For those of us living with eczema and planning a cruise — especially their first, like I just did — the last thing we need is more stress added to the already stressful situation of flying to a different country (Italy, in my case) to board a type of ship we’ve never been on, just to visit as many ports of call as possible in a 10-day period.
Yet that’s just what I faced, and I can share some tips I’ve learned along the way. For starters, finding what line and where was much easier to handle because I was able to get some rest the night before at Hotel Traghetto in Civitavecchia. Though the bedding could have been better, it was very clean and cool since the air conditioning was still available.
Make absolutely certain that air conditioning will be available before you check in to any hotel. Before leaving the states, I sent emails and made phone calls to make sure this was noted at every hotel my wife and I booked. This proved very helpful when I had to call the desk at the Copthorne Tara Hotel London Kensington to tell them our AC was only putting out hot air — they sent an HVAC mechanic within minutes of seeing the notes on my booking. We all know what hot air can do to someone suffering from eczema. Need I say more?
The mechanic reconfigured the huge wall unit and soon had ice-cold air flowing through the vents. Why did we have to go through this? Because Europeans often turn off or deactivate the AC parts of their heating/cooling systems in winter. That means that even if it’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside, you’d better hope for a good breeze and fewer mosquitos. (Venice was infested with mosquitos because it was still warm, even in November.) Don’t be afraid to ask for a large fan, and remember to keep a rechargeable personal fan in your backpack.
That small personal fan can be a lifesaver if you’re stuck on a crowded bus and some passenger with zero body fat complains that “it’s cold” at 79 degrees, so the driver turns up the heat, which explodes like a sauna right next to your seat by the window that was so comfortable only a few minutes earlier. I don’t care if I look like I’m going through “manopause” as I pull out my little fan and turn it up to high while my neck starts to calm down from lobster red to hot pink.
Or if you’re ever trapped in a crowded museum, a personal fan can be as useful as a travel umbrella (tuck that in your backpack, too) for keeping the sun from broiling you to itchy oblivion on the same piece of land where, thousands of years ago, sweat and dirt were scraped off gladiators and sold it as a skin care product. I can’t make this stuff up, folks.
Be sure to get a fan that can stand up on your hotel nightstand to direct the cool AC air onto your neck and back while you sleep, just in case your partner doesn’t like it too cool. Get a fan that recharges and also runs while connected to a USB outlet. This isn’t an item to go cheap on. You’ll thank me for it when the time comes, and it will.
Never leave the ship without a backpack or foldable shoulder bag with dedicated water bottle holders and comfy straps that don’t make you sweat or itch too much. You don’t need a big one, just something large enough to hold your travel umbrella, personal fan, rain poncho, sunscreen (if you can wear it), and water, as well as an overshirt, hoodie layers, or a foldable hat to add or shed as needed.
As always, guard your belongings, especially in large crowds of tourists. Don’t put anything in your bag that isn’t replaceable, including cameras and, of course, your cell phone.
You can find lightweight, foldable backpacks online, such as on Amazon, so take your pick. This way, you can leave your heavier carry-on backpack at the hotel instead of wearing it — and making your back itch — as you struggle around the donkey poo on the endless steps of Santorini. Stand in line for the cable car on this Greek island. Trust me — it’s worth the wait for the photos alone.
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