Cruising with my one bag

Last week, my husband and I went on the maiden voyage of the Disney Dream cruise ship to the Bahamas. It was just a four-day cruise out of Florida, but we had a wonderful (albeit short) vacation that reminded me that I really do enjoy these cruises. I always think I’ll wind up being bored, but it’s never the case; it often feels like we run around even more than usual. We traveled with some friends of ours and their relatives, making up a very nice party of 6 (small enough to be dine together, but large enough that we could individually take off and do things without it feeling odd).

One of our travelmates has been on over 15 cruises trips—an astonishing number and one I don’t think I’ll ever reach. Being such a veteran did have its advantages, though. She has a huge network of friends and acquaintances on these cruises, giving us the opportunity to enjoy some special moments this time around, like getting to visit an informal reception in one of the big royal suites on the ship. The suite was sumptuous, although I don’t know that I could justify the cost of staying in one (I was told the price of the suite was $15,000 for the 4-day cruise).

And once again, my husband and I had no trouble packing with just our carry-on for this cruise. We continue to be amazed at the amount of stuff people take on these trips, and the number of suitcases people pack. I suppose it keeps the porters in business though, because if everyone traveled like I did, they would get laid off…

If your cruise includes semi-formal dinners, you can always wear your jacket on you instead of packing it. And by being selective, it’s very easy for women to pack very nice outfits that bundle into little balls that take up minimal room in your pack. Adding extra touches can be as easy as taking a string of fake pearls or a beautiful scarf, both of which can easily slip into a Ziploc baggie.

For many people, one challenge is how to pack shoes. Sure, you can shove your shoes in your bag (although make sure you use up the space in the shoes by packing socks in them), or compress them down with those neoprene Shoe Socks I’ve reviewed. But if you absolutely cannot fit your shoes, here’s a sneaky little tip: Tie your shoelaces to one of your bag’s handles and just let your shoes dangle. Just make sure you do that with your sneakers, and wear your nicer shoes when you travel. And when I say “nicer shoes,” at least for the guys, I’m talking about brands like Rockports, which make dressier walking shoes. As long as you don’t try to match your brown shoes with black slacks, nobody will notice that you aren’t wearing shiny dress shoes to dinner.

For this trip, the bag of choice for the both of us was the Tom Bihn Tri-Star travelpack. I often use the slightly smaller Western Flyer, but went with the larger carry-on based on the assumption that I might be doing some souvenir shopping from the cruise.

In addition to a Tom Bihn pack, I actually wound up using even more Tom Bihn stuff inside the pack. I used their convertible packing cube backpack (sized to fit the main segment of the Tri-Star but also equipped with plain backpack straps) as well as their packing cube shoulder bag. While the backpack wound up staying in my pack, I wound up using the shoulder bag as my purse… which was funny, since I took two purses with me. One was a deceptively large cotton purse from retailer H&K—a very handy bag because I can stash my toiletry kit, my make-up bag, my iPad, and whatever else I wanted by my feet on the plane. [Oh, I let it slip that I took an iPad, didn’t I. I did. Santa stopped by in December and got us an iPad. I’m now a big convert; if you have any inclination whatsoever to take a laptop with you, I’d suggest an iPad. But I’ll write another post about that specifically.]

Once we started the cruise, however, I just wound up using the Tom Bihn shoulder bag because it was light and easy to tote around.

About the only thing I wished I’d brought was a pair of running shoes. Without it, I didn’t make time to hit the gym. I’m sure I would’ve on a seven-day cruise, though.

In the end, even with some extra souvenirs, we were still able to fly home without checking anything in. It really is possible to go on a cruise without taking a ton of luggage. Really, it is. You just need to think ahead and figure out how to get the most out of what you do take. Don’t take a different evening gown for each dinner. Companies like Travelsmith sell mix-and-match outfits… you can wear a sleeveless dress one night, and the next, wear your matching shrug/jacket over the dress and now you have a totally different look. Wear your hair up one night, down the next. A scarf one night, a shoulder wrap another. It’s really not that hard.


  1. Thanks for all the advice. A poster on Lonely Planets directed me to your interesting site, and I’ve just been having a browse around. They were right – great site! I’m planning on treating myself to a new carry-on suitcase for all my travels during 2012, and I’ve seen a cute “>Rockland – do you know anything about them? Worth having?

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