Packing for a Cruise and All that Nonsense

Formal nights, really?  You’re killing me Celebrity.  So, it’s true.  We’re headed out on a bucket list kind of adventure.  An 11-night Mediterranean cruise with two of our most favorite people on earth – Maylene’s parents.

Exciting, right?  And stressful!  Boy – is it ever stressful!  When you pack for a cruise, not only are you packing for regular touring like you normally would when you’re traveling but you also have to pack for all the fun in the water you’ll be having on the ship plus hopefully a yoga class / early morning jog to keep off the buffet food.  Then there’s the need to dress for dinner.  That’s right – dress for dinner.  What’s a girl to do??

In addition to the nine other dressy nights, there are TWO – count ’em two formal nights on this cruise and when they say formal, they pretty much mean it as far as I can tell – but I’ll report back more on that later.  Complicating the packing requirements are the need to remain lightly burdened for maximum touring post-cruise for ten more days.

A lot of careful consideration later and I decided that I simply cannot be confined to a single backpack for the entire month-long multi-climate adventure.  Instead, I packed my five pairs of shoes plus two formal dresses, five cute evening numbers, five dinner blouses, four touring shirts, five touring pants/skirts, four scarves, four bras, five underwear, leggings/hose, three swimsuits, electronic devices, journal, travel pillow, makeup, cosmetics, and all the other random requirements into two carry-on bags.  And really, I’m just guessing here since I haven’t counted and at this point can’t bring myself to unpack to get the count accurate – I’m sure we can all agree that I have brought a ton of options.  Okay – maybe just 75 pounds.

ebag MotherlodeOne container I’m using is a small, 22″ rolling suitcase from Swiss Army that I’ve had for years and while I still think I have a chance of getting it on the plane as a carry-on with the larger backpack — it will instead be checked for the long flight to Rome with layover in Amsterdam.  I’ll use my tried and true Deuter collapsible day bag as another carry-on backpack for the flight over.  This will help distribute some of the weight from my larger ebags Motherlode Weekender TLS backpack making airport navigation easier.

I have to say though, I have been very impressed with the amount of space in the Motherlode and the great pockets and organizing options available.  I would highly recommend that bag for a discrete, compact backpack – which would normally be all I would need for normal touring but then they mentioned formal night.  And all logic went out the window for me.  I managed to keep it fairly contained but am still traveling with twice as much as I usually have.

I’ll report back later on whether or not it was worth having all those cute outfits or if a lighter load would have been a smarter option.  All in the name of fashion! 😉

Playing High Roller in Monaco Baby!!

Before beginning our journey vagabonding around Europe, we knew we wanted to go to Monaco — Maylene’s “things-to-do-before-she-dies” list included playing a round of blackjack there and we wanted to visit a tiny country – we’ve missed them all so far except for Monaco!

When I began searching for a hotel, of course I found that they are all VERY expensive.  That’s why it was so nice to be able to use one of our Welcome Rewards nights to stay at the Fairmont Hotel Monte Carlo.  It is the #1 hotel in Monaco on TripAdvisor and ironically enough, I worked my Server Assistant butt off at the Brown’s Beach House restaurant of the Fairmont Orchid hotel in Hawaii many moons ago, so it was a nice bit of self-satisfaction to be able to stay at one of the properties – even if only because we earned a free night to do so.

The hotel was impeccable and the service excellent.  More than that though, we were super-impressed with our room which overlooked the Mediterranean Sea and included a balcony with table, 2 chairs, and chaisse lounge to really enjoy it.

the view from our balcony looking left toward Italy

the view from our balcony looking left toward Italy

Having “splurged” on a taxi to get there (rather than walking/public transit as we always do) — we had read in the marketing materials that it was situated on one of the F1 turns and it definitely was — so you had the most amazing cars driving around the turns, tires squealing – shifting gears — but the inside of the hotel was super quiet.  In fact, we didn’t notice until much later that our room was built on stilts driven into the water and that a multi-lane road ran underneath our hotel.  From our spot on the fifth floor, all we could hear was the crashing of the waves beneath us.  Perfect!

side view of the hotel on stilts over the water

side view of the hotel on stilts over the water

road running underneath the hotel - looks like a Project Gotham Racing map section!

road running underneath the hotel – looks like a Project Gotham Racing map section!

The in-house casino had just what we needed to check off that bucket list.  While there were only a few blackjack tables open and the cheapest was 10 euros per hand (we watched someone dropping 500+ euro per hand on Casino War — nuts).  Not only did we play – on the cheap table of course – but we ended UP 40 euros – primarily because Maylene ROCKS and racked up the chips, more than doubling her money – you do the math — yes, I lost most of mine — haha.  We quit playing when we (ok, really it was mostly me) became too tired at around 1:30 in the morning but made sure to catch the gorgeous sunrise before enjoying room service breakfast.  What luxury!!

Sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea

Sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea

Speaking of luxury — we saw some of the most humongous yachts in the Monaco port.  They were incredible.  I had to ask Maylene if they were cruise ships or yachts! =)

here's two of the "cruise ships" from where we stood on the dock

here’s two of the “cruise ships” from where we stood on the dock

here are those same two ships but closer for detail

here are those same two ships but closer for detail

hey look -- it's the Mickey yacht!

hey look — it’s the Mickey yacht!

check-out the name of the luxury yacht parked in Monaco's marina

check-out the name of the luxury yacht parked in Monaco’s marina

...sigh...

…sigh…

English breakfasts – here we come!!

We are on our way to the UK for about a month – flying into London tonight and directly onto Bath on Tuesday.  We’re taking Rick Steve’s general itinerary for UK touring in 22 days and cutting it down in a few places.

We will be checking out Stonehenge and Avebury after a few days of relaxing in Bath Spa (really, that’s the name). After that we hit the road with Maylene volunteering to drive us through Wales and Scotland. We are really getting excited about the prospect of driving again and are hoping for a GPS this time. Yes – this is another thing we short-sightedly decided to leave at home, thinking it was too bulky for the trip. Yes – we’ve been kicking ourselves since we rented in Switzerland. It seems like they agencies never seem to have any more in stock when we arrive and/or, they didn’t equip the car with it and it took them two hours to get it to you in the first place — yipes! I’m hoping for a much easier pick-up in Bath.

If anyone has advice to provide about the UK, including Ireland (our next stop) – we’d love to hear it!

Washing Clothes on the Go

So…a few people have asked about how we manage to wash clothes while we are traveling.  I thought instead of telling you how, I’d show you:

1.  Start with a clean sink.

1. Start with a clean sink.

2.  Fill the sink with handy dandy Rick Steves Travel Wash and water.

2. Fill the sink with handy dandy Rick Steves Travel Wash and water.

3.  Soak your clothing for a bit.

3. Soak your clothing for a bit.

Agitate in the sink and rub together the important parts then wring out.

4. Agitate in the sink and rub together the important parts then wring out.

5.  Empty and rinse the sink then rinse the clothing.

5. Empty and rinse the sink then rinse the clothing.

6.  Wring the clothing out over the sink.

6. Wring the clothing out over the sink.

7.  Lay clothing on a towel and roll the towel over them.

7. Lay clothing on a towel and roll the towel over them.

8.  Wring the towel out to get as much water as you can out of the clothes - you may have to step on the towel to do so.

8. Wring the towel out to get as much water as you can out of the clothes - you may have to step on the towel to do so.

9.  Hang the clothes to dry (usually overnight is all it takes).

9. Hang the clothes to dry (usually overnight is all it takes).

Yes – about once a month it is nice to use a machine but even hand-washing keeps them remarkably clean and it’s pretty darn easy too!