These are tips and tricks from the Cruise Diva, Linda Coffman.  I have used so much of her advice.  She really is an authority.

First of all, ‘stage’ your outfits for evening—if the shower rod is convenient, hang them there. If not, get one of those things you hang over the closet door and hang up the outfits you’ll be wearing to dinner each night. (Get the shoes out for each outfit, too.) Then—AND THIS IS IMPORTANT—cover each outfit with a plastic dry cleaning bag. Then fold each outfit over and place in your suitcase, hanger and all. They WILL NOT WRINKLE. Unpacking is a breeze… just open your suitcase and start hanging things in the closet.

A caveat… unfortunately, there are some garments that defy the “dry cleaning bag packing” method. Clothing that is slightly creased or wrinkled can often be freshened up by steaming. Just hang those items in the bathroom while taking a hot, steamy shower and often the wrinkles will fall out. If all else fails, many ships have ironing stations in their self-service passenger launderettes or, for maximum convenience, send the offending garments to the ship’s laundry for pressing.

This next idea is so great I wish I had thought of it. I’m notorious for the vast number of shoes I pack. As we were preparing for a cruise, another veteran cruiser suggested, “Hey, Linda, let’s go get those shoe organizers that hang in the closet, the kind with shelves, not pockets.” We got them and they were great for stashing shoes, small evening purses, rolled up belts, and anything small. (The above photo illustrates the shoe organizer at work.) I’m happy to report these can be found at many Target stores. I’ve seen a slightly wider version, labeled a Sweater Organizer at Wal-Mart recently. By the way, emptied they fold like an accordion and take up little room in a suitcase.

Another cruiser friend offers a solution for a neatly organized bathroom. We all know those ship’s bathrooms are small. Becca Love’s tip is to hang an over-the-door pocket-style shoe organizer on the bathroom door. Slip your bathroom necessities in the pockets and they’re handy and out of the way. Your cabin steward will LOVE you.

Neat Packing

Drew suggests, “After ironing items going in my luggage, I fold them up with tissue. Kind of like  when items are ‘new’ from the store. This cuts down on wrinkles, and also because your ‘stacks’ are neater, allows you to put more in one suitcase. Also, as you’re unpacking, keeps things much neater, and kind of gives you an extra lift when wearing that article. I’ll also place several layers of tissue in the luggage, as the stacks get about 6″ or so. As you wear the articles, the tissue sure comes in handy when repacking, for all the extra goodies that we seem to ‘acquire’ throughout the holiday/cruise.”

Pack “His” AND “Hers”

Unless you have tight airline connections, if you pack and check multiple suitcases they should all stay together and arrive with you at your destination. However, should one of them be delayed, you and your travel companion can be certain to each have clothing to wear if you “mix” up your garments. Pack “his AND hers” clothing articles in each suitcase.

Packing Small & Watertight

Here’s an idea my husband Mel came up with when preparing for a bicycle tour of Holland. Pack small. Undergarments and knits take only a third of the suitcase space they normally occupy when they’re compressed. Simply place those articles in bags designed for compact storage, such as those made by Pack-Mate, or appropriately sized zipper top kitchen storage bags and force all the air out before zipping them shut. Not only do you save room in your suitcases but your clothing will stay dry.

Dry? What’s with that? Well, if you have soft-sided luggage and it gets caught in a downpour, either while being loaded on your airplane or ship, the contents could get soaked. You might also spray your luggage with Scotch Guard for additional waterproofing both inside and out. An added bonus of using zipper top bags is efficient unpacking—just leave everything in the bags and stack them in drawers and on shelves. Fast, neat, and space saving!

Whose boxers are those on the conveyor belt?

We’ve all seen it happen. It’s really embarrassing to realize your luggage has come unzipped (for one reason or another) and those are your delicate unmentionables on the airport conveyor belt.

You want to “lock” your zip-up luggage, but hate those tiny locks with even tinier keys? This idea is courtesy of a Delta ticket agent as related by Mel. Head on over to the local home improvement store and buy CABLE TIES. Ask a helpful hardware guy if you’re unsure of where to find them. They’re usually in the electrical supply area—you know… they’re those plastic things that have a pointy end that slips into a hole on the other end. Sort of like a flexible needle. Once they’re attached, you’ll need scissors or a nail clipper to remove them. Take extras for the trip home. Another benefit, they keep sticky-fingered airline baggage handlers (and others) from riffling through your things.

With today’s updated airport security procedures, you’re advised not to lock your luggage. However, we use cable ties anyway. If your luggage requires hand-screening, you’ll recognize that it’s been opened even before you find a note inside the suitcase indicating that the contents were examined. If you use a combination or keyed lock, it will be cut off and discarded. TSA-approved locks are available, but they can be costly and often go missing.

Tape ~ Tape ~ Tape

Have Duck Tape, Will TravelDuct tape… is it really a necessity? Judging by the number of people who ask to borrow it—YES! For added security, there’s nothing like duct tape. Wrapped around suitcases, it keeps them relatively secure in worst case scenarios, such as zipper blow out or broken hinges and clasps. Tape also discourages random pilferage by baggage handlers. Why would anyone bother with your taped bag when others are not even locked? Plus, it gives your suitcases a bit of frequent traveler panache—”shabby chic,” if you will. As the photo illustrates, for an emergency repair, there’s nothing as handy as duct tape. Have DUCK Tape, Will Travel highlights a new cruising travel necessity… it’s NOT your father’s duct tape and it no longer belongs in the garage.

Again, with today’s updated airport security screening, the duct tape might be cut to enable hand examination of suitcase contents. Just as effective are brightly-colored luggage straps with quick release buckles such as those available fromMagellan’s Catalog.

Tag Your Bags

This may seem excessive, but I use ALL the tags provided by the cruise line when tagging our suitcases. At a minimum, I want TWO identification tags on each suitcase (in addition to our “permanent” luggage tags). Those tags, with cotton or elastic string, can easily become detached so before putting them on the suitcases, I reinforce them with tape. I also remove the string, replacing it with long cable ties. I put one on each handle of dual-handle suitcases and two on the handle of suitcases that only have one handle. Compulsive? Maybe. But we’ve never had a lost or delayed suitcase because of a missing tag.

Where, oh where is your luggage?

Kathleen Kaye shares the following, “We always put our itinerary outside, as well as inside our luggage. To do this, I type up the itinerary, reduce it, and tuck it into the luggage tag, behind our identification. We always make sure our address and itinerary are taped to the inside as well. I have heard that many times lost luggage is forever lost because of no identification on the bag. Tags do come off.”

Absolutely correct, Kathleen! If an airline is unable to trace the owner, or if luggage hasn’t been claimed after at least three months, it ends up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama—a veritable Land of Lost Luggage. Only two hours from Birmingham and two and a half hours from Atlanta, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is a treasure hunter’s dream destination. Over 500,000 people a year make the trek to shop amid over a million lost items, including watches, jewelry, electronics, and designer clothing.

Take heart, though. Over 98% of misdirected luggage eventually catches up to its owners. Keep those odds in your favor by following Kathleen’s advise.

Suitcases With An Identity

How is your suitcase like a Model-T Ford? You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black. My late friend Ed Shuster found a marking product and a clever solution for readily spotting his bags in airport carousels and crowded cruise ship terminals. Mister Ed advised… “With soft-sided black cloth luggage taking over the world, it’s getting harder and harder to find your own on the floor of the warehouse. In addition to the required identification tags, we’ve used unique colorful tags, straps, tapes, and some others. Recently I came up with what I think is a permanent solution.”

“Wal-Mart (and probably other distinguished merchants) carries opaque paint markers, in different colors, for under $3. We used white on the black luggage and hand lettered an identifying name in about 3-inch letters on the face of the luggage that includes the handle. One marker did three applications on each of three pieces. Easy to do, high contrast, and permanent (well, as permanent as we are). For security reasons, we didn’t put our name on it, I used my Yahoo name—Cap10Cruz. About the only drawback I see is it will make it harder to sell the old suitcases at a yard sale, but when we’re done with them, it’s dumpster time anyhow.”

Instead of paint, I’ve used my handy duct tape to identify our luggage by attaching long strips on the front, back, and all four sides of each suitcase. Our bags are easily spotted on carousels full of similar looking black suitcases.

The essential carry-on bag – 

(No one needs everything on this list but I start out with it for every cruise. I mark off the things I need as I pack them and simply cross off the ones I don’t. Want to print this list? Here’s a “printable page”

  • makeup remover
  • freshener/moisturizer
  • cotton balls/q-tips
  • toothbrush/toothpaste/mouthwash/floss
  • perfume/body & hand lotions
  • deodorant/talcum powder
  • sun screen
  • eye shadow/liner/mascara
  • powder/blush/concealer/lipstick
  • nail polish/polish remover pads
  • shampoo/conditioner/gel/hair spray (non-aerosol)
  • brushes/combs
  • bobby pins/clips/bows/hair bands
  • hair dryer/curling iron/shower cap
  • make-up mirror/plug in cube tap
  • clothes steamer/lint brush/Woolite
  • folding tote bag/small backpack
  • caps/visors
  • Zip-Lock bags/garbage bags
  • jewelry
  • medicines/bandages/antiseptic cream
  • feminine hygiene products
  • germicidal hand cleaner
  • extra glasses/contact lens supplies
  • flasks
  • camera/film or media cards/extra batteries/binoculars
  • MP3 player/charger/speakers
  • cell phone & charger
  • passport/money/documents/keys (home & luggage)
  • watch/travel alarm clock

With post-9/11 airline regulations prohibiting sharp objects in carry-on bags, I now pack the following in checked luggage:

  • nail file and buffer/nail clippers & scissors
  • tweezers/sewing kit/small scissors
  • razor/shaving accessories

Cruise Packing for Men

The first question women ask me is, “Will my husband need a tuxedo?” The answer to that lies in part with the gentleman himself.

While a tuxedo isn’t 100% necessary, it’s a refreshing change to see our significant others in their very best bib and tucker. My husband packs his own bags, or at least stages them for me. For a seven day cruise, here are his necessities and some “extras” suggested by cruising friends. Typically a week-long cruise includes two formal nights, one or two informal nights, and three or four casual nights. The informal/casual nights vary from ship to ship–check your documents and adjust your list accordingly.

Night Life

Tuxedo
Studs
Formal Shirt(s)
Tie, Cummerbund & Belt
Shoes & Black Socks
or Dark Business Suit & Accessories

Sport Coat (to be worn on the plane)
Shirts (2) & Ties (2)
Shoes & Dark Socks
Slacks & Belt

Polo/Golf Shirts (3)
Dockers
Shoes (Socks Optional)

Day Wear

Tee Shirts or Polo Shirts
Shorts
Swim wear (2)
Tennis shoes & socks

Other Wear

Boxers or Briefs
Sleepwear/Robe
Hat or Cap
Sunglasses

“Stuff”

Shaving kit (his includes what he needs)
Reading glasses
MP3 player & charger
Cell phone & charger
Thermal insulated mug
Travel clock
Short, multi-plug extension cord or power strip
Notebook & pen
Prescription & OTC medicines
Strapping tape/duct tape
Cable ties
Small flashlight and/or night light
Watch

If you simply can’t leave it behind, bring along your laptop and stay in touch by taking advantage of the wireless connections most ships now feature.

By nature, a shaving kit is a personal thing. Manly nostrums aren’t the sort we women truly understand. Men know instinctively what they can’t get by without, though it wouldn’t hurt to check his shaving kit to be certain his deodorant and shaving cream containers aren’t empty. How anyone can get by with a simple toothbrush and razor is simply beyond my comprehension.

Their lists are shorter than ours, right? Yes, because we’ll share our hairdryers and things like cameras and first aid remedies. Now, are you shaking your head over some of the “stuff” listed? You’ll just have to trust me on some of those items. The first time a luggage repair is accomplished with a bit of strapping tape, he’ll beam at pride for this bit of foresight. Just make him leave the power tools at home. No doubt the ship’s engineers have their own drill bits.

PS – Pack light and use the ship’s laundry/dry cleaning service.  Hint: They do a SUPERB job on pleated formal shirts!

Want to print this list?  Here’s a “printable page”

Cruise Packing List for Babies

PRINT the Packing List for Babies—CLICK HERE for a printable list

Over the years I’ve packed literally hundreds of suitcases. However, I do not have children and I’m a novice at packing for them. Jackie Preston has come to the rescue. 

Following are suggestions from Jackie’s pediatrician for her 22-month old son’s travel needs.

  • Benadryl  (seasickness or restlessness)
  • Pedia Care decongestant
  • Sun Block
  • Band Aids
  • Tylenol
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Hat
  • Neosporin

Other things Jackie plans to bring:

  • water shoes
  • diapers
  • sipper cups
  • diaper wipes
  • hand/face wipes
  • q-tips
  • nail clippers
  • pool side robe
  • bathing suit
  • sun glasses
  • bottled water
  • juice boxes
  • favorite blanket/toy
  • pacifiers

For the flight, the pediatrician suggested giving Jackie’s son his sipper cup during the airplane’s take off and landing.

Kim Cornelius suggests bringing along an umbrella stroller for walks around the ship and in port with your baby. It also comes in handy at the airport. Wheel baby right to the departure gate—the stroller is gate checked and will be waiting for you at the arrival gate.

Stephanie Harrison notes that with limited/expensive laundry facilities on ships, it’s convenient to bring along a pack of ‘Bibsters’ (disposable bibs for mealtimes, available at grocery stores, Target, etc). They keep baby’s clothes cleaner and stain free, avoiding messy garments after meals. The last thing on Stephanie’s mind while cruising is doing laundry!

Arlene Morgan adds a unique item to the baby list….blue painters tape. She says, “I know it’s odd, but I have found it to be a source of amusement for the kids as well as practical. It can be used for fun and also safety, ie: taping over electrical outlets, tv buttons, taping up the days artwork. It is much less damaging than stronger silver tape.”

PACKING IT IN

By Linda Coffman

I have a confession. I’m a pack-aholic. I’m hopelessly addicted to overburdening my husband with suitcases that barely close and bulging garment bags. The overflow from my tote bag gets stashed in his pockets.

How did I get this way? It started on our first cruise when I forgot something. My fear of forgetfulness evolved into pages of packing lists and a day-by-day schedule of wardrobe requirements. It’s worked fine for me; until last year, that is. I packed too much. Airline restrictions on allowable carry on bags and overweight baggage charges trimmed my wings and lightened my pocketbook.

What to do? It took drastic measures to cure me in time for our next vacation.

We started by selecting a cruise that didn’t require formal wear. My husband suggested a laid-back sailing adventure where a clean tee shirt is de rigueur for the Captain’s Dinner. We decided a cruise line with a nightly dress code described as “country club casual” would make us both happy; informal dresses or pant outfits for me and sport shirts and slacks for him. Jacket and tie optional.

The next step was to devise a streamlined packing strategy…

~   Make a list and stick with it. Resist the urge to toss in something “just in case”—that’s the item you surely won’t need. Tuck a copy of your list in with your documents. If your luggage is waylaid, you’ll have a record of what it contains.

~   Color coordinate your wardrobe. Select one or two colors and mix and match items. Create different looks with accessories, either from home or purchased in port. Take only two pairs of shoes; comfortable all-purpose sandals for day and dressier shoes for evening. If you must have your big, clunky athletic shoes, wear them and pack the others.

~   Shop for clothing made of lightweight microfiber. It takes up less room, sheds wrinkles, and dries quickly. In terms of comfort, microfiber wicks moisture away from the body, keeping you cool and requiring fewer clothing changes. In a pinch, wash these items in your sink and hang to dry. A hairdryer speeds the process along in record time.

~   Pack small. Undergarments and knits take only a third of the suitcase space they normally occupy when they’re compressed. Simply fill the largest size zipper top kitchen storage bags with these articles and force all the air out before zipping them shut. Plan ahead and shop for sample or small size containers of your favorite toiletry items.

~   For wrinkle free garments, leave them on their hangers, cover them with dry cleaning bags, and fold over once before placing them in the suitcase. Unpacking is a snap. With this method, there’s no need to bring along a travel iron or steamer.

~   Make souvenir shirt purchases a part of your wardrobe plan. Tee shirts can also serve as a swimsuit cover up and nightshirt. Knit sport shirts can do double duty as well; a shirt worn a short time at dinner can easily be donned the next day for touring or lounging on the ship.

~   If the ship has self-service laundry facilities you can pack lighter and wash clothes mid-cruise. Remember, other passengers have the same idea and you might encounter long lines and surly tempers. Use the ship’s laundry service instead. It’s pricier but who wants to spend valuable cruise time washing clothes?

~   Use every bit of luggage space. Women’s shoes will fit inside men’s. Stuff socks and other small items inside larger space wasters. A tote bag that folds into its own zippered pocket is handy as a shopping or beach bag and invaluable when it’s time to pack the souvenirs that are preventing your suitcase from closing.

~   Cross-pack your luggage with your travel companion. Chances are if a suitcase is missing, it’ll turn up eventually. In the meantime you’ll both have fresh clothing until it does. It goes without saying, jewelry, medicine, cameras, and travel documents should never be packed in your checked luggage. Those items and a change of underclothes belong in your carry on tote.

Last, but not least, adhere to that old traveler’s adage, “Pack your suitcase and then remove half the contents before you close it.” 

Cruise Wear ~
Cracking the Cruise Lines’ Dress Codes

by Linda Coffman

On Embarkation Day…

By the time I take those last few steps and disappear into the ship’s hull, I’m taller, blonder, richer, and thinner. Okay, not really, but I feel that way.  Cruising is glamorous… just look at the brochures. Those beautiful svelte models are having a wonderful time. Who wouldn’t have a great time standing around smiling in chic designer clothes?

So, your closet isn’t full of designer outfits and matching shoes? Not to worry, neither is mine. The reality is that you don’t need to max out your credit card to fill your suitcases with new cruise duds. Despite your fashion anxiety you probably have almost everything you need. Cruise wear falls into three categories:

Casual — Informal — Formal

Your cruise documents should include information indicating how many evenings fall into those categories. You’ll know when to wear what by reading your ship’s daily newsletter—each day’s dress code will be prominently announced. First and foremost, there is…

Casual Wear

This is exactly what it implies—clothing to be comfortable in. Your plans for the day will dictate what you should wear. For warm weather cruises you’ll typically need swimwear, a cover-up, and sandals for pool and beach. Time spent ashore touring and shopping calls for shorts topped with tee shirts or polo-style shirts and comfy walking shoes. Conservative is a rule to live by and mix-and-match will save room in your suitcase. If you plan to purchase souvenir tee shirts, make them a part of your cruise wardrobe and pack fewer tops.  

Evening casual does not mean short-shorts. For men it’s Dockers-type slacks and nice polo or sport shirts. Ladies’ outfits will be sporty dresses, skirts and tops, or pants outfits. By sticking to two colors and a few accessories, you can mix up tops and bottoms for a different look every night.

The first and last nights onboard are always casual for obvious reasons—you may not have your luggage before dinner that first night and you’ve already packed for home on the last night. A word about jeans… personally, I hate them but many people consider them casual wear. Some cruise lines discourage them in the dining room. Use your own judgment and keep in mind, denim is hotyou might want to wear a lighter fabric.

Informal

This one’s a little trickier—it only applies to evening and can mean different things, depending on the cruise line. Informal for women is a dressier dress or pants outfit and for men it usually, but not always, includes a sport coat. Often, but not always, it also means a tie for him. Check your documents carefully. In most instances, the Informal category has been dropped in favor of “resort casual” attire—a step above Casual, but not quite a coat-and-tie.

Formal

Formal night is a fantasy time for women and torture for men… from the sounds of male complaints, that is. This is your night to shine and you’ll see ladies in everything from simple cocktail dresses to elaborate glittering gowns. Tuxedoes (either all black or with white dinner jacket) or dark suits are required for gentlemen.

Ladies, have you been a “Mother-of-the-Bride” lately? Chances are your outfit for the wedding is just perfect for formal night.

Looking So Luxe in a Rented Tux

After deciding to go all out, whether to buy or rent a tuxedo is up to the individual. As a rule of thumb, if a man is going to wear a tuxedo more than two or three times, it makes economic sense to purchase one. Some cruise lines make it easy to rent the entire outfit, though—and if you do so, it will be waiting for you when you board. Be sure to make these arrangements in plenty of time—your travel agent can get the details from the cruise line.

Even if you are renting, by all means buy your own studs. You don’t have to spend a fortune on them, just get some that look classy. Why? A sure fire way to spot a rented tuxedo is by the inexpensive studs that come with them.

A word about vests… many men with a little “girth” consider them more comfortable than cummerbunds. 

And finally—I’ve heard that a “tuxedo” is a rented suit and a “dinner jacket” is the formal clothing owned by the gentleman wearing it. Whatever the definition or terms of ownership, men look stunning in “black tie.”

Which Formal Night is “Most” Formal?

Every woman wants to know the answer to that question because we all have a dress we think is more stylish, or maybe we just feel more beautiful wearing it. Ladies, unless you eat like a bird or never gain an ounce… save your roomiest formal outfit for the second formal night. I have a friend whose daughter spent the second formal night of a cruise crying her eyes out in her stateroom because her dress was difficult to zip.

How glittery can you get without being mistaken for a Vegas showgirl?  I have to admit, I have owned dresses that are totally sequined and beaded but that style isn’t as fashionable as it was in years past. When selecting formal outfits, I like to think simple. There’s nothing more elegant than a well-cut, simple, black dress. But there’s nothing more fun than a flashy or sexy dress that turns heads. It’s totally up to you!

“Cocktail” Pants

One of the most practical and useful garments any woman can own is a pair of black, silky “cocktail” pants. They take up no room at all in the suitcase and don’t wrinkle. Best of all, with two dressy tops you have two different formal outfits with a minimum of fuss. No, I take that back—BEST of all is that they usually have elastic waistbands.

Last, but not Least…

After all this obsessing about clothing, consider the unthinkable—what if your luggage is delayed?  Or doesn’t show up until the end of the cruise? It happens. And if it happens to you, do like one of my favorite fellow passengers last summer… don’t stress out. Shop here and there and pick up what you need—your luggage could appear in the next port. Avoid some of the anxiety lost luggage can cause by carrying on your essentials when you board. I always have a garment bag with our formal clothing and at least a couple other casual outfits just in case.

If “formal” just isn’t in your vocabulary or your lifestyle, consider booking on one of the cruise lines that have modified it or done away with it altogether.  Norwegian Cruise Line ‘s “Freestyle Cruising”  offers passengers either the traditional cruise dining experience or a more resort-style open dining schedule. On Oceania Cruises and Windstar Cruises every night is “country club casual.”

And, last thoughts about cruise wear—be a considerate cruiser, adhere to each evening’s dress code and don’t ignore the suggested attire for dinner. It’s an insult to your fellow passengers.

To help you avoid any FASHION FAUX PAS at sea, Royal Caribbean explains How On Board Apparel Has Changed with the Times.

HOT Tips for Cruisers

The BEST Cruise Travel Tips from CruiseDiva.com

~ Mail overflowing your mailbox is a neon sign to thieves that you aren’t home. You can request an “Authorization To Hold Mail” card from your letter carrier, by visiting your nearest post office, or online at the www.usps.com website. Mail that accumulated while you were gone can be delivered on a date you designate on the card or you can retrieve it yourself at the post office. Contributed by Timothy Hickey

~ A “pop-up” mesh clothes hamper packs flat in your suitcase and keeps your closet neat on board. Contributed by Sue Adam

Don’t bother packing beach towels, they will be provided for your use on board the cruise ship as well as when going ashore.

~ Have a supply of one-dollar bills handy for tipping airport skycaps and porters at the pier.

~ Don’t pack photo film in checked luggage as airport screening equipment could ruin it. Put it in your carry-on instead.

~ An endlessly ringing phone is a hint that you aren’t home. Before leaving the house, either turn off the telephone ringers or set the answer phone to answer at two rings. Contributed by Kay Meyerett

~ Notify the cruise line of any special dietary restrictions when booking your  cruise and follow up on the arrangements a couple months before embarking.

When it’s possible, store your valuables in the ship purser’s safe rather than the one in your cabin. Some insurance policies will not cover the loss of items left unsecured in your cabin or in your personal guest safe.

~ One of my traveler friends showed me about putting a rubber band around my wallet to inhibit pickpockets. Another friend mentioned that her dad’s wallet was knocked out of his front pocket on a commuter train during a recent trip. He didn’t have his rubber band around it. Contributed by Joe Reynolds

~ With limited/expensive laundry facilities on ships, it’s convenient to bring along a pack of ‘Bibsters’ (disposable bibs for mealtimes, available at grocery stores, Target, etc). They keep baby’s clothes cleaner and stain free, avoiding messy garments after meals. The last thing on my mind while cruising is doing laundry! Contributed by Stephanie Harrison, Miami, FL

~ When selecting sunglasses, the most important considerations are the amount of UV light that is blocked by the lenses and a proper fit. The lenses should shield your eyes from most angles. Darker lenses do not necessarily offer better UV protection. Look for sunglasses that block 99% of harmful UV rays.

Ladies, don’t weight yourself down with a heavy hand bag or backpack and become a target for purse snatchers or pickpockets. Carry only what you need and carry it inconspicuously.

~ Items confiscated by airport security will not be returned to you. If you’re uncertain whether something will pass the security test, pack it in your checked luggage.

~ Moms, bring along an umbrella stroller for walks around the ship and in port with your baby. It also comes in handy at the airport. Wheel baby right to the departure gate—the stroller is gate checked and will be waiting for you at the arrival gate.Contributed by Kim Cornelius

~ Pack and WEAR a hat to protect your scalp, ears, and face from sun damage and premature aging. Excessive sun exposure contributes to wrinkles and dark spots.

~ Wrinkles are caused by under-packing (clothes shift) and over-packing (which squishes clothes). Avoid wrinkles by packing light and tight.

~ Toss a few empty plastic bags into your suitcase. You may need them later to pack dirty or damp clothes.

If you carry on your laptop computer, you may be asked to “boot it up” at security—both at the airport & at pier check-in. 

Airline carry-on restrictions are being updated continuously. Check with your airline before packing and be aware that purses often “count” as a carry-on item!

Folding or inflatable travel hangers are useful if you need to dry out hand laundry or a bathing suit in your cabin.

~ Tap water on your ship is perfectly safe to drink; purchasing bottled water is only necessary if you prefer the taste. 

~ Tuck fabric softener sheets between garments as you pack to keep clothing fresh during travels. Contributed by Jen

~ Bring your own travel alarm clock; most staterooms do not have them. 

~ Keep track of your boarding pass, on board charge/key card, as well as a picture ID to take ashore by slipping them into a bi-fold business card style carrying case. Cases with a “suede” finish are less likely to fall out of your pocket.

~ For families with small children, a cabin with a veranda might not be the best choice. Children are incredibly quick and accidents can happen, even on balconies with solid barriers beneath the railing.

~ Pack toiletries, clothing, and other items in clear zipper top bags for faster security examination of your carry-on at the airport and pier. This method makes it easier to repack if your bag is emptied and searched.

~ Pack a pad of Post-It notes to leave messages for your cabin steward, family, and shipboard friends.

~ This idea is for anyone who lives in a colder climate and is traveling in winter to a warm weather cruise. When you put your summer wardrobe away for the winter, set aside the casual outfits, sandals, swimwear, and sleepwear you want to wear on your cruise and store them in the suitcase you plan to use. You’ll be at least half packed and won’t be hunting down an outfit or a pair of shoes later. You will also free up some drawer and/or closet space at the same time. Hang your evening clothes in a separate area of your closet and pack them when you’re ready to leave for your trip. Contributed by Linda Richter, New Hope, PA

~ Check prices before leaving home to insure you don’t overpay for electronics and jewelry at “duty-free” shops.

~ For minor emergencies, pack a first aid “kit” with antiseptic cream & bandages in your carry-on.

Pre-address stick-on labels for postcards to the folks back home & you won’t have to carry along a bulky address book.

Make two copies of your passport, driver’s license, and credit cards before leaving home. Leave one set of copies in a safe place on your ship. If the ship’s purser holds your passport (which is often the case, to expedite clearing the ship in foreign ports), carry the passport copy ashore with you. Leave the other copies with a friend or family member at home.

~ Binoculars are as useful indoors as they are outside. Typically you might think they are only for bringing far off wildlife and sights within view, but take them into museums, cathedrals, and other buildings to examine the details of artwork, sculptures, and architectural elements.

~ If you pick an outside cabin, check to make sure your view of the sea isn’t obstructed by a lifeboat.

~ Print cards with your name, address, phone number, & email address to share with new friends. Stiff, business card-style paper can be purchased at nearly any office supply store & having your cards handy sure beats hunting for pens & scribbling on scraps of paper to swap addresses.

~ Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, bring along extra camera batteries and change them before you think the old ones are “dead.”

~ Leave any paperback novels you’ve finished for the crew library. You’ll have more room in your suitcase and crewmembers will have fresh reading material.

~ Don’t forget to pack and USE your sunscreen. Why take the chance of a nasty sunburn ruining a great cruise vacation? Protect your skin from injury and aging. Excessive sun exposure contributes to wrinkles. 

~ Check the balance of your on board account before the end of your cruise. Straighten out any discrepancies immediately and avoid a long line at the Purser’s Desk that last morning after your final bill arrives.

~ Don’t you look gorgeous in your formal attire? Have a family portrait taken to preserve the memory. There’s no obligation to purchase any photos you don’t care for.

~ Set aside gratuity money and keep it in your room safe. Many cruisers compute the “recommended” amounts in advance and get cash in the proper denominations before leaving home. If your ship automatically charges gratuities to your onboard account, you may adjust the amounts according to the level of service you receive.

~ Make spa and salon appointments as soon as you can so you won’t be disappointedprime appointment times fill up fast!

~ Set aside a few moments every day to pack up your used clothing and spend the last afternoon of your cruise doing fun things while your fellow passengers are packing to go home.

~ Most ships’ cabins have only one or two electrical outlets located near the desk/vanity table (not counting the shaver-only outlet in the bathroom). A short extension cord allows you to use more than one electrical appliance at once and gives you a bit more flexibility to move around, particularly if you’re using a laptop computer.

~ If you are prone to motion (sea) sickness, the best cabin location for you is on a lower deck in the middle of the ship (midway between the bow and the stern). Pitch, roll, and yaw—the movements made by a ship—will be less noticeable in that area.

~ Don’t be a deck chair hog. It’s inconsiderate to put towels and personal belongings on poolside lounge chairs to “save” them unless you are actually in the pool.

~ Don’t miss the morning sun in your inside cabin. Before you retire for the night, leave the television tuned to the channel with the “view from the bridge” and you’ll awaken with a “window” on the outside world. Remember to turn the sound off.

~Take along an insulated mug with a lid. Fill it at the beverage station in the buffet area—your drinks will stay hot or cold and you won’t have to worry about spills. Most bartenders will fill it with ice and water or a soft drink. With a straw, your ice won’t melt instantly while lounging at the pool. Better still, mugs are great souvenirs—buy one that sports your ship’s name from the gift shop.

~Pack a small flashlight to find your way around in the dark or in an emergency.

~ Personal 2-way radios are a great way to keep track of cruise companions, but set the volume low so you don’t disturb your fellow passengers.

~ A nylon tote bag that folds compactly into its own pocket can be used as a beach bag during your cruise and as an extra carry-on for your return home with fragile souvenirs.

~ Take along a hanging shoe organizer for the closet.  It extends your storage space for small items and keeps your shoes off the floor.

~ Germicidal hand cleaner is a must have for adventure excursions where water might be at a premium.

~ A mesh laundry bag that allows damp clothing to dry out is ideal for gathering soiled garments during a cruise.

~ Pack anything that can leak in zipper top plastic storage bags.

~ A nightlight is handy, especially for passengers in inside cabins.

The Cruise Planning Timeline

by Linda Coffman

Getting Ready to Cruise—Things To Do

You’ve booked the cruise of your dreams and the sailing date is drawing near.

Anticipation builds… but you’ll need to come down off Cloud Nine for some practical considerations. I’ve tried to capture the really important things—and some of the merely convenient stuff—that you should keep in mind to prepare. These may not all apply to your cruise; however, you may be surprised by what you hadn’t thought of doing.

3 months or more before sailing

  • Check with your travel agent or the State Department website for the identification required for your cruise. (Passport or proof of citizenship.)
  • Gather the necessary identification needed. If you need to replace a lost birth certificate, apply for a new passport, or renew one that is about to expire, start the paperwork now. Doing it at the last minute is stressful and often costly.
  • Apply for any visas required by the countries on your itinerary. If visas are required, your travel agent can provide applications or you may use a professional visa agency.

60 to 75 days before sailing

  • Make the final payment on your cruise fare. Due dates vary by cruise lines and certain itineraries, but your travel agent should remind you when the payment date draws near. Failure to submit the balance due on time can result in the cancellation of your reservation.
  • Look over Cruise Diva’s Packing Lists and print out a list for each person you will be packing for.
  • Begin your wardrobe planning now. Try things on to make sure they fit and are in good repair (it’s amazing how stains can magically appear months after something has been dry cleaned). Set things aside in your closet.
  • If you need to shop, get started so you have time to find just the right thing (and perhaps to return or exchange just the right thing). You may also need to allow time for alterations. Start early—last minute shopping for just the right thing can be hazardous to your nerves.
  • Make kennel reservations or engage a pet sitter. (If you are traveling during a holiday period, you may need to do this even earlier.)
  • Arrange for a house sitter.

If you are cruising, but your kids are staying home:

  • Make childcare arrangements.
  • Go over children’s schedules to make sure they’ll have everything they need while you are gone (a gift for Suzie’s party, supplies for school project, permission slip for field trip).
  • If you have small children, you may want to put together a small bag of treats for them to open while you’re gone—tape yourself reading a favorite bedtime story or singing a lullaby (as long as it’s you, it will sound fantastic to them).

If your children are traveling with you, see the tips below for 30 days and one week before sailing.

30 days before sailing

  • If you purchased an air/sea package, call your travel agent for the details of your airline schedule. Request seat assignments.
  • If your children are sailing with you, check their wardrobes now (do it too early and the real little ones may actually grow out of things).
  • Make appointments for any personal services you wish to have prior to your cruise. For example, a haircut, manicure, pedicure, etc.
  • Get out your luggage and check the locks and zippers. Check for anything that might have spilled inside on a previous trip.
  • If you need new luggage or want an extra piece to bring home your souvenirs, shop for it.

2 to 4 weeks before sailing

  • Pick up your cruise documents from the travel agent or print them out online.
  • Examine the documents for accuracy (correct cabin number, sailing date, and dining arrangements) and make sure that names are spelled correctly. If there is something you don’t understand, ask your travel agent or the cruise linenow.
  • Read all the literature in your document package for suggestions specific to your cruise. Most cruise lines include helpful information and you can often pre-book excursions and some onboard services.
  • Go over your personalized packing list again. Finish shopping.

1 week before sailing

  • Finalize your packing list and continue organizing everything in one area.
  • Buy additional media cards and check the batteries in your camera.
  • Refill prescription medications with an adequate supply (bring along a copy of the prescription if this is critical medication) and put medication in your carry on bag.
  • Make two photocopies of your passport or ID and credit cards. Leave one copy with a friend and carry the other separately from the originals.
  • Get cash and/or traveler’s checks at the bank. If you use traveler’s checks, keep a separate record of the serial numbers. Get a supply of one dollar bills for tipping baggage handlers (at the airport, hotel, pier, etc.).
  • If you are visiting ports of call other than in the Caribbean, you might want to exchange some money ahead of time.
  • You may also want to put valuables and jewelry that you won’t be taking with you in the safety deposit box while you’re at the bank. (See “1 day before sailing”—you may want to put some of the contents of your wallet in the safety deposit box as well.)
  • Arrange to have your mail held at the post office or ask a neighbor to pick it up.
  • Stop newspaper delivery or ask a neighbor to bring it in for you.
  • Arrange for lawn and houseplant care or snow removal during your absence (if necessary).
  • Leave your itinerary, the ship’s telephone number (plus the name of your ship and your stateroom number), and a house key with a relative or friend. If the ship’s telephone number is not included in your documents, your travel agent can obtain it for you.
  • If traveling with small children, purchase little games or toys to keep them occupied while en route to your embarkation port.

3 days before sailing

  • Confirm your airline flights; departure times are sometimes subject to change.
  • Put a card with your name, address, and itinerary inside each suitcase.
  • Fill out your luggage tags and follow the instructions in your cruise documents regarding attaching them.
  • Complete any other paperwork that the cruise line included with your documentation if you did not do so online (foreign customs & immigration forms, etc). Do NOT wait until you are standing in the pier check-in line to fill them in!
  • Do last minute laundry and tidy up the house.
  • Pull out the luggage and begin packing.

The day before sailing

  • Take pets to the kennel.
  • Water houseplants and lawn (if necessary).
  • Dispose of any perishable food in the refrigerator.
  • Mail any last minute bills.
  • Set timers for indoor lights.
  • Reorganize your wallet. Remove anything you won’t need (check cashing cards, department store, or gas credit cards, etc), put it in an envelope, and leave in a secure place.
  • Finish packing and lock your suitcases.

Departure day

  • Adjust the thermostat and double-check the door locks.
  • Turn off the water if there is danger of frozen pipes while you are away.
  • Arrange to be at the airport a minimum of two hours before your departure time. (Or earlier for international flights—follow the airline’s instructions.)
  • Have photo ID and/or passport ready for check-in.
  • Slip your car keys, parking claim checks, and airline tickets/itinerary in your carry-on luggage. Never check these items.

Cruise Travel First Aid Kit
Be prepared for small emergencies

by Linda Coffman

Cruise Travel First Aid

First Aid For Travelers

Life’s little bumps
Before I could fully explain how I scraped my knee, the ship’s nurse smiled and pointed to several baskets of supplies on her desk when I appeared in the infirmary. I left with several adhesive bandages, a packet of Neosporin cream, and the advice that swimming in one of the ship’s salt water pools would promote healing.

Over the years, I’ve stubbed my toes, toppled down stairs, and experienced any number of other clumsy little accidents, not to mention nasty cuts on coral reefs and blisters from ‘stylish’ shoes. Fortunately, most of the time my injuries were minor. Unfortunately, they didn’t all happen within close proximity of the ships’ medical centers. As a result, I’ve learned to be prepared at all times with basic items for first aid. My tote bag always contains a few adhesive bandages and a small bottle of waterless antibacterial hand sanitizer, which can also be used to clean small cuts.

For all around care, I’ve put together a kit of first aid and emergency items that I never leave home without.

Cruise Diva’s Travel First Aid Kit

  • adhesive bandages
  • first aid antibacterial cream
  • waterless antibacterial hand sanitizer
  • aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • anti-nausea medication
  • anti-diarrhea medication
  • antacid tablets
  • antihistamine
  • seasickness remedy
  • zipper-top plastic bags or ice bag
  • dental adhesive
  • prescription medications

Even those of us without dentures may have several caps and fillings. It’s rare that a shipboard medical center features a resident dentist, so a small container of dental adhesive or special dental repair kit is handy. A temporary repair can mean the difference between discomfort and relief from extreme temperature sensitivity until a dentist is available in port.

Another condition to consider is edema, the accumulation of excess fluid in body tissues. It’s a very common condition, particularly after long airplane flights and while cruising in hot, humid climates. Swollen ankles and feet are regular complaints and preventative measures are called for. During pre-cruise flights, drink plenty of water while avoiding caffeine and alcoholic beverages; walk around the plane every hour; and wear special compression stockings (available fromMagellan’s). Should swelling still develop, raise your feet and apply an ice-filled zipper-top plastic bag for relief. Sleeping with elevated feet helps as well—try putting a folded blanket or life vest under the mattress. From the ship’s spa, Elemis Instant Refreshing Gel does wonders for swollen ankles. In addition, when applied to the temples, it also clears sinus congestion and eases headache pain.

TIPS 

  • Contact lens wearers should pack an extra pair. 
  • All medications and first aid supplies should be hand carried—do not pack them in checked luggage. 
  • Prescription medicine should be in its original container. 
  • Always have enough medicine on hand for a couple extra days in case of travel delays when returning home.

Have DUCK Tape, Will Travel

by Linda Coffman

So, your bags are packed and you’re ready to cruise? Haven’t you forgotten something?

If you didn’t slip a roll of Duck Tape into your tote bag, you are leaving your home port without one of a cruise traveler’s handiest “necessities.” Yes, this is NOT your father’s duct tape (its generic name) and it no longer belongs in the garage.

Some of its more mundane uses are luggage repair (fix a broken hinge with ease) and security (baggage handlers won’t tamper with Duck Tape, it’s too much trouble). Wrapped in Duck Tape, your luggage is easy to spot in terminals as well. For individuality, Flat Pack Duck Tape comes in black, yellow, pink, orange, green, and camouflage, as well as the traditional silver.

For even higher suitcase visibility, there is Duck Tape in snazzy neon colors: yellow, orange, and pink. It’s water resistant (an important feature for ocean travelers!) and can serve as an indestructible “luggage tag.” Just write your name and address on the vinyl backing, which has the feel of cloth tape. Best of all, this tape is easy to tear by hand and you don’t need to cut it with scissors, an airline no-no in carryon bags these days.. 

On Land & Afloat
There are literally thousands of uses for Duck Tape and many more than I could possibly list. Every homeowner knows that when something is supposed to stick together and it doesn’t, nothing holds like Duck Tape. What about at sea? Is the bottom ready to fall out of your cabin’s vanity drawer? Tape it until the carpenter arrives.You’re a late sleeper and the drapes don’t quite close? Keep the sun at bay by taping them together. Everyone has had the stitching in a hem unravel at the last minute. Duck Tape to the rescue! There are bottle lids to secure, rattles to silence, drawers that won’t stay shut when the ship is rolling, and dozens of other little things that “happen” when you least expect them.

One of Duck Tape’s most creative uses is as a replacement for an “uplifting” foundation garment. Under low cut or backless dresses, or when a brassiere just won’t work with a gown, create your own Wonder Duck Bra. I can personally verify that Duck Tape sticks well for hours and peels off without pain. Best of all… the variety of colors means more coordinating choices and even less chance of a sliver of silver tape peeping from a black décolleté neckline.

Duck Tape now covers the net! Join the Duck Tape Club and visit the Official Duck Products web site for more ideas.

*****

Illustrations: Courtesy of Manco, Inc.

Tips for Selecting Luggage for Your Cruise

by Linda Coffman

Luggage collection from TravelPro®

What’s the best luggage for a cruise?

It just so happens that the “best” luggage for your cruise is also suitable for many other purposes. Airport and pier baggage handlers are notoriously rough with suitcases, so a top consideration is sturdy discount luggage. It doesn’t have to be top-of-the-line, but it should be well-built to withstand the rigors of conveyors and sorting machines; not to mention being stacked, dropped and thrown through the air. Really! I’ve seen that happen!

Hard-side vs. Soft-side Suitcases

Over the years we’ve worn out more suitcases than I care to think about. They can be a significant investment, so the right choice in terms of design and durability is important. Brand name luggage that comes with a good warranty is always desirable, but no-name or private label brands can also stand the test of time.

Hard-side luggage has ultimately been the longest wearing of all our purchases. In addition to being the most rugged, built-in locks also make them the most secure and water-tight. Improved composition materials have made their shells lighter; however, even when empty they can still be heavy.

If my casual observations at airport conveyors are any indication, soft-side suitcases are by far the most popular choice. They are lighter in weight, zippers can be secured, almost all have wheels, and some are expandable for additional packing volume.

What to look for in a suitcase

Hard-side suitcases should have metal “piano” hinges and solid hardware. Combination locks are great, but look for those that also have key locks. Unless a clasp is locked, it could snap open. Wheels (preferably in-line skate type) should turn smoothly and be wide set for stability. Retractable handle assemblies should be strong and adjustable for maximum comfort and ease of maneuverability. Padded interiors with pockets and garment tie-downs are fairly standard. For frequent flyers who want the greatest luggage mileage, it makes sense to look at hard-sides.

Luggage set for kids

The soft-side suitcases you are considering should be covered in a tightly woven ballistic nylon for the greatest durability—other fabrics can snag, pill, and tear more easily. None are indestructible, but ballistic nylon (especially Teflon® coated) is judged the best. Frame construction is a premier consideration; it should be strong enough not flex out of shape when the suitcase is fully packed. Corners must be reinforced with rubber bumpers hefty enough to prevent abrasion, which all too often occurs in these vulnerable areas. Wheels and handle assemblies should have the same properties as hard-side cases and a solid “skid plate” between the wheels is beneficial to protect the suitcase fabric from damage when encounters with curbs and escalators are inevitable. Look for self-healing, industrial-grade zippers that move smoothly and have large enough zipper pulls for ease of use. Interiors can include a variety of “wet” bags, pockets, and other organizers, particularly in the lid/door.

All suitcases should be well balanced with adequate feet so they don’t fall over when you are waiting in a check-in line. In addition, many of the newest models include removable garment bags or “suiters” for wrinkle-free packing.

Garment bags and rolling “suiters”

Even some of the smallest 22″ suitcases are outfitted with “suiters”—those fold-up panels that accommodate hanging garments. These are great wrinkle proof organizers and tuck formal clothing neatly into the suitcase. The handiest are the ones that are removable for times that you don’t need them.

Business travelers have long favored garment bags for carry on ease and quick wrinkle-free packing. Their bulky favorites are being replaced these days by garment bags on wheels that are virtually rolling closets with multiple pockets and organizers for folded items, shoes, and even toiletries. Look for the same construction qualities as any soft-side suitcase. These bags hold a LOT and are not sized for carrying on aircraft, however.