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Bare Bones Packing for a Cruise

Many years ago I met Arline Bleecker, an American travel journalist with a wonderful expertise in the art of cruising. Arlene always looked great but if you looked carefully you understood that she had not packed a lot. She was sim ply being practical and creative. Here's what I learned from her. Arlene writes...

Packing for a cruise requires a definite knack - a skill, I must admit, I didn't always have. Invariably, I overdid it. But finally I learned some tricks.

Sure it was fashionable a century ago to board an ocean liner with enough steamer trunks to sink it. But today, the prevalence of one-class ships lets us forfeit fashion fatigue.

Packing smart can save not only a small fortune in porter's tips (often $5 per bag), but also an aching back, and time--you won't have to wait so long at airports for your surfeit of suitcases. Besides, most cabins don't have enough space to store most of what you bring anyway.

A good rule of thumb is to pack one outfit for every 2 to 2 1/2 days of travel.
Pack lightly, especially for warm-weather cruises. Just remember to toss in a sweater or shawl for cool evenings and hyper-air-conditioned ships. If you forget just visit the ship's shops. I've bought some of my prettiest shawls onboard or at the first port of call.
Don't bother buying anything new. For daywear, simply don what you usually do at home: slacks or shorts, T-shirts or sweatshirts, and comfortable shoes such as flip-flops or sandals.
Bring a pair of rubber-soled walking shoes for slippery decks and dusty shore excursions.
One bathing suit and a cover-up are fine, even for Caribbean cruising.
For colder climes, include a well designed flannel-lined sweats (some are quite fashionable). Consider lightweight thermal underwear in place of bulky outer garments.
The clothing you bring should, if possible, be wrinkle resistant (certain silks and stretch fabrics are ideal).
In the event your clothes require TLC, some ships have complimentay self-service laundries for passengers wishing to wash and iron on your own. If you're sailing on one that does (such as the Universe, Sagafjord, and Royal Princess), pack fewer items. Self-service laundries are a handy feature, especially when you consider that travel irons are verboten on most ships (they're electrical fire hazards) and shipboard laundry services customarily charge upwards of three bucks just to wash a pair of socks.
Remember, even when formal wear is requested, it is not required. If dolling up just isn't your thing, don't feel obligated.
The key to packing smart is bringing mix-and-match clothing. For all formal evenings, I wear the same pair of black satin slacks, just gussying them up with different tops and glitzy earrings. Some journey women might be more comfortable in dresses. You can wear whatever your little heart desires. Add one pair of suitable shoes. In this case black flats or perhaps metallic are best.
Just about all ships have alternate casual dining spots. Everybody else is getting dressed up? You can wear your jeans and a t-shirt in the cafe of your choice.
Pack sleepwear, underclothes, hosiery and toiletries, and some inexpensive foul-weather gear (a rain slicker or collapsible umbrella). Toss in a tote bag for carrying odds and ends.

BONUS: Finally, there's this expert advice to women from one luggage-industry expert: 'Whatever you planned to take, cut it in half and you'll be fine.'

Why Ships Are Given Female Names

Cruise shipI believe that is is especially fitting that they give cruise ships female names. Think about it this way ... 'She is pregnant with a thousand adult embryos who long to stay warm forever and sheltered in this great white womb'
(Helen Slyke - A Necessary Woman - 1979)

What should I wear on a Christmas Market River Cruise?

Cruise shipLeave the fancy gowns and glitz at home. Part of the joy of a river cruise is its wonderful informality. There was only one evening when we dressed up a bit, otherwise we all opted for comfortable sweaters, sweatshirts, jeans or slacks. Going on a Christmas Market River Cruise means travel in December. Northern Europe is cold and damp at that time of the year. So what? It's supposed to be cold at Christmas time. It just means you'll be drinking lots of hot chocolate and delicious mulled wine. Just make sure to pack appropriately and understand you'll be exploring markets and sightseeing for long stretches of time. For me that meant wearing a warm coat, hat, gloves, scarf, socks and long johns. I also made sure I had boots that had thick soles so I was never cold.

BONUS: If you're lucky you'll get to see Europe under a sprinkling of snow and in a very different way than if you'd travelled by train or car during the summer.


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