Episode 141 – (Over)packing, and following international dress codes

Photo of an exhibit in the Children’s Museum portion of the National Museum of History in Ottawa-Hull, Ontario, Canada. That pile of suitcases seemed somehow appropriate.

I love packing. It means there’s an adventure on the horizon, and this time the adventure is 141 days, 26 countries, and 49 ports of call !

I admit to loving everything about the planning process: lists, spreadsheets, open suitcases on the bed, and even deciding which items are ready to be donated as we narrow down our wants and needs. I’m (almost) not even embarrassed to admit that I’ve been tweaking our packing lists ever since we booked the cruise – back at the BEGINNING of the pandemic in 2020.

For the first time ever we’re using a luggage shipping service, included in the cost of the cruise, so we don’t need to worry about hauling heavy suitcases through airports. That means I don’t need to limit us to just one large-size case between us the way I do when we’re pulling our luggage. Our 2 large cases will be picked up from our condo and be magically waiting for us in our stateroom on the Viking Star when we board on December 24th.

We’ll be following warm weather: Canadian winter months will be spent in the southern hemisphere (where it is summer in January and February) before moving on to Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean in spring, and reaching England in mid May. Our outerwear will be focussed on protecting us from rain, as opposed to keeping us warm. For cool evenings on deck or on our balcony while at sea we’ll have sweaters and the Viking-provided Norwegian Marius-weave throws from our room. Viking is even gifting each world cruiser a fleece-lined waterproof jacket, which will be in our stateroom closet when we board!

Almost 5 months on board means a lot of really nice dinners, including Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Valentines Day, and our 44th wedding anniversary, and a lot of sightseeing tours in ports of call with widely varying clothing customs, so this is not a “pack light” cruise. Clothing that works in Fiji, or Malaysia, is different from what works in India, Oman, Egypt, or Rome.

We’ve begun using a Canadian mobile app called Travel Smart, which outlines everything from vaccination and visa requirements to risk levels, natural disaster and weather updates, and even local laws and culture.

In that last category, for instance, the entry for Jordan reads: “To avoid offending local sensitivities dress conservatively, behave discreetly, respect religious and social traditions.”

Egypt’s entry goes further: “Dress conservatively: for women, knee-length or longer dresses and long sleeves are preferable, and men should not wear shorts outside tourist areas.”

Oman’s rules specify that “It is prohibited to wear military or similar clothing and accessories “.

Our visa application for Saudi Arabia actually included a graphic specifying the types of dress that are NOT allowed: exposed shoulders, elbows and knees on women – bare arms, legs and torsos on men.

Excerpt from the Saudi Arabian visa application

The information in Travel Smart went considerably further: Women should observe the strict Saudi dress code and wear conservative and loose-fitting clothes, including a full-length cloak (abaya) and a head scarf. Men should not wear shorts in public or go without a shirt. Seek guidance concerning acceptable clothing before your arrival. I’ve packed loose long pants, long-sleeved tunics, and even a pre-wrapped headscarf (from Amazon online, where a wide selection of post-chemo headwear for women complies nicely with Islamic hair-covering rules).

Not me! The stunning Amazon website model
wearing the style of headscarf I’ve packed to cover my short hair.

I also splurged (last minute, after completing my packing, so it goes in carry-on!) on a loose long-sleeved full length Indian-printed dress, which with a scarf will meet the “abaya” designation. Watch for it in photos when we reach Saudi Arabia.

By contrast, the laws and culture section on Italy mentions nothing about clothing, but lists a host of traffic laws (who’d have thought, given Italian drivers’ reputation?)

And Singapore …. well, more about it’s myriad rules and laws when we get there.

Fortunately, our ship has far fewer rules for when we’re on board!

There are no designated “formal” nights that need gowns or tuxedos, but the main dining room and the specialty restaurants do require collared shirts on men after 6 p.m. and do not allow jeans or shorts at dinner – not even brand new black jeans, as Ted discovered on our last cruise – so we are packing “business casual” for Ted, and summer dresses and jumpsuits for me for the evenings. During the day just about anything goes, although because these cruises cater to a mature crowd (the cruises are only open to ages 18 plus, but in our experience there are not many passengers under 45) there really aren’t any short shorts or tank tops seen (too many “life lines” that need hiding!), bathing suits are easily restricted to the pools and spas, and exercise gear pretty much stays in the gym.

Taking all of that information into consideration, after shipping the 2 large-ish (24”) suitcases, we’ll each fly with a single carry-on suitcase, plus a camera/computer bag (Ted), and a medium sized cross-body purse (me).

For just over 20 weeks on board I’m taking a 2-week rotation (i.e. 14 of each, rather than the usual 7) of day and dinner outfits that mix and match to turn into many more, including a couple of long-sleeved opaque but lightweight tunics (for Muslim countries), a lightweight raincoat, a bathing suit, sandals and running shoes, assorted scarves and costume jewellery pieces, and my rollable Montecristi (“Panama”) hat. Everything is in shades of blue, white, and orange. All of it fits inside that one large shipped suitcase.

My suitcase checklist (I can remember my “unmentionables” and bathing suit without mentioning them!), next to a photo in which I’m wearing one of my favourite travel ensembles: super comfy elephant print palazzo pants and a Pima cotton tee. After checking off everything on my list and realizing I still had about 5 lbs. of packing weight available, I threw in 2 more pairs of sandals (a blue wedge and a metallic gold), another pair of flowy pants, 2 more short-sleeved tees, 2 more lightweight print sundresses and a navy & white striped lounger.
Why store it when I can pack it, right?

In Ted’s large case we’ll pack his (only) summer suit, a tie for New Year’s Eve (not required, but he looks so handsome wearing it!), 7 long and 7 short-sleeved collared shirts, 4 short-sleeved and 3 long-sleeved new plain-coloured quick-dry tee shirts, 6 bottoms including his mosquito-repellent cargo pants, a cardigan, a raincoat, a bathing suit, his exercise wear, dress shoes, walking shoes, running shoes, sandals, and a couple of hats. It’s amazing how many clothes fit into a suitcase when you don’t need to pack for cold weather!

Our carry-on will have a set of overnight clothes for our 24-hour beachfront hotel stay in Fort Lauderdale before we embark, plus extra masks, my thyroid medication, our vitamins, small size toiletries, extra glasses and sunglasses, travel documents, and empty space in which to pack the winter clothes in which we left Toronto. Since it’s December in Ontario when we depart, we’ll need to stash our packable jackets, and sturdy footwear. That might come in useful when we reach Norway in May, but it’s not likely it will be needed, especially since all we world cruisers will already have a really nice “commemorative” wind-and-weatherproof jacket.

I expect we’re over-packed, but since we have no Canadian residence while we’re away, the more we bring along the less we have to beg, borrow, or buy storage space for. I’d estimate that 90% of all the clothes we own are travelling with us – only the heavy gear from our Covid winter in Ontario is staying behind.

Based on people-watching on 2019’s month-long cruise, I know we will definitely NOT have the most suitcases, or the most changes of clothes. I vividly remember a set of EIGHT matching red Louis Vuitton pieces being loaded in Santiago for one couple – for 30 days !! – but I expect those people were booked into one of the huge multi-room Explorer Suites with multiple closets (or at least I hope they were!).

In any event, the luggage shipping company picks up our bags Tuesday, so it’s too late to change my mind…. 21 days to embarkation!


  1. Wow! My husband and I will be on the Viking WC sailing from LA on 1/9/2023. This post is so helpful since I’m an overpacker! I am introducing myself to you since I would LOVE to follow your adventure and receive more wisdom from you along the way! Jayne & Matt, Maineville, OH (near Cincinnati)


  2. OMG!!!!!!! The bags are gone. You guys are next!!!!!!!!!! I can hardly believe it – I’m doing a happy-dance for you. Well, not really in the middle of Edmonton airport waiting to get home….

    Did I ever tell you that you are quite amazing??????

    BTW, I wasn’t able to “comment” as usual from the site…

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. WoW!! So impressive! I was telling Vicky about your blogs and how I live a very interesting life – vicariously – through you!! Back to my life: read it, exhausted, need a nap! Thank you so much! Love you more than that!!

    Blog – SHES B A A A C K!



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