The International Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights may be worth more than the Web page it’s posted on, but only if there’s going to be some kind of enforcement mechanism. And there’s no sign of that.
Please excuse my skepticism but when a segment of the travel industry repeatedly mistreats its customers and then, under threat of outside regulation (see the Cruise Passenger Protection Act), adopts a voluntary and self-enforced code of conduct, well I get this deja vu feeling all over again.
My laundry line can class up any setting.
I can feel the excitement building as we count down to No. 2 in my list of the most useful things I brought on my recent extended cruise: my flexible laundry line.
In the ordinary course of leisure travel, the laundry line allows me to limit my packed wardrobe to two or three outfits for a week or two of travel, squeezing the whole deal into a single carry-on bag with the electronics and toiletries. In the course of a three-week trip, including 16 days on a cruise ship with frequent wardrobe changes, it allowed me to sneak my checked bag just under the 50-pound limit. (“One more pair of shoes and she’d be in trouble,” the Southwest skycap remarked to my husband, not knowing that the real problem was three pounds of maple syrup. But that’s another story.)
Here’s number 3 in my countdown of the five most useful things I packed for a recent 16-day cruise: a collapsible day pack.
The backpack folds up into a compact pouch.
This nylon Baggallini pack is pretty simple — just one medium-sized bag with an outer pocket and webbing straps. It’s not the most comfortable or best-looking pack, but then I’ve never been all that stylish a traveler. The pack is wonderfully practical, though, because it zips compactly into its own pocket so that you can throw it in your luggage and pull it out when you need it. A snap-down flap over the drawstring closure adds security.
We didn’t use this on the ship, we used it in port. In Bermuda and Valencia, we took it on rented bikes. In the Bahamas we took it to the beach. In Punta Delgada and Malaga, we carried it when we went out on foot.
The bad news is that I can’t find this expandable pack for sale anywhere. There are some reasonable-looking alternatives out there, including the Trek Light Bindle Pack for $27. If you prefer a tote bag, Baggallini still sells expandable totes that zip into their own pockets. You can get them on eBags for $45. I own a couple and have given them as gifts.
Here’s a tip: Never put your wallet in a backpack or day pack. Or if you must put the wallet in the pack, don’t put it in the outer pocket and carry the pack in front, no matter how nerdy it makes you look. We use hidden wallets for cash and credit cards and keep bulkier items in the pack. The operating principle is that we should be able to continue our vacation without substantial disruption if it the pack were to disappear. The most valuable things we could lose would be our point-and-shoot cameras — a disappointment but not a disaster.
Here’s a trick: If you keep an expandable pack or tote in your suitcase at all times, you’ll always have a handy extra bag for gifts and souvenirs on the way home.
I’m counting down a list of the five most useful things I packed for a recent 16-day cruise, and here is number 4: an outlet tap.
My outlet tap, doing double duty.
Truth to tell, I didn’t know what the thing was called when I packed it, even though I’d had it for years. I Googled it post-cruise. (Google knows all.) An outlet tap is essentially an outlet multiplier — plug it in and turn one outlet into several. And on many cruise ships (including the Carnival Legend, which carried us from Tampa to Barcelona) that can turn out to be quite handy.
Before we left, my husband warned me that he’d read on Cruise Critic that even the suites on the Legend offer only one 11o-volt outlet, and that we should pack a power strip. I scoffed. How could this be? A modern cruise ship would have multiple outlets in each cabin. And a power strip would be far too bulky. But I packed the outlet tap just in case, expecting not to need it.
But he was right. There was one lonely 110-volt plug in our suite. (There was also a 220-volt European-style outlet. More on that below.)
The case becomes the lever.
I made a list of the five most useful things I packed for a recent 16-day cruise, a personal list to be sure. This is number 5, not because it was least useful to me but because I have to acknowledge that it’s of use only to wine drinkers. On the other hand, it’s very useful to wine drinkers.
If you’re a beer drinker, substitute a bottle opener. I brought one of those, too.
Anyway, back to wine. Most mass market cruise lines allow you to bring a bottle or two of your own wine on board at embarkation (although not at ports of call, usually.) This is a course of action I highly recommend. You’ll get to choose from a wider variety of wine at a far lower price than you will ever get on board the ship.