No. of Recommendations: 2
Globetraveler brings up a number of interesting points.

Before I respond, I believe the Global Entry card is now accepted in Australia as well (which may help Hockypop out).

The card does not help save total time if you have checked luggage. It does save time when checking in (and a bit of stress as you no longer have to remove shoes, laptops, etc.). That said, while a trip like this is an exception, we tend to travel with "carry-on" luggage in general, even on long trips. As an example, on last summer's trip, we left our large luggage pieces in Amsterdam at the end of our cruise across the pond, traipsed around Europe for 2 1/2 months with carry-ons (at least until we bought the bargain priced full sized luggage piece that I couldn't pass on :-). The card doesn't help in Europe, just pointing out the realities of how we tend to travel.

You are correct that the Amex Platinum card costs $450. I picked it up about a year ago after lots of filling out the on line form and then canceling. If you travel a LOT, it's worthwhile. It gets you all sorts of perks (which are not necessarily dollars you'd spend, but make life easier) and a number of actual cost savings which make the card more or less break even. An example of one of the perks is that doing a travel agency registration of the Queen Mary booking with AMEX (don't have to do the reservation with them) got me $100 cruise credit (goes towards tips, so a real monetary benefit) and a bottle of wine. Their concierge was able to get me excellent tickets to the Book of Mormon at below the box office price for the night we'll be in London, despite it being nearly sold out. And so on. I'm not upset that I got it and have gotten more benefit than it cost, but it's not a slam dunk for most people.

The tuxedo is more of a social necessity. Cunard has five formal nights out of the seven night cruise. There are 22 formal nights on the HAL cruise (which is going to be more formal anyway because most of the passengers are likely to be European). I guess I could either stand on principle and eat in the buffet on formal nights, or of course I could wear a suit (at least on HAL) and not look too out of place, but it would be gauche of me to show up at the table in a shirt with an opened collar when the rest of the table was getting dressed. While the store has unfortunately closed a few months ago, you used to be able to buy brand name wool tuxedos at Sym's in NYC for less than $150 (and if you get a classical style they can be used for years, so renting one never made sense).

The 14 bottles of wine is not an unreasonable quantity for a three month trip (works out to a bottle a week). After leaving London, the ship hits Lisbon on a Sunday and then, while I guess I could buy some wine in Spain, we might be too busy actually doing tourist stuff :-). We are not big drinkers, but we found that being able to either offer or reciprocate with an invite to a our cabin for a before dinner glass of wine helps us meet people. On a ship where bottles of wine are marked up 400%, it just makes sense to bring some of your own. We don't drink the wine in public rooms or the dining room to avoid ruffling the feathers of the bar staff. Again, in a strict context not a necessity, but a useful item to take along.

I would strongly advocate a keyboard if you are taking an iPad. I took one on a previous trip along with my laptop (a 10.5", 2.8 pound unit), but found the laptop far more useful for the tasks that I do. This time, I'm taking a 7 inch tablet along, just to see if the smaller size offers more efficacy - we'll see. The B&W keyboard Kindle (besides being what "The Boss" reads on) is specifically and uniquely useful for backup communications aboard ships.

The complete list of what we're taking is actually much longer and detailed down to the last detail, but would probably bore most people. It includes a couple of different types of sunscreen, insect repellent, crushable hats, etc., etc. One of the innovations is that, unless only traveling to warm climates, we travel with feather-light, high loft, hooded down light jackets as well as Gortex hooded shells. The down jackets pack down to about the size of a couple of pairs of socks (my wife's folds into its own pocket) and is warm down to freezing. To get more warmth, it can be worn under the shell, for less, just the rain shell can be worn. We also carry a couple of very thin plastic rain parkas that fit in your pocket. All sorts of folding bags with shoulder straps, webbed straps to hold luggage from busting opened if dropped - the list would be pages long if we bothered to document everything (actually, most of the travel items are kept together to make packing for the next trip easier and just replaced as they get used up or busted - or taken out if they end up being a silly idea after all.

Jeff
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