10 Tips for Planning your Mexican Riviera Cruise
Are you dreaming of Mexico? Then read these 10 Tips for Planning your Mexican Riviera Cruise, for the most enjoyable time (with Princess Cruises).
For 7 days, we sailed on “the love boat” to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo, enjoying the beautiful blue waters and warm sunshine on the western side of Mexico.
It was a trip of a lifetime, so very special in many ways–the ship, excursions, food, and experiences were magnificent! Now that we are almost empty-nesters, we can’t wait to get out more, and explore our beautiful world. Princess Cruises helps us reach these goals, if you have the travel bug like we do, because they have some amazing trips!
We weren’t newbies to cruises, and in fact we took our kids to Mexico (4 days) quite a few years ago. Let’s just say that visit didn’t hold a candle to this amazing trip! On our bucket list now is Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Greek Islands. A couple years ago, we went to Africa (each packing 26 pounds in our carry-on), so we know how to pack light!
On this trip, I learned that packing and preparing are essential to helping a traveler have a good time, so I’m including my list, the fundamentals that will make any trip go smoothly, plus a few extra tips we learned along the way.
10 tips for planning your Mexican Riviera Cruise
If you’re interested in Mexico, or you’re already planning a cruise, get started with my 10 Tips for Planning Your Mexican Riviera Cruise:
1. Make sure your passport is current.
Traveling to Mexico and Canada requires a passport. Many countries require passports be valid for six months after the completion of your travel. It’s important to check your passport, to verify it will be valid for this period of time, and to be sure that it has not expired. You also want to make sure the name on the passport matches the name on the trip reservation! One other tip–when we got a passport for our son a few years back, the had listed his birth town to be “OK,” when it should have been OR. Always completely read every letter of your passport, to make sure it’s accurate!
Remember that getting a NEW passport or renewing a passport usually takes time, so know that it’s not a last-minute thing that you can do! The post office has all of the information that you will need to apply or renew your passport.
Also, don’t forget to pack your important documents, like airline tickets, printed cruise reservations, medical insurance cards and credit cards. Another tip is to keep copies of these documents in both your luggage and at home, just in case they are stolen or damaged.
2. Utilize the cruise personalizer.
Princess Cruises offers a Cruise Personalizer. The Cruise Personalizer is your online source for completing important documentation, customizing your voyage, and more.
Once you book your cruise, just visit princess.com, click on the Cruise Personalizer link, enter your name and booking number, and the fun begins! This is where you’ll select your cabin, sign up for spa treatments, check out the excursions, etc.
It totally keeps you organized.
3. Select a room with a balcony.
If you can, spend the extra money for a balcony! This was one of our favorite things about the cruise, as we sat for hours on our balcony watching the sun rise and set. It was spectacular.
Our prior cruise had only a tiny window, not fun at all. Every day we threw wide the doors to bring in the breeze and smell the fresh air. I’ll be sharing a very special treat that Princess lined up for us on our balcony in another post (remember it was our 25th anniversary?)
The first thing I did every morning was open our doors to see where we were! It was exciting, the mornings we rolled into each port, to see the magnificant views of the cities and hear the sounds.
My husband is a writer, so he spent hours … right here.
4. Book excursions early.
One of the best things about a cruise is going on an excursion when you port!
A Mexican Riviera cruise has excursions at all 3 ports–Puerta Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo. It’s so worth it to spend the money and get a guided tour of whatever attraction you want to visit.
Once we arrived at our destination, we got off the boat (super easy disembarking), and we set out on our excursions for the day!
My best advice is to research each port carefully, what your excursion choices are, and how you want to spend your time in Mexico. For example, if you get horribly seasick, you may want to avoid the catamarans. If you are afraid of heights, maybe ziplining is not for you! Know that some excursions can, and do, fill up quickly. We really wanted to rent the 4×4 Rhinos early in the morning, but we were too late to get those spots. Our only regret was in Mazatlan, our road tour excursion was super hot (more on this later, but OH, so fun!)
And don’t worry, as once you are on the ship, the Princess personnel are there to answer any questions, or even move you to another excursion if necessary. They are the experts! Let’s just say, all 3 of our excursions, (I’ll be sharing more in future posts) were FABULOUS!
There is a huge selection of excursions! Friends, there’s something for everyone! (Take a peek, here.)
5. What to pack for the cruise.
You should dress for a cruise with Princess the same way you would for any stylish land-based resort. After all, you’re headed to tropical islands!
About a week before the cruise, I looked at my Cruise Personalizer to see how many nights were formal, and how many were casual. I then went through my closet and pulled out several black dresses (ones that I could wear with high black shoes) for formal night options, and then counted the casual nights, and added those dresses. Easy! During the day I wore casual sun dresses and shorts and skorts.
For my husband, we packed one black suit with 2 ties (for formal nights), and then a sport jacket and dress shirts for the more casual evenings. For daytime, we packed shorts and t-shirts.
My point is this. Do not feel that you have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe for a cruise. You do not need shimmery long dresses for formal nights, or tuxes. Almost anything goes with attire on a cruise, and I think it’s important that people know that. The Ruby Princess is flexible with their definition of “formal,” which I appreciate, as I don’t have any super-fancy evening wear.
The very best wardrobe advice for the entire Mexican cruise is always to bring a sweater or light jacket, just in case evening temps drop, and you want to pop up to the top of the ship and take a midnight stroll, or stop off at the Movies Under the Stars® venue.
Don’t forget your swimming suits, coverups, a sun hat, sunglasses, maybe a visor. Along with your fancy shoes and flip flops, make sure and bring the right shoes that you’ll need, according to the excursions that you will choose.
For example, if you are hiking, bring tennis (running) shoes (you do not need hiking boots in Mexico), or if you are doing a water excursion, bring good water shoes (I love my snap-on TEVAS). And don’t forget a light back pack or day pack! We love this light weight pack at REI.
When packing, bring wrinkle-free items, or try rolling your clothes. We didn’t iron one item, which is impressive! :) Cabins are not equipped with irons (although they can be found in the ship’s laundry rooms). Also, save space in your suitcase for memorabilias, and skip the shower/bath essentials. The ship totally takes care of you with quality soap, shampoo, lotion, etc.
Lastly, I have a small purse the size of my iPhone. It was perfect to take with me everywhere I went, with my room key, lipstick, chapstick, and my phone.
6. Seek out local restaurants.
We enjoyed local, authentic food in each port! Before you leave town, research ahead, or talk to the locals about where to eat if you have time when you port.
In Mazatlan, after our Rhino jaunt through the town, Paul and I discovered a hole in the wall place to eat, enjoying a quick bite and the BEST margaritas, before we headed back to the ship. It was truly authentic and a fun place to land, as we had just driven through Mazatlan for 3 hours!
7. Check out on-board dining.
Dining onboard a Princess cruise ship is a wondrous culinary journey, with every dish “designed for fresh” delicious meals. (And fresh snack options!)
If you’re a seafood lover, then you’ll love the Ruby Princess! We enjoyed some of the best gourmet meals on the ship, and steaks? Let me tell you!
Choose ahead if you want Traditional Dining, Anytime Dining, Specialty Dining or Casual Dining!
Best kept secret? Even though all the food on the ship is fabulous, it’s a treat to enjoy the restaurants on the ship, too! Book dinner reservations early though!
We enjoyed meals at The Salty Dog Gastropub, Crown Grill, and Share, by Curtis Stone.
8. Book your spa treatments ahead of time.
One thing we learned was to schedule your spa treatments at the Lotus Spa, for when you are at sea. The first 2 days, we enjoyed relaxing, a massage, the pool, The Sanctuary® (an outside place you can reserve) and we worked out in the fitness center.
We also found out if you do not book your spa treatments scheduled at sea, you can get better deals when the ship is in the ports, and the other passengers are off exploring. But … shouldn’t we ALL be out exploring these amazing stops, not hanging back on the ship? (wink wink)
They also book relaxing couples massages at a cabana in The Sanctuary®! Very cool, for the same price as in the spa.
9. Let the staff know early if there is a special event.
My husband and I had a great surprise one night for dinner. I’ll be sharing more on that later, in another post, but the staff sure makes birthdays, events, anniversaries, etc. a big deal on the ship!
Walking down our hallway (we were on the Aloha deck) I often saw balloons, cards, and all kinds of special things on doors with different celebrations going on!
You can also order Ultimate Balcony Dining for different occasions!
10. Electronics to bring along.
Besides our laptops and phones, Paul and I discussed what camera to bring along on this trip. Since we both have the iPhone 7, we decided that the cameras on these phones were fantastic! I was so relieved to NOT have to bring along my “big girl camera,” and you’ll see in my upcoming posts that I was really able to enjoy, and also capture, the beauty of Mexico, without lugging a camera along.
I like to pack light! We also brought along a portable phone charger (that can also charge an iPad), and an adapter with two USB ports, where you can plug in multiple electronics in your room, if need be. There are not a lot of plug ins in the room, so you have to think ahead to how many devices you need to charge!
iPhone camera tip: I like to use the VSCO app and the Pro HDR app to edit photos.
We can’t say enough about the staff on the ship, so professional and helpful. We were so impressed by our entire experience.
Oh, and don’t forget the dramamine! My husband and I both get a little motion sick, so being prepared by taking Dramamine one hour before we got on the ship (and throughout the cruise), we felt great! But if you forget, the ship has a good supply to purchase as well. If you want to take a tour of our ship, RecipeGirl has a post, here.
More to come … our balcony experience, a delicious recipe, our 3 fabulous excursions, and lots more about the ship and our experience with Princess Cruises! Thanks for being here and following along, today!
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Disclaimer: Paul and I were so honored to be guests of Princess Cruises on a recent 7-day Mexican Riviera Cruise, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share our experiences with you. Thank you for supporting us, as we choose very carefully the brands that we work with. As always, all opinions are my own.