first Mexican Riviera cruise taught us a few surprising tips.

After many cruises and vacations in the Caribbean, we assumed that a December cruise to the Mexican Riviera would have similar weather to a December cruise that we had taken to the Caribbean. In fact, our research before the cruise showed weather that is historically warm in the three main Mexican Riviera cruise ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta.

But the two regions have two key differences that are helpful to know when packing clothes for a Mexican Riviera cruise. The Caribbean is much bigger than the Mexican Riviera, and the embarkation ports in Florida are warmer than the embarkation ports in California. The difference averages about 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit in some months.

Our embarkation port of San Diego, which has 350 days of sunshine every year, had nothing but rain and unseasonably cold weather at the start and end of our cruise. Strong trade winds made the cruise from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera chilly as well.

Anyone who has cruised in the Caribbean but not in the Mexican Riviera should know that temperatures vary more from one season to another in the Mexican Riviera. So depending on the time of year, pack for cool weather including:

  • Long pants
  • Long-sleeve shirts
  • Light jackets
  • Raincoats

Temperatures in Mexican Riviera ports are usually quite a bit warmer than southern California. Daytime temperatures in the winter hover from the high 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit. Daytime temperatures in the summer may reach into the low 90s. So of course plan on bringing:

  • Shorts
  • Short-sleeve shirts
  • Good tennis shoes for walking around
  • Bathing suit for beach goers

For a six-day, seven-night cruise, pack just two or three pairs of shorts and match them with six or eight shirts. This ultra lightweight packing works best for people who don’t mind eating dinner every night in the self-service buffet restaurants.

Important Packing Tips

Don’t pack a completely full suitcase unless you plan on buying no arts, crafts, books, T-shirts or other souvenirs on the trip.

For the first day of the cruise, pack a small carry-on bag with your travel documents, a change of clothes, bathing suit and any medications you may need. That way you don’t have to wait for your checked bags to arrive in your stateroom. That said, checked bags usually arrive quickly.

For the week, think of clothing in four kinds of dining environments depending on the cruise line (some have higher standards than others) and personal preferences:

  • Relaxed
  • Casual
  • Smart casual
  • Formal

Relaxed includes shorts, T-shirts, golf shirts and tennis shoes. This style of dress is common for breakfast and lunch. It is usually acceptable in the buffet dining rooms. It also is acceptable throughout most of the ship. It is not acceptable in the full-service restaurants.

Casual, smart casual and formal are the choices for the full-service restaurants, which are optional for all guests but also popular for the higher-quality foot and even the entertainment.

Casual is the most common dress for most nights. Smart casual and formal are announced in advance.

Casual clothes generally include sport shirts and slacks for men, and sundresses or pants for women. Smart casual means jackets for men and dresses or pantsuits for women.

Most cruises have formal nights. Men wear suits with ties or at least nice jackets with ties. Women wear nice dresses or pantsuits.

Whether even to bring formal clothing depends on the cruise line and whether it is low, medium or high end in pricing and clientele.

Some cruisers opt to bring casual clothes but not smart casual or formal for the sake of keeping luggage simple.

Other Items to Bring

  • Books
  • Camera
  • Personal grooming items
  • Workout clothes (if you are motivated)
  • Hat and sunscreen

Light jackets are a good idea for winter cruises, even in the Caribbean.

The rules vary among the cruise lines when it comes to bringing alcohol on board.

At the time of this writing, Carnival allowed one bottle of wine per passenger and charged a fee for the privilege. Royal Caribbean does not allow any alcohol to be brought on board. Holland America allows one bottle of wine without charge.

Anything bought in duty-free areas will be stored by the ship and returned at the end of the cruise.

What Not to Pack

Pack as little as possible for a Mexican Riviera cruise. Cruise cabins for most people are small. The more stuff, the less room.

Keep in mind that people often buy stuff when visiting cruise ports. They will add to the feeling of a cramped cabin and make bringing everything home a bigger challenge.

Note the practice of self-assisted luggage.

With self-assisted luggage, cruisers can carry on and take off their luggage without the involvement of porters. It’s especially useful for cruisers who have a few light bags and want to leave the ship as early or as easily as possible.

Self assistance doesn’t matter when passengers get on the ship because cruise staff automatically takes all luggage for delivery to cabins. It matters when getting off the ship because anyone who does self assistance can leave whenever they want and not wait to be called.

Anyone who has spent up to an hour looking at hundreds of baggages to find their own will attest to the frustration.