(Pre) Alaska Cruise Vacation: Outsmarting the Airline Oompa-loompas

So here's a fun surprise! We're going to Alaska!

You know those last minute deals that you always see on the side of the email or the youtube or whatever you happen to be looking at? The ones that say "7 night Alaskan Cruise!" and "Insane last minute pricing!"? Well, Tony saw them. And he's always wanted to go to Alaska, and I'm all for cruising around the ocean in luxury and style and all the food I can dream of, so we were like, "What the hey, let's do it!"

So we are. Tomorrow.

Actually, this conversation took place a couple of weeks ago, so it wasn't as super last minute as it seems, but I'm only telling you about it now so that those of you out there who are lacking in scruples will not eagerly start planning to burgle my house while we're gone. (Haha! Outsmarted you again, Internet pilferers who have been faithfully reading this blog for years in hopes that I will slip up and mention that we are leaving the house unattended for a week!)

Anyway, for the rest of you, I'm still planning the same trip play-by-play (it'll be like you're there!), but slightly delayed. Think of it like "live" TV on the west coast. Okie dokie? Good.

So. Alaska.

Tony is stoked. Like, so excited that he's vibrating like a little kid on Christmas stoked. It's all he's been talking about for days now. He's always wanted to go, and we've looked into it the past couple of years, but you know how it is. The timing never quite worked out, or something came up in work schedules, or the Bahamas were cheaper, or something. But this year it all just clicked, like it was meant to be. And not being ones to argue with fate, Tony clicked "book it!" and I dug out our winter wet weather fleece from the back of the closet.

Also, in a freakishly un-Tonylike move, my beloved totally went rugged Grizzly-man when he picked out our excursions. We're doing a 6 hour sea kayak/whale watching trip in the first port, and 7 hours of rock climbing the next day in the second. (This is from the man who 1, dislikes kayaking on a lake for 2 hours, and 2, has a fear of heights. So why sea kayaking and rock climbing, I will never know. He also wanted to add a 7 hour glacier trek for the third day, but the description kept using words like "strenuous" and "10 miles" and "300 foot elevation climb with rocky terrain", so I convinced him to hold off on that one until we see if we will still be able to move by day three). I like to think I'm moderately fit and all, but this is vacation, not Navy Seal boot camp. He kept going, "But when else are we ever going to be able to do something like this?", which I get, but the answer is "Not even this time if we're too exhausted to move". So for now, kayaking/whale watching and rock climbing should be fun, and good exercise, and provide some nice picture opportunities (fingers crossed!), and we'll put a "we'll see" on glacier trekking.

Anyway, our story starts when we first join our quirky heroine today- that is, packing day for our great Alaskan adventure. And honestly, I'm having a little trouble with it. First of all, all the vacations we've done so far have been to one tropical locale or another, so packing for them went "swimsuit, sunscreen, towel, 50 gazillion books. Check". And we've done the whole cruise thing a couple of times before, so that list went "swimsuit, sunscreen, nice evening wear for dinner, 50 gazillion books. Check". But Alaska is different. Alaska, while not really cold this time of year, (a quick weather check reveals highs in the mid-60's for the week) is not exactly conducive to lounging by the pool. (Well, not for me anyway. Tony is impervious to cold, and can lounge anywhere in any temperature. But I take my lounging hot, thank you, so unless it's an indoor pool...wait, do the Alaska cruise ships have indoor pools? Mental note to check...I will not be lounging).

Also, I read somewhere that it rained 300 out of the 365 days in one of our ports of call, and someone else mentioned the constant mist/sea spray/drizzle that happens during Alaskan summers, so I'm going with the assumption that we're going to get somewhat damp. And if there's anything I tolerate less than cold, it's damp and cold. So I'm wracking my wardrobe, trying to figure out what will keep me warm, dry, and looking halfway presentable for the cruise ship wardrobe police. (I know cruise ships have relaxed the wardrobe requirements somewhat in recent years, but there's still an unwritten rule about in, they don't like it. They want everybody in their "resort wear". Which is fine with me if it's 90 degrees, but when it's 60? I'm going to be in jeans for any time except dinner. A nice top, but jeans. They'll just have to get over it).

At least my books are ready. It's a 7 night cruise, plus airport time (which means a book for each way), so that means between 9 and 16 books for the trip. (I have a two a day habit when it comes to books. One during the day, and one at night). Of course, I'll drop that to one a day for the days we're in a port and out on Tony's Alaskan death march adventures, and a couple of my books are e-books to cut down on travel weight, but that still has me stuffing roughly 10 paperbacks into my carry-on. (In vacations past, I've carried a bag dedicated solely to books).

I hear you out're wondering why I just don't go strictly e-book and avoid the extra bag o' books. And I do with a couple. But the problem with e-books is that 1) when you read entire books in one sitting, the devices tend to run out of juice before you're finished, 2) they make you turn them off for take-offs and landings on planes, and 3) you have to buy all the books. (I'd probably ignore one and two if I could find an e-library that let me "check them out" for free, but I read too much to be spending $10 a pop for books). That said, I do buy some of my favorites in e-form so that I can carry them with me wherever I go, but those are more of an emergency book stash than a dedicated reading supply. My mom has a Kindle and loves it, so once libraries figure out how to loan e-books, I'll probably jump on the bandwagon full time. Until then, the majority of my reading is with tree-books, not e-books.

I'm also-and this may be a little too optimistic but I'm going for it anyway- attempting to pack everything in carry-on bags only. That's right. 8 days of clothing, evening dinner wear, formal wear, excursion wear, books, toiletries, multiple shoe changes, and a partridge in a pear tree without checking any bags. It's ambitious, but I like to keep my bags within sight when I travel. I have this ridiculous theory that once your bags disappear on that little conveyor belt behind the ticket counter, dozens of travel gnomes and flying monkeys and oompa-loopmas converge on it and rifle through all your stuff. And if they like it, they try it on and parade around in it and post pictures of themselves wearing your best nylon stockings online, and meanwhile the airline baggage people (who cannot see travel gnomes and flying monkeys and oompa-loopmas because they're invisible) are frantically trying to locate your bag, which eventually and inexplicably turns up in Omaha.

So packing light. And smart. And in my carpet bag with the expanding bottom, ala Mary Poppins. Because tomorrow, we head out for the Last Frontier.

Edited to add: In case you were wondering, we did manage to get everything into one carry-on and one personal bag each, so no having to check anything. I am a packing virtuoso.