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What to Bring for Cruises to Mexico & Caribbean

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

What should women bring for warm weather cruises? Here are packing tips for eveningwear for cruises to places like the Caribbean, Mexico, the Panama Canal, or Hawaii.

plus size cruise dressMany women want to know what to bring for a cruise to a warm weather destination. Well, a lot depends on the cruise line and the specific ship, however here are my suggestions for dinners and evenings on cruise ships.

Warm Weather Cruises

Once upon a time, all cruise ships had explicit and precise dress codes. However, these days, most cruise lines are quite informal. And, while I love having lots of options, knowing what to pack has become a little bit trickier because of all these new "rules".  And, to muddy things up even more, every cruise line has different standards and every ship has different levels of enforcement.

Here are some general ideas to keep in mind when you're trying to pack enough, but not too much, for a warm weather cruise to a place like the Caribbean, Mexico, or the Panama Canal.

Casual Comfort is Keywhat to pack for cruise dinner

Comfort, comfort, comfort, comfort, comfort. You should ONLY pack clothing and shoes that are comfortable. A cruise is a vacation. You should strive for comfort on your vacation. That being said, comfort does not mean ugly and sloppy.

The weather on your cruise will be hot and tropical, so cotton, silk, lightweight denim, microfiber, and natural-fiber blends (which are wrinkle-free, breathable, and lightweight) are the fabrics of choice. You WILL be able to find something chic and simple in your closet or online. It does not take a lot of money to dress well, but it does take a bit of thought, innovation, and taste.

Wear Color wear colorful clothing for mexico and caribbean

You're on vacation... you're not going to a funeral. So, a cruise is a good time to wear all those fun, floral, colorful, happy things in your closet. Sure, black is slimming... but most women on cruises are not a size zero.

Have a little fun. Be playful. Wear colorful jewelry that might be a bit too gaudy for work... hey, you're not going to be in Kansas... you're going to be in a tropical country where it's okay to wear hot pink or bright turquoise or every bright color you can think of all mixed together into one vibrant print. If everyone else is wearing black... feel sorry for them.

How Much to Bring?

Packing for a cruise is totally different than packing for a multi-city land tour. And, one of the biggest joys of cruising is that you only need to unpack once. As you know, on a regular tour, you only take out a few things each night, but on a cruise ship, you get to unpack EVERYTHING in your bag as soon as you settle in.

And, when your cruise is over, all you have to do is throw all your stuff back into your bag. It's that easy.

Your Vacation Comes to You

Instead of going from hotel to hotel, like a regular tour, when you travel by sea, all kinds of interesting cities come to you… as your moving hotel drifts from place to place. This makes it so much easier to bring a bigger suitcase and to pack more outfits, shoes, accessories, hats, makeup, and everything else that makes you feel comfortable and happy.

Well, that’s a very good thing because you are going to be seeing many of the same cruise mates over and over. Still, most cruise ships are no fashion show... so opt for casual comfort over insincere glam.

Cruise Dinners - What to Pack?what to pack for cruise

New cruisers often fret about what to wear to dinner. Here’s a general guideline, though Disney cruises are going to be different from high-end luxe liners.

Main Dining Room: Most women wear a casual dress or a cute top and smart slacks ensemble (sometimes with a lightweight jacket). You can wear any outfit you would wear to a good restaurant in your hometown or you can be a bit more festive... it just depends on your mood.

Formal Nights: Many ships have one or two formal nights, where you have a chance to get all dolled up in a dressy outfit and wear a bunch of fun jewelry (either faux or real) to add a festive note to your cruise adventure.

Casual Options: Almost every ship has other options if you don’t want to get dressed up for the main dining room:

  • Buffet
  • Room Service
  • Pizza/Hamburger/Hotdog Joint on the deck near the pool

Shoes for Your Cruise Dinners

Sandals are best but remember that it is sometimes tricky to wear heels while a ship is rocking and rolling on the high seas, so pack some back-up flats or low heels. High heels are fine for females who have good balance during minor tsunamis. However, you should not pack every shoe you own because there is limited storage space in cabins.

Also, most ships have a small store for clothing and other forgotten necessities or you can pick up things along the trip. All ports north of Ushuaia have good shopping... believe me... they are set up to accommodate touristas.

Most Important Tip: Have Fun

Just go.

Have fun. Get out in the sun. Wear a hat to keep wrinkles off your face, but everyone needs some vitamin D every now and then. And, don’t worry too much about what to pack, but make sure that your shoes and clothing fit or you will be uncomfortable… and then you won’t have as much fun on your cruise. I’ve been on a ton of cruises even though I get seasick, because my husband likes the luxury and simplicity of cruising… and he’s paying, so how can I say, “No,” to that?  Besides... the food is good.

More Articles for Baby Boomer Women:

Cruise Wear for Plus Sizes - Formal Nights

Costume Travel Jewelry for Evenings & Parties

Daytime Cruise Wear for Women With Style

What to Wear for Cruise Dinners & Formal Nights

What do you think of this article? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page or give us a Google Plus.

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

Follow Me on Pinterest Follow My Boomer Lifestyle Blog on facebook

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  1. Sandey Stayanoff

    Hi there! I am embarrassed to say I am just now seeing you comment on my Pinterst board...you asked if you could interview me about living in Panama....of course! I would be delighted!!

  2. Lynette

    I just found your site on Pinterest. I'm going on a 10 day cruise to Mexico in November. Do you have any specific websites you could recommend for wrinkle-free clothing to help me out? I love the clothing you feature but can't seem to find out how to purchase the items.

    • Tina-Boomerina


      Most of my photos are from the UK, from websites that sell in the US (well, most of them). I will email you and find out what type of clothes you're looking for, and maybe I can give you some help.

      Tina Boomerina

  3. Holly

    I also heard about you from pintrest and love pretty much every outfit on your website. I too would love to know what websites to go to, to purchase these clothes. I am in desperate need of a new/interesting look. Any help would be so appreciated.

    • Tina-Boomerina


      Most of the outfits on my website are from the UK because I have permission to use their photos and these pics are free. I try to use photos from stores that ship worldwide (or at least ship to the US, because 3/4 of my readers are in the US).

      All of the photos in this article are from 2013 (when I wrote the article), but you can find the name of the stores on my older articles by putting your cursor over the picture and you can find the name of the stores on newer articles by looking at Photo Credits at the bottom of the newer articles.

      When we updated Boomerinas.com, some of the captions were stripped from the main photos... computer glitch. The main photo with Jane Seymour (above) came from a store called CC or Country Casuals in the UK.

      NOTE: I've updated some of the older articles with pictures of new outfits from 2015, but I haven't had a chance to update all of them... and I'm so busy that I'll never have the time to update all of the photos in all of the articles. The titles of some articles will (usually) say "Updated" if I've added new photos... but it's often worth checking out websites (even when it's an older photo) because sometimes you can find new outfits that are very similar (newer versions/updated colors).

      I don't make money by selling products, so I'm not telling you to go to these sites because anyone pays me to market their clothing. I am totally unbiased, but I love shopping online so that's what I write about.

      I have bought clothing from the UK. If you're buying something super expensive, ask if there's a duty (a fee) to send the product to the US... and ask how much. Other than that, almost everything comes from China these days, so who cares where you buy it.

      Do make sure you understand if the clothing is marked in UK sizes or US sizes. (One or two sizes difference... but once you know a brand... a whole world of new fashion-forward clothing will become available to you.)

      If you always check the sizing and the return policy, it's really fun to shop UK and European clothes. Start out with accessories... if you're not sure about a site. That's what I do. So far, no problems with exchanges or anything.

      Well, I also shop at US sites like Nordstroms and Neimans and Macy's and Bloomies and decor stores, but I find a lot more goodies online than I could ever find in local stores, so I LIVE for online shopping. It's just easier. It's way more fun.