My wife and I always ask for a large table in the dining room. We like meeting interesting people. We also feel anyone can be the most interesting person at the table if you get them talking about their interests. On every voyage we have met people with whom we keep in touch. Some relationships go back over 15 years! Let’s look at the opportunities you might have available on your next cruise.
- People from another culture. This might sound obvious, but some people might think a cruise is like seeing the entire dining room at your country club suddenly at sea. It is not. We prefer Cunard because on transatlantic crossings, the largest nationality is often British. Over several evenings you can learn about everyday life in their country as you share details about your own.
- People from many cultures. If the largest nationality represented in British, you might think a crossing is similar to being an extra in an episode of Downton Abbey or Midsomer Murders. Definitely not. On a typical crossing there are about 30 nationalities represented. If you have a curious nature, you can learn a lot about life in other countries.
- People wearing cultural garb. There is a category of clothing called “cruise wear.” You see it in stores. When cruising, there are usually some formal nights. Fellow passengers from different cultures often wear formal garb unique to their country. In addition, serving and retired military officers often wear decorations and Scots men tend to wear kilts. This can be another great conversation starter.
- People sharing the same interests. On every voyage on any cruise line, I try to sign us up for all the wine themed events. This includes the wine and food pairing lunch, walk around wine tastings and seated tastings. In one instance we met a German couple we would never have encountered otherwise because they were traveling in a class with its own separate dining room and cocktail lounge. You encounter like-minded people who are easy to get to know.
- The singles action is unbelievable. If you look over the ship’s daily program, you will see multiple activities designed to bring like-minded people together. If there is a martini mixology class at one extreme there will be an AA meeting at the other. We have learned the gatherings for single passengers is the jewel in the crown. As word spreads, the group becomes larger and larger as more people get interested. Single friends we know, longtime cruisers, have no difficulty finding people to chat with on a voyage.
- You might meet famous people. Back on land, many people are focused on letting other people know how important they are in the community. Their house and car are two of the playing pieces. You do not have those props at sea! Although you think you could do an internet search on your new friends, the internet connectivity often leaves something to be desired. On different voyages we met someone from the US State department, the UK foreign office returning from an embassy assignment and a fellow I am pretty sure I’ve seen many times on TV.
- The famous people are actually friendly. Many cruise ships have guest lecturer programs. This lineup might include authors, astronauts, diplomats, law enforcement officers and sports figures. They are usually all household names. On one voyage the previous Chair of the Bank of England was the speaker. They generally mingle and socialize with the passengers.
- Fellow sports enthusiasts. When we have sailed, we have noticed if a major sporting event is taking place (like the World Cup) there will be a bar or lounge set aside for fans. You can hear the cheering from a distance. If you have a favorite sport, you can share your passion.
- People who play sports. The onboard gym is often busy. The promenade deck, the one wrapping around the ship, usually has joggers and power walkers regardless of the weather. You will discover this is more difficult that it sounds because in one direction you have the wind at your back and in the other you are running into the wind. If you enjoy working out or running, you will find new friends.
- You develop your own exchange program. The friends we have made at sea often invite us to stay with them if we travel to their country. If they do not become your own person B&B, you should at least get together for lunch or dinner when you visit their city. You now have another travel option: Visiting that country, renting a car and visiting your new friends.
- You will have the most amazing dinner guests back home. These invitations work both ways. We have entertained numerous foreign guests at our home. On the most recent occasion, an elegant British woman was our houseguest. We organized a dinner party around her visit. One couple at the table invited her (and us) to their country club for lunch the next day! At another dinner party, a noted landscape architect invited her (and us) to tour the garden at his home! Your guests will suddenly become guests of your friends!
During the early stages of the pandemic, this informal network proved invaluable. We kept in touch via e-mail. Over time, we had a running commentary on day-to-day life and restrictions across six continents. We might be two of the friendliest people in the world, but we have yet to meet anyone from Antarctica!
cover photo: Queen Victoria evening, credit Bryce Sanders
Cover photo ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews: Trio Carnival ships in Cozumel
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