Thursday, May 29, 2008

The luggage has been tagged

My sister is awesome.

Carnival provides luggage tags in their electronic boarding paperwork, and when you print them out on your home printer, they're obviously not showing up on cardstock (they could, if you go get some, but most people don't).  So the tags themselves have all sorts of "fold this in thirds - do not cut" instructions on them, folding in thirds apparently to beef up the strength of the cheap recycled printer paper everyone has, in the hope that they won't rip off while being manhandled onto the ship.

Not us, though.  My sister printed out, folded, and laminated tags for all of us, and provided cable ties to attach them with.  Barring some sort of natural disaster, they are not going to come off.  And they're on our suitcases - I put them there last night.

I also found my travel hairdryer, our tiny alarm clock, and the nightlight last night, and added them to the pile in the closet.  The pile is getting kind of big, and I began to suspect this morning that I might have non-cruise clothes buried in it somewhere.

So, I just scrolled down a bunch of posts to find my last "T-10" entries, and they involved blizzards.  I am so amazingly grateful to be going to sea bound for warm climates during the summer this trip - it has simplified everything!  The words "hiking boots" or "coats" are not on any lists this time.

I had been searching for travel-sized laundry detergent last night, without luck.  What I want is those little boxes that come out of dispensers in laundromats - maybe 2 of them.  What I found in the luggage store was tiny pouches of Woolite, just right for swishing the undies in the sink, or "airline-safe" packets of dried soap leaves, also perfect for swishing the undies in the sink.  And while I find Rick Steves very enjoyable to watch, the ship has laundry facilities and I want to take advantage of them.  No sink-swishing.  I was whining about this to my husband this morning, and he comes forth with a volley of sense.  "Just get a travel-sized plastic bottle and fill it from the detergent in the house," he said. 

Doh!  Gotta learn to step back occasionally.  Can't think out of the box if I can't see it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

T-11 again!

We leave in 11 days!  And I am so beyond ready.  Mentally, that is.  We're not much on the way to being packed and organized just yet.  And we need to be. 

One week from tomorrow, my husband, daughter, her friend, and my parents all set out to drive down to Galveston with most of my luggage (and theirs - there will be plenty of room, since I'm only taking one suitcase, in case I didn't mention it).  The day after that, I take off from work to get the cats and dogs to "camp" (my term, not theirs, probably), and our flight down is on Saturday.

Between now and then, my husband has to go to an out-of-town conference, so he has to be packed and unpacked (and laundered, no doubt) twice.  And my daughter's friend is currently in Europe, due to return next Wednesday.  I'm sure she'll make it back in time, but it's a good thing no one's counting on her to drive - she will probably spend the trip down sleeping somewhere.

I've made up a countdown schedule, with tasks to do every night after work.  If we stick to the schedule, we'll probably make it okay.

Monday, May 19, 2008

And then suddenly everyone got sick

Hopefully, this is a good sign - we still have time to get over it all before leaving.

Last Friday, my sister came down with a nasty stomach virus that put her hard down for the better part of three days.

Last Tuesday, my dad caught a cold that wiped out his ability to speak for a couple of days.

This morning, my daughter and husband were both exhibiting signs of having caught my sister's virus (without any contact with her at all, so it must be something going around).

I feel peculiarly light-headed at the moment, but not exactly sick, so I'm hoping I've dodged the bullet so far.

With luck, this means we're getting all this out of our systems prior to sailing. We've done the "sick while on a cruise" thing - bronchitis, not Norwalk, in case you were wondering - and it does cramp one's style. And I left on my first cruise with a fistful of antibiotics to help me get over the last lingering bits of the flu (and they handily allowed me to eat in Mexico without dwelling on the possible after-effects).

But since everyone's apparently so susceptible just now, I think that I will have to bring rather more intellectually challenging books with me, to keep my mind from thinking I'm on a vacation and finally have time to be sick. No bodice-rippers by the pool; I'll have to read Origin of Species or the general theory of relativity or something. Not like I haven't done that before: the book I chose to read by the pool on our last cruise was Charles Williams' Descent Into Hell. I hope no one read anything into that choice...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shooting for the one-suitcase challenge

One month from yesterday, we will have debarked, boarded our Super Shuttle to the airport, and flown home from our cruise. I'd be all bummed thinking about it, but that actually means that we only have a little over 3 weeks until we fly to Houston to get on the cruise - and that's a good thing!

The weather around here is altogether too reminiscent of our cruise to Alaska several years ago - grey, cloudy, drizzly, and offering a view of snow-covered peaks. Great for tourism, those snow-covered peaks, if anyone was still in the mood to go skiing in mid-May (actually, I do have a few friends...). The snow contrasts nicely with all the green around town - with the drizzle, the plants are very happy just now. So it would look very pretty if the sun would just make an appearance, already. The weatherman promises we'll see it tomorrow. Of course, I think he said that about today, too. Weird spring for here, that's all.

So, we're in the home stretch, I'd say. And I've been refining the wardrobe a bit. Cruise Diva says to pick a color scheme and plan your cruise wardrobe around it. On previous cruises, I haven't really tried that - at least, not all that hard. But for this one, now that I've overcome the 3-pairs-of-shoes challenge, it's time to shoot for the 1-suitcase challenge. So my color scheme is "Navy Blue and things that go with it, mostly". I didn't say I was good at it. But here's what I've come up with:

5 pairs of shorts - 2 good for shore excursions and 3 good for eating on casual nights - in navy, black, and shades of khaki (bet you didn't think khaki came in shades, did you?).
A boatload of shirts in purple, yellow, navy, green, black, and white (things that go with the shorts)
2 formal/elegant night dresses in prints that include black or navy and purpleish colors (BTW, that they fit the color scheme is pretty much sheer chance - no planning involved)
Maybe a navy skirt (if it fits in the suitcase)
Swimsuits, which don't have to match anything.
And, of course, the 3 pairs of shoes - black heels, brown birkies, and white sneakers.

One suitcase for a week-long cruise - and not one the size of a semi. It can be done.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mission Accomplished

One shopping mall, one hour, two dresses, one swimsuit. Triumph.

Some days, the planets are just in alignment. And it was an outlet mall, to boot. I think, perhaps, I may never shop anywhere else again - there's no point.

If you were to go into my closet now, you'd find that I own jeans and t-shirts and sweaters from the Eddie Bauer outlet, polo and dress shirts from the Ralph Lauren outlet, and now, two dresses from the Jones New York outlet.

Another checkmark for the giant list o' stuff to do. One a day, that's all I ask, and we just might make it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And there was much rejoicing

The dress is done, and the dining room looks like a dining room again (except for the sewing machine itself, which I need to find a new home for anyway, since we tore down its closet a while back). The last step was to finish sewing on some bead trim which looked really nice in the store.

Nice, it was not. 1/2" satin ribbon with 1" strings of beads suspended from one edge about every 1/4". The night before last, I sewed its top edge (bead-free) to the dress, and last night, I did the beaded edge.

Beads tangle in thread. In order to affix the stuff properly, I had to put a stitch in every other space between bead strings, and on about half of them, I'd guess, the thread wrapped itself around the beads. My husband had on a loud movie, which was a good thing, since it prevented his hearing what I was muttering to myself.

But it's done.

My husband is already talking about getting suitcases out of the attic - it's dawned on him that we're less than a month away, and we have way too much to do in the interim as it is. But if he gets the suitcases out, then they're in the way while we host out of town relatives for my daughter's graduation party, which was the real reason I had to get the dress done and get the dining room cleaned out.

And I still don't have even one dress identified for formal nights, much less two. And I need to find a swimsuit.

This weekend. No excuses. Dress and Swimsuit or bust. And a bunch of other stuff while I'm at it. Eek!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

(almost) Ex-Seamstress, and Karaoke?

One more stretch of handsewing, and my sister's dress is done! I could go on and on about black fabric, especially black polyester crepe, but I think I actually already have... Anyway, after 3 false starts on moving seams and darts a bit, including an episode of accidentally ripping out the seam I just put in, instead of the one it meant to replace (complete with swearing), the minor alterations are done, the zipper's in, the hem's on, and the trim is half-attached. That's the last stretch to do. And then I can hand it over, clean up the dining room, and go find myself something to wear, other than just shoes. Although, Carnival didn't exactly prohibit nudity on formal night in their new policy... Naaah, my skin doesn't look all that dressy, I'm afraid.

Got the phones set up to work internationally - one of our key takeaways from our last cruise. It will be crucial to have them working since it's likely that we'll be going in many directions once on shore - and I'd just like to make sure everyone's accounted for. Occasionally. More often than the kid would like, I'm sure, and not quite enough for my personal comfort.

So, the big question on my mind at the moment (heaven knows why) is whether, at 80, looking back on my life, I will regret not having tried to do Karaoke on this cruise. I sorta want to, and I'm entirely certain I will make an idiot of myself if I do, so I also sorta don't want to. Maybe right after we find the bar with the better variety of single malts...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Swimsuit and shoe shopping

On Saturday, once the carpet cleaning guy had done his magic, my daughter and I went out to try to find me a swimsuit for the trip, and look at shoes for her (I thought that part was cruise-related, but she didn't, really).

Shoes, for once, were easy (and yes, I know I said that about the red torture devices I bought for my last cruise). The kid got a pair of Rocket Dog Mary Jane sneakers in blue plaid (there is no accurate way to describe these shoes in less than a complete paragraph), and a new pair of Teva flip-flops. Both of which will probably come on the ship with us, but won't be worn at formal night, which I had sort of thought was the point of the shopping.

I found a pair of lowish (less than 2") heel slides in black, similar to a white pair that I own and like, that are a bit dressier than my old standby "black dress shoes". And that's great - it would, however, be nice to find a dress to go with them. More on that further along...

Next on the agenda was a trip to look for swimsuits for me. I have the one I wore on our last cruise, and it's okay, but it's a tankini, and I just don't really like how it fits. So we did the Lands' End store at Sears (which was, unfortunately, nearly all tankinis all the time), and various other stores at the local mall. No joy. I'm pretty tall, and the suits I tried on all succeeded in making me look short and squatty. Weird effect, really. I'm actually starting to wonder if I wouldn't look better in a bikini of some sort, which is a strange thought for someone my age.

We also looked around a bit for dresses. I found one I loved (and another two not so much), but it didn't fit, either. I may hunt around to see if it comes in my size anywhere, because it really was cute - or I may find myself with another sewing project on my hands if I'm not careful. At least my sister's dress is close to being done.

I typed out my entire planned wardrobe for the cruise today, and I think I'm going to make that 1-suitcase goal. It's so nice not to see items like "hiking boots" or "heavy coat" on the list for once!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Is it too early to call this "T-30"?

Not that I'm starting to get excited or anything yet, but I dreamed last night about visiting a shipboard spa and resisting the sales pitch while I located the free sauna.

In reading cruise-themed websites, the words, "drink special of the day" are starting to sound really inviting - and as far as I remember, I've never once indulged in the drink special of the day on a cruise.

My sister's dress now is dress-shaped. No zipper and no hem, but that's all that remains to to before it's wearable (although there's some trim to attach as well).

I think I'm going shopping for swimsuits this weekend sometime. And yes, I do think I mean that to be plural.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

31 days

It's starting to sound close, and enough of the details are falling into place that I may be reduced to watching the clock tick.

The sewing is actually starting to bear fruit (and about bloody time, since we have a little insignificant matter of a graduation party to throw between now and our sail date). My niece's dress is complete, and my sister's is starting to take shape, although I'd like to say a brief (probably profane) word about sewing black fabric. Even with good light, it's nearly impossible to see edges of things or thread, or details on matte black fabric. I've rigged up extra lights to navigate this dress.

No real worries, though - and it's on the downhill slide toward completeness.

My wardrobe is a bit up in the air. I wore one of the dresses I was considering for formal night to a family wedding recently, and although I generally like the dress, it feels too short to me for what it is (it's a double-breasted shirtdress style), and a bit too businesslike for a formal dinner. So I guess I need to revisit the existing options and decide if any of them will work, and if not, I'm going to have to go dress hunting.

I don't think I've made a pitch before for John Heald's blog (, but I heard about it on a cruise site not too long ago and have been addicted ever since. I'm so impressed with his inside stories about life and work as a Cruise Director that I think I'm going to take an entirely different approach to this cruise from our previous ones. We've been passive consumers up to now - we interacted with our waitstaff at dinner and with our cabin steward, but didn't get out to that much of the entertainment and meet more of the crew. I think this trip, maybe I will go to the welcome-aboard show and other events that we've always skipped in the past.

Anyway - this time next month, we'll be in Galveston getting ready to embark!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I think we have yesterday's crisis resolved, and in a way that should remove the occasion of whining amongst my immediate traveling party. The girls don't lose their ocean view, we will not be denied boarding, and I can get back to planning how best to accessorize my spit-yodeling shirt.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Finally starting to exhibit signs of being one of our vacations

It was only a matter of time, after all.

It's been preying on my mind of late that, when the original booking was set up for our upcoming trip, the two 18-year-olds were put in the same cabin with no adults, and assigned a guarantee booking, rather than an assigned cabin. As it turns out when you read the fine print, 18-year-olds require the presence of an adult (defined as someone over 23 or a spouse - theirs, that is - over 21) either in the cabin, in an adjoining cabin, or across the hall from them.

Well, the guarantee cabin pretty much guaranteed that they weren't going to be anywhere near the rest of us, and when their booking stopped saying "TBA" and turned into a cabin number, it proved true. They were on deck 1; most of the rest of us were on deck 6. I began envisioning the scene at embarkation as the powers that be realized that the two girls (and quite frankly, they're about as likely to raise an unsupervised ruckus as a convention of librarians) were not appropriately supervised onboard. And I tried to decide (it's better to figure these things out in advance): if they were denied boarding, would we absolutely need to return home with them? Kidding - it would have spoiled the trip for all of us.

So, I followed my sister's lead, and got on a chat site to ask if this was likely to cause problems. The verdict there? Guilty - and to read their replies, guilty of aggravated murder. Not something calculated to make me feel welcome to ask anything else, I must say. So, writhing with guilt, I got on the phone with the cruise line, and we are trying to work things out to get the girls closer to some responsible adults in our party. Apparently, at this late date, making that happen involves shuffling other people around, which is just all bad.

For what it's worth, my immediate family is not falling on my neck weeping with gratitude for my foresight in getting this straightened out before we found ourselves standing on the pier at Galveston waving good-bye to the rest of the group. Both my husband and daughter are angry that her cabin might change from an ocean view (which is what her guarantee was for) to an inside - she because it "might" make her sick, and he because the girls will then undoubtedly spend more time in our cabin using the balcony.

So, it could be a week fraught with the type of interest that I won't find particularly funny. The countdown isn't quite reminding me of a condemned prisoner's countdown to that final meal, but I won't be putting the old vigor into my spit-yodeling this trip.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

They laughed

We distributed the matching shirts to the family during a family birthday party over the weekend. I guess it's a good thing that many of these people are either related to me, or chose at some point to marry someone from my family, because they all thought the shirts were pretty funny. I think they might even wear them occasionally.

My mom wants us to embark in them - even I'm not entirely sure about that, but she's thinking Embarcation photos.

And the custom logo on the shirts? My entire party is officially labeled as affiliated with "Saskatchewan Boys Spit-Yodeling". The words in red, above a multicolored embroidered armadillo.

Don't ask.

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