I can't seem to focus lately; in fact, if Focus appeared on my doorstep in the personage of Don Draper, winking at me as he offered to whisk me away for an intimate dinner, I'd likely shut the door on him and think to myself, "Huh, well, at least the Jehova*h's Wi*tnesses are upping their game. What was I doing again?"
In any event, I've received a number of questions from you clever readers about the mechanics of my recent trip - namely, cruise vacationing vs. . . . um, vacationing vacationing. I'm going to delve into that today & name The One Travel Item I'll Never Leave Home Without Again ("TOTIINLHWA", anyone?), as well as open up the floor to any travel questions you might have. I'll pick up again with a couple of travel photo / fashion posts next week. Not that I'm an expert on travel, but - as you've surely realized - I so enjoy pretending to know everything.
I've now been on two cruises - one of larger, stuff-yourself-at-the-buffet variety as you've probably seen on commercials, and my recent one on an excellent, smaller, higher-end line - and based on those experiences, I'd particularly recommend this manner of travel in two cases: for those of you just starting out as travelers, and for travel to areas of more geographic interest than cultural.
For new travelers, or travelers new to the destinations cities (as I was on the Baltic cruise), cruises can be a terrific way to sample cities. You can have the security of a tour guide leading you around town, less the logistics of dealing with transportation and accommodations. These are simultaneously the big positives and negatives of cruises, actually; while the structured format of tours can be helpful especially for a new traveler nervous about finding his or her way around, it also means you're more likely to see only the tourist-y parts of a town. While that is part of the point - for example, you wouldn't go to Paris for the first time and not visit the Eiffel Tower - some of my best travel memories are the bits I stumbled upon in wandering around on my own.
On a cruise, you also don't have the opportunity to interact much, if at all, with the locals. Granted, in some places the language barrier might prevent some of that anyways; however, armed with a decent guidebook, a smile, and a working knowledge of "Please", "Thank you", and "Where is the bathroom?" in the native language (yes, even where nearly everyone speaks English; never assume they do) will get you by nearly everywhere. If some of the point of travel is challenging your perspective - and, believe it or not, I'll argue that it is for most vacations - you're more likely to do so if traveling on your own.
A cruise is also a fabulous way to go if you're visiting a spot arguably more compelling for its natural beauty - Alaska or the Caribbean come to mind - than its can't miss museums or history. Since you're there for the scenery, cruising can be a fantastic way to see those areas up close.
Most importantly, any cruise ship worth its anchor has an open bar, which of course makes it ideal for family vacationing. Love you & thanks, Anonymous In-Laws!
The One Travel Item I'll Never Leave Home Without Again ("TOTIINLHWA") will come as no surprise to the travel veterans amongst you. This served at various times as my handbag and my umbrella, and held damn near everything aside from the boat itself. It is deceptively large, lightweight, easy to clean, and looks appropriate in nearly every situation:
Go LePliage or go home, darlings.
For my next party trick
just as soon as I get motivated to edit photos again, I'll bring you St. Petersburg photos, including an in-depth analysis of the mullet epidemic that may or may not be sweeping that fine city.
Also, if you have any other travel questions, this is one of my favorite subjects to natter on about - please ask away in the comments!