Counting down to the Grand Mediterranean ...

Only four days until we leave!

We're taking the Princess Cruises Grand Mediterranean cruise. None of us have cruised before so this will be a learning experience. We're on the Ruby Princess ship, a fairly new ship (christened in 2008) that looks quite swanky and large -- it holds 3,080 passengers. The ship offers theatres, restaurants, bars and lounges, pools, spa and fitness centre, a putting green and hot tubs -- which is where you'll find me most evenings, reviving my tired feet and legs after a full day of playing tourist.

Our cruise starts in Barcelona, Spain, where we'll spend a few extra days, and then continues to Monte Carlo, Monaco; Florence, Italy; Rome, Italy; Naples, Italy; Mykonos, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Kusadasi, Turkey; Athens, Greece; and winds up in Venice, Italy, where we'll also spend a few extra days.

The past few weeks have been a flurry of planning, researching our destinations and, of course, shopping. Deciding what to wear on the cruise and what we'll need while touring the port cities, while trying to keep both laundry and the amount of luggage to haul around to a minimum has taken a bit of thought.

One good find was Pacsafe -- Sara's find. When she showed up one night with one of their bags, the rest of us went online the next day and ordered our own. Pacsafe makes a range of anti-theft travel bags that are "slash-proof, snatch-proof and tamper-proof." I went for comfort and hydration over fashion, opting for a style with a wide padded strap and water bottle holder, but there are some sleeker styles available.  All offer multiple pockets/compartments, a slashproof strap, hidden zippers or zippers that hook closed for added security, and a turn & lock strap hook (that took me a while to figure out how to open) . So far we are all happy with our purchases but we'll test durability during our 18 days of trekking through the Med.

Keeping luggage to a minimum is important as our staterooms are small, and lugging a lot of luggage over cobblestoned streets and in vaparos in Venice wouldn't be fun.  So, I went online for packing tips and found a slideshow on how to pack 10 days worth of clothing and shoes into a carryon. Impressive!  I also tried out some packing cubes from Ebags.  These cubes help to organize clothing, pack more efficiently and compactly, and keep everything neatly folded or rolled without creases in the suitcase. They are washable and can also double as laundry bags.

Now that packing is taken care of, I can turn my attention back to the main attraction -- the destinations!