I have a love-hate relationship with cruising. I love the sea, it’s why I volunteer with the Coast Guard. I love that I don’t have to drive and my hotel travels with me. I love being able to visit port cities long enough to determine if I’d want to come back and explore them further. I love being able to try new foods with minimal risk. Some nights our wait staff would bring up extra dishes for us to try and one trip, our assistant maitre d’ was putting on cooking demos for our section. I used to love that it was a fail-safe way to have an unplugged vacation. Get far enough off-shore and cell phones are useless. Sadly, that’s changed and the ships carry their own cellular networks if you’re willing to pay for the privilege. Now it’s a voluntary unplugging, but I’m not telling my office that!
On the flip side, most of my complaints are directed at the way the industry has evolved. I hate that ships are getting bigger and bigger. What’s the point of going to sea if you never see or feel it? I hate the obsession with loyalty status. Because my parents cruise far more often than my sister and I, they’re in a different loyalty category than we are. This is starting to present a problem at check-in, boarding, and even where we wait to board the ship.
I understand why they don’t want non-elites using the elite services, but none of us can figure out why the elites can’t use the non-elite services. Yes, we’re all adults. However, we don’t spend that much time together in the same location because we all live apart and have different schedules. It’s a really crappy way to kick off your family vacation when either your family is split every step of the way or else you have to argue every step of the way to not split. I also hate that while the theme to each new ship is MOAR!!, there are never changes made to the elevators. When you expect the majority of the passengers to show up to the dining room at least once a night, having two small elevators that reach the area seems laughable, particularly when your average client isn’t an able-bodied 20 year old.
Then there are the other passengers; they are really a mixed bag. We’ve met some cool people with interesting careers and stories, some pleasant, albeit unremarkable people, and some downright uncool people. The same year we shared a table with a Deputy Food Sheriff, we also met an awesome couple who we still talk to and sometimes cruise with. Some people feel compelled to give you their life story if you happen to be sharing an elevator for nine decks. That’s annoying, but tolerable.
Not so tolerable are the increasing number of elevator judges and juries. Going up three decks? Walk, you lazy putz! Going down a deck? Screw you! Don’t have visible hardware? You don’t need to be here! Look young? GTFO! Fat? Well, there’s no winning that one. Either you’re so fat you can ride out of pity because you couldn’t be expected to go up a deck without having a heart attack or else you’re fat and don’t deserve to ride ever because if anyone needs the stairs, it’s you.
If you’re one of those people who will gladly take the stairs from the lowest deck to the highest, that’s awesome. If you’re one of those people who could walk up a deck but don’t feel like it, that’s awesome too. Personally, I like to ride up and walk down. If I’m wearing heels or we’ve got large swells, I’ll ride down too. Or maybe I’m just having a dizzy day and I’d rather deal with the elevator jury than risk falling down the stairs. Where you’re going and how you choose to get there is your business, not mine, not anyone else’s.
I saw Royal Caribbean using escalators to get people on and off their megaships. That’s a cool innovation. How about interior escalators? Because the theater and dining room are on opposite ends of the ship, one of my favorite pre-dinner activities is to grab a spot in a bar on the promenade deck and people watch. There is always a traffic jam as people on scooters, walkers, and foot vie for space to go from the show to dinner and vice versa. How about the addition of a slidewalk to improve flow?
Survived judgement hour on the elevator? You’re going to have to eat at some point and that means Food Police! Eating in the dining room means being sat with random passengers and it’s inevitable you’ll get the person who will tell you everything they can’t eat, the person who will tell you all about their bowel movements, the person who critiques the nutritional value of the food offerings, and the one who you wish had stayed in their stateroom after they finish telling you how nauseated they are.
When it comes to the crew, they’re very accommodating if you let them know of your needs in advance (e.g., you’ll order a day ahead for the galley to adapt the meal to be vegan). Celebrity marks their menus to indicate which items are gluten-free, dairy-free, or have no added sugar. Most lines will indicate which items are vegetarian, along with offering separate vegetarian menus. I’m all for more information to decide what foods are best for you, but I’m not for making it a committee process.
Eating at the buffet is an invitation for anyone in the vicinity to decide whether what’s on your plate is appropriate. Did you get too much food? Is it because you’re fat, wasteful, or both? Did you get too little food? Are you some sort of snob who thinks they’re too good for the buffet? Why are there only vegetables on your plate? Are you one of those sanctimonious vegans? Why are there no vegetables on your plate? Do you want to get fat and die? Who needs three desserts? Everybody knows they suck up here anyway. These seem like products of an irrational mind, and they probably are. I make the mistake of reading the forums on Cruise Critic occasionally and anyone who is that concerned with what other people eat must be irrational.
Another aspect of cruising that invites judgement is the pool deck. I’ll keep this short and sweet. You’ll see all kinds of bodies in all kinds of attire. Compared to the elevator judges and food police, the fashion police are pretty harmless. I’m certainly guilt of it myself. There are parts of people I’m happier not seeing, regardless of what size those parts are. It’s a large area and if you’re tired of seeing a guy’s butt crack strolling by, there are other places to sit, look, etc. Everybody has an opinion about fashion. The nice thing is that they tend to keep it to themselves or their immediate vicinity rather than being confrontational about it. Same goes for your formalwear, or any other outfit. Want to wear a bright and tight dress? You won’t be alone. Want to go black and shapeless? You won’t be alone.
Bottom line, go with a sense of humor. If you’re going to put up with diet talk for a meal, at least you’ll have a story to tell about Mr. I-Can’t-Poop-Without-Three-Scoops-of-Flax. It’s fun to see what people wear and it’s a great opportunity to go out of your own wardrobe comfort zone because you’re unlikely to see these people again. Other people being jerks on elevators don’t give you license to be a jerk on elevators. Above all, remember why you decided to cruise. You’re away from work, getting served, and going somewhere interesting. When all else fails, find some empty deck space and enjoy the ocean.