ON THE ATLANTIC - The day has come to pack the suitcases in preparation for the return home, and one more time I am embarrassed by the considerable wardrobe overestimate.
Emotions are torn this morning as I watch daylight break over the deep blue Atlantic from the 14th deck, where I settle over coffee and a Danish to write.
While it is always good to return to American soil, it will be sad to leave the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean, the extreme comfort of our villa suite, and new friends made on board. The abundance of food will be missed to a point, though guilt rides with every bite of calorie-laden, fat-rich foods from morning until night. But, please, just one more crme brulee.
I envy women who get by with two pairs of black slacks and several tops. My plan is several pairs of slacks in all colors, three skirts, and at least a dozen tops and jackets to mix and match. Add hats, scarves, and jewelry.
We can always find excuses for overpacking. Mine is that I would rather have stuff with me than have to shop on the road. But that is a cop-out because I usually shop anyway, but ship travel definitely curtails that.
Packing according to weather reports doesn't always work. Temperatures in Spain and Italy were reported to be moderate and in the 70s. Wrong. The weather turned so cold in Florence, Italy, that four layers were not enough insulation. A heavy jacket stocked at the ship's store has been added to my collection of winter wear.
Packing tip No. 1 from a regular traveler who failed to follow her own advice is to always pack something warm. Thermal undershirts are easily hidden under more attractive outer garments. The only reasonably warm thing I packed was a black turtleneck sweater. When a $25 deal for as much laundry as we could shove into one laundry bag was announced I included the black sweater. Now it is gray and out of shape. If a label says dry clean only, it's a good idea to believe it.
Among friends I travel with frequently I am known for taking too many shoes. Often at the destination friends will ask, "How many shoes this time?" As we get older changing shoes two or three times a day relieves aching feet on trips with a lot of walking. But this time I ignored that rule. Because Italy and Spain are known for fine leather I thought I surely could buy a pair of black shoes on shore excursions.
I was right. They do sell black leather shoes in Italy and Spain, but somehow I couldn't bring myself to pay about $200. The American dollar has lost a lot of ground against the Euro.
That left me with fraying sandals as my only pair of black shoes. Before packing them, I spent $5 for glue to secure the sole, but alas it came loose the first week of the cruise and the shoes were trashed. That left me with silver loafers. Try to get this fashion picture: long black dress, lace jacket, and silver loafers.
There was only one official formal night on the 15-day cruise, and even then not everyone abided by it. We old-timers may think of a cruise as an opportunity to doll up in formal wear, but things are changing on ships just as they are on land. Casual is the keyword. What you wear at home is now quite acceptable for shipboard travel.
So I spent a month packing and still failed to take warm clothes and enough shoes. But, by golly, I had plenty of eveningwear. Furthermore, I wore it and felt good in it. Isn't that what really counts?