Haters are gonna hate. And even Kendel, who does not hate, thinks some of the things I pack in my luggage before we go onto a cruise makes me, to use her exact words, "a high maintenance traveler."
Turns out my fears of being stuck out at sea on a broken cruise ship are not unwarranted. Carnival Cruise Line's Triumph became the latest laboratory for honing preparedness and mental fortitude in what one doctor called "a floating petri dish." Just read some of the articles linked from the Drudge Report earlier today:
Passengers fight over food...
Sleeping With Life Vests Fearing Capsize...
Evacuation 'not an option'...
On board hoarding. Passengers fighting over food. "Sewage sloshing around in the hallways." Passengers being asked to go to the bathroom in bags.
And some of you think I'm odd for telling people to take a first aid kit with you on vacation.
My family has some experience with this. My parents were on a ship that sank in the middle of the Amazon. They had to abandon ship in the middle of the night, in their pajamas, and ride life boats ashore to Middle of Nowhere, Brazil, with nothing but their wallets and passports. So we speak with some authority on how these things go down.
So let's take a moment to discuss what you might consider packing for your next cruise.
- Ziploc bags in all shapes and sizes. I generally travel with an assortment of these. They have multiple uses, as passengers are now learning. A trash bag or two would also be helpful, with the bag ties to go with them. Cheap and easy to pack.
- High energy snacks. Yes, I realize it's odd to take high calorie food on a cruise ship, as that's all they feed you during your vacation. I bet a Clif bar is going for $50 on board that ship right now. They take up little space, especially if you cram them into shoes and other gaps in your suitcase. If you're a pro, you'll look for survival bars meeting SOLAS - Safety of Life at Sea - standards.
- Multivitamins and antibiotics. Stay healthy with the multivitamin. And when you start sloshing through human waste, you will likely want to take a course of antibiotics. Talk to your doctor about that.
- Hand sanitizer. I don't think I need to explain this one.
- Moist towelettes. I'm betting it would be nice to be able to take something akin to a sponge bath right about now. It's better than nothing.
- A Steri-Pen or other water purification system. Would any of you have the utmost confidence in the ship's ability to purify water right now? There are a number of inexpensive devices out there that can help ensure you're drinking clean water when you're floating on the high seas with 4,000 of your best friends, fighting over the last hamburger bun. I'd love to have one that can desalinate water. It would be a virtual ATM machine in an emergency.
- Flashlights and batteries. You'll be one of the cool kids if you can navigate a darkened ship at night.
- Radio with shortwave frequency reception. I've used one of these many times when traveling on a cruise or outside the U.S. It will enable you to get news and information that perhaps the cruise line won't share with you.
- Cash. As my mother remarked from her experiences while traveling abroad, "a lot of problems can be fixed with cash." If you needed to buy something to help yourself or family when the infrastructure on the ship, cash will come in very handy.
- Your own spork. If the ship has trouble purifying water or running its dish washing system, how sure are you that the silverware you're using is clean? Have your own utensils. Use the hand sanitizer and purified water mentioned above to keep them clean.
- Alcohol. And no, not to drink, although if you wanted to go that route, take Everclear and put it in a water bottle. Otherwise, it will be confiscated by the cruise ship when you board. So I'm told. Not that I've ever done that before. Actually, in this case, I am talking about rubbing alcohol. Great way to get clean and sanitized in a dirty environment. And Everclear can be used much like rubbing alcohol.
- Multi tool/pocketknife. Put it in your checked bag. Do NOT carry it on your person when you board, and learn from my lesson - don't carry it on you during an excursion. When you board the ship after the excursion, they WILL take it away from you. (Ironically, that evening at dinner they gave me a steak knife with a six inch serrated blade.) This will come in handy for a number of things.