Cruises can be great vacations. Have that great first experience and you keep coming back. You often choose a favorite cruise line and stick with it. The officers and crew onboard are professionals, many choosing to make their lives at sea, moving up the ranks as they build their careers. You might run into them on future voyages.
Not everybody is gregarious. Some people travel to literally get away. The prefer to be left alone. Assuming that isn’t you, here are a few people you want to get to know and build a relationship of equals. Get to know them by name and let them do the same. They will be more formal, of course. At the end of the trip, tipping them with a white envelope is appreciated. FYI: Officers (and speakers) don’t get tipped.
- Your cabin steward. They keep your stateroom neat and tidy. They show up when you pick up your phone and call. They keep your ice bucket filled and your towels fresh. They are one of your two daily points of contact. Let them know they are appreciated. When leaving your stateroom in the morning, put out the “make up my room” sign, so they don’t need to guess.
- Your night steward. Personnel on ships work long hours, but they can’t be up 24/7. There should be someone you rarely, see the person who looks after your needs in the evening and early hours. If you need something at night, they show up. If you meet your night steward, interact with them.
- Your waiter. This is your second primary contact, assuming you have assigned seating in the dining room. They will know your name after the first evening! They will learn your preferences for coffee! We have found they will gladly double up on souffles or bring you seconds if you ask nicely. Learn their names. They learned yours.
- Your assistant waiter. Years ago, they were called busboys. The #2 is probably studying to become a #1, moving into the waiter role someday. They are refilling water glasses, dispensing rolls and carrying plates. It’s not an easy job.
- The wine steward. In my opinion, this person is crucial, but I’m a wine fan. I’m the type of person who looks over the wine list first when everyone else is studying the menu. They will know the hidden gems, good deals and any off list (bin end) wines not on the general list. They also want your experience to be perfect.
- The Maitre ‘d in the dining room. They are positioned at the stand-up desk as you enter the dining room. If you have a special request or something extra can be done, they are the key decision maker. They can also change your table seating if you don’t like the location. We always tip them too.
- The section captain in the dining room. They are like junior maîtres d’. They dress similarly to the person in charge. They are responsible for one part of the dining room. They might check in occasionally to see if everyone is happy. They might become a maître d’ someday.
- At least one of the guest speakers. We like going to the lectures. I have heard the speakers do not consider themselves mega celebrities and actually head into the daily pub quizzes, joining in on a team. Although you might not develop a lifelong friendship, you can ask an expert some intelligent questions either during their presentation or afterwards. They often have a book, which you can buy and get autographed for yourself or as gifts for others.
- The ship’s librarian. We like sailing on ships with good libraries. Sea days are ideal for getting into a good murder mystery. (In print, not real life.) If the book you want is out or you are interested in other titles by the same author, the librarian can probably take your request and help.
- Your favorite bartender(s). If you settle on one bar as your favorite, it makes sense to get to know the bartender. Enough said. I have not stayed in one place long enough to develop this type of relationship.
Two Other People for Special Situations (both officers)
- The singles activity coordinator. If you are single, it makes sense to get to know the person who organizes all the parties and tour groups. They are usually friendly and can make introductions.
- The computer center manager. If like me, you are flummoxed in how to access the Internet or worse, how to sign out of your session, it helps to know the person who knows everything about technology. They usually stay close to the rooms with desktop computers for passenger use.
One final tip. Many of these people might be in staff roles, but they aren’t your servants. Treat them as equals.
We tend to make friends on every voyage. We always assume we will see the same faces on future trips.
Cover photo: Cunard Executive Chef Nick Oldroyd, courtesy Jackie Sheckler-Finch