My younger sister and I have spent the last 17 months in “cruise withdrawal” as we watched our cruises cancel due to the worldwide pandemic, and waited for travel to restart. I think the worst for me was on my birthday in 2020 when my August 2020 cruise cancelled. All during this time, we have scratched cruises off the calendar, waited on our future cruise credits and refunds and schemed where we would go when things opened back up.
My sister gets lots of offers from the cruise ship casino to beckon her back on board, and I help her sort out her itineraries and avail myself to her gracious offer to be her cabin mate on some of these trips. The offers usually include a free cabin, with us paying the port fees/taxes, insurance and tips, excursions, drink packages, air fare, transfers, hotels before/after the cruise etc etc etc. We pay for everything EXCEPT cabin fare for the trip on her special casino offers. I always tell people to take the advertised “cabin fare per person” and multiply it by 3 for the real cost of cruising. I am not complaining, at all, about a free cabin, but most of the time, I am spending somewhere in the $1500 range for all those etcetera’s. Cruising with my sister means, I am not paying for her share, and she is not paying for a solo fare either. We have done a LOT of trips this way and hope to do many more. My first 10 cruises, I paid full fare, and didn’t go nearly as often. My hubby doesn’t enjoy cruising, so travelling with someone who loves it as much as I do is great fun.
Our first trip in 2021 will be late fall. We will sail in November on a 15 day cruise from Los Angeles to Hawaii and back to Los Angeles. We will meet up on the west coast, on the ship for this trip. Our second cruise will be a 10 day Southern Caribbean out of Ft Lauderdale in late January. We will meet up at a hotel the day before the cruise and travel to the ship together. There are a bunch of others “in the works” in 2022. She and I will meet up onboard in March to sail again to Hawaii. I also have a twice postponed QUILTING CRUISE in late August with my sister-in-law, and then again meet my sister on board for an Alaska cruise in September. Last one I plan to be on with my sister in 2022 is a repositioning cruise from Quebec to Fort Lauderdale in late October. So, lots of reasons to celebrate our vaccinations and avoidance so far of that dreaded virus! My hubby is so worried I will not get to take these early cruises and doesn’t want me disappointed. I refuse to think in those terms, and would rather carry on with my plans.
This week, I sat down at my computer and created a “spreadsheet” for each cruise.
And of course, each cruise has a file folder and all the pertinent details filled in. It is a LOT to keep track of, and my sister has twice as many to keep organized!
As we chat on line about the various trips and airports and connections, etc, we do our best to keep it all straight. I went so far as to get us both a dry erase calendar on Amazon for 2022 a few months ago, when neither of us could find them in the stores. Mine lives on my fridge and I am trying to help keep my sister organized as well.
I keep my file folders near my kitchen computer with printouts of the travel summary for each cruise, my spreadsheet, my airline confirmations, my hotel confirmations, my ground shuttles etc. Each trip gets a file. It is complicated, but I am a logistics kinda person and I thrive on the planning.
In all our planning, I follow some great video content creators on You Tube. Two of my favorite cruise you tubers are Don Terris – Don’s Family Vacations, and Tony Barnette – La Lido Loca. I watched a lot of travel content on you tube in the last 17 months, watching and waiting. Those two content creators are friends, one reporting from Canada, and the other from Florida.
I also have been watching a ton of “packing videos” as I start to think ahead to November. Somewhere along the line I bumped into the idea of using packing “cubes” . Let me explain how I have packed for my previous cruises. I have been on 17 Princess cruises, 1 Celebrity, 1 Oceania, 1 Carnival, 1 Norwegian. That said, I pretty well know how to pack….but it has been SO LONG in between my last cruise in August 2019 and now! In the past, I packed in “space bags”. Those plastic zipper, squish the air out bags. I lay everything out on the bed I think I want to take and pack “by the day” with all the necessary things. I like to make sure I am packing the “right” color bra/under ware for the outfit etc. Anyway, load the bag and squish out the air and put it in the suitcase. All good, but things do tend to wrinkle, and everything needs to come out of compression air bags and be hung up, put in drawers etc.
So what are packing cubes? Generally they square/rectangular containers about 3″ deep with zippers, and some have a second set of zips for compression. Here is a great video on packing using them.
I shared some of these videos with my sister, and recommended she consider getting a set or two. She is going on several “back to back to back” cruises in the spring, but has to change cabins. The concept of the cubes is to put those things you would normally unpack into drawers into the cubes, and just place the cube with contents in the drawer of the first cabin. Then, when it is time to move to the next cabin for the next cruise, it will be quick to pack up her suitcase and make the move. USUALLY, the cabin steward will help with the clothes on hangers, bringing a garment rack and rolling “down the hall” etc. But it will be a royal pain to empty all your loose items out of the drawers. So; she ordered a set and sent me lots of photo’s as she packed to try them out. I was so impressed by how much hers held, I ordered one set for me. We ordered different kinds, and I will share with you what I managed to pack today when mine came. (NOTE…it’s mid August and my cruise is early November).
So; here are the cubes as they arrived in the mail today.
First things first — 15 day cruise; 3 formal nights. I don’t “get too dressed up” but I have a few things to take for formal night, glitzy blouses, dressy black slacks, a long skirt etc. But, I do like to “change for dinner” in the main dining room and plan to wear dresses. These are all sleeveless dresses. Here is the list of what went in the largest compression packing cube –
Then I moved on to “day wear” – things I will wear around the ship and in ports. Note – this cruise has 10 sea days out of 15 days on board. I’ve made this voyage before and know that the first 2 days out of San Pedro can be rather cool, so pants and a shirt with sleeves is helpful. I always pack one or two wraps for evenings and inside the air conditioned ship venues.
The next two cubes were quite a bit smaller, and I managed to pack in a swim suit, a cover up, underwear, bras (only 3 because today IS laundry day) and a few odds and ends still left out on the bed. The suitcase looks like this right now –
The suitcase side with the pockets has a bunch of stuff that I “store there” for every cruise and will need to “sort out” and reconsider before tucking in the nooks and crannies of this large “I FLY” suitcase. There are no shoes/flip flops or snorkeling gear yet or pajamas or make up bag. This suitcase will probably fill right up when I add those things. I have to say I emptied a LOT of hangers and I am probably “over packed” for this cruise. I am considering ordering another set of these cubes so I can better divide the garments between the carry on and the checked bag. Going “overweight” is expensive and compressing the items by volume makes it easy to get the suitcase too heavy.
What else do I take? I take a multi outlet/usb power strip, clothes pins, some washing /dryer sheets, snorkel gear, chair clips for my lounger to keep the towel on, jumbo magnets with hooks , a dry bag for my cell phone, and this year, a very fashionable clip to wear my cruise “medallion” in. (The medallion replaces the cruise card, and you keep it with you for the duration of the cruise. This sparkly bit below can be clipped on a lanyard or the top circle comes off and can be worn on a pretty chain as a piece of jewelry.)
What goes in my carry on? I’m staying overnight in a hotel before the cruise, so, I need two full changes of clothing, overnight things, all my electronic charges etc, medications. I will decide what I want to wear to board the ship, maybe include another swimsuit & coverup & sandals, something to wear to dinner both nights, a sweater/hoodie for the travel day and boarding the ship day.
Of course, travel right now requires packing other things that are not something we would normally take. I have a new box of 50 face masks, and will pick up some antibacterial wet ones before I cruise and have them on hand as well. Now, the big decision is….do I unpack it all, or just leave it be with the lists, and hopefully the cruise happens! Summer is winding down, and I have no shortage of clothes to wear every day around the house. (Shhh….don’t tell but I have my “cruise wear closet” in my guest room and generally don’t wear those items around home).
Keep your fingers crossed that the world settles down, and our future cruises will take place! If you cruise, how early do you start packing? It’s time for me to go zip up that suitcase before the cats decide to go on vacation with me!