Recently, I had the pleasure of sailing on the world’s largest ship: Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas. It was a fantastic week which was exactly what the doctor ordered for some rest and relaxation for my family at the end of a hectic summer. But after witnessing the behavior of some of the passengers, I had to wonder if they saw the cruise as an opportunity to be rude and obnoxious. If Emily Post were not already dead, those louts and bounders would certainly have sent her to her grave!
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Let us forswear the role of Ugly American and start to mind our manners. These 10 tips were developed after a week on the high seas, but they are equally applicable to a land-based vacation or business trip. Read them and resolve to restore some civility to the art of travel.
1. Don’t expect perfection. With today’s ships carrying three and four thousand people at a time, trust me, the experience is not going to be perfect for everyone. Your toilet may clog. The handle may fall off the sliding door. Your table mates may sometimes be rude (my own children come to mind). Have a good attitude and your cruise will go a lot more smoothly.
2. Get some exercise. Fact: The elevators are going to be crowded around dinner and show times. A bunch of crabby people waiting for the elevators will only stir each other up even more; I saw it happen time and again. If you are physically able, why not walk off that crème brûlée and take the stairs — or maybe do a lap on the Promenade Deck.
3. Shut up. It is not necessary to slam your cabin door each time you enter and exit the cabin, and it is rude to do so at 3 a.m.(some passengers actually sleep — at night! — on a cruise). Close the door slowly and preserve some of the peace. Never been on a cruise? There are probably a hundred cabins within earshot of each slammed door.
4. Practice moderation. OK, it’s your vacation: Have fun and party on. But know your limits. No one likes a sloppy drunk, and the last thing you want to do is spend a night in the medical facility because you planted your ass through the glass coffee table. No one will convince me that excessive drinking is not a huge factor in all the recent “crimes” at sea.
5. Be discreet. Aboard ship, we are all equals. I don’t need to see your Rolex watch, or that 10-carat diamond. No need to flash a wad of cash in the casino either. For one thing, you could be asking for trouble; for another (listen carefully): No one really cares! And another thing, while the ship is your home away from home, it isn’t actually your home, so if you feel the need to wander the hallways, please do so wearing street clothes not your curlers and nightie — or less!
6. Remember that you are a world traveler. You may hear others speaking a different or unfamiliar language. (No, it is not a foreign language; it may be foreign to you, but it is not foreign to millions of perfectly competent speakers). If an announcement needs to be made, it will likely be made in several languages; after all, people who speak a language other than yours have the same right to safety and information as you do. Do not demand that people accommodate you. It is all about compromise.
7. Be a good audience member. If you are tired, don’t sit in the front row. How demeaning is it to a performer who is giving his or her all to look out and see an audience member nodding off mid-performance? Now imagine the reaction if there is also a line of drool dribbling from the corner of your mouth. Not a pretty sight, although the photograph I took is a good conversation piece!
8. Stop whining. If something has gone wrong or you are unhappy, there is no need to drag a few thousand other people into your mess. There is a simple solution: Ask management to correct the problem. Whining just brings everyone down and — who knows? — your expectations may be way out of line. And another thing: There’s not much anyone can do about a cloudy day.
9. Dress for public view. If you wouldn’t walk into Wal-Mart wearing short shorts and a tube top, you probably shouldn’t wear them on vacation, either. Same with a thong. People come in all shapes and sizes, but most of us are not looking to become acquainted with your every bulge and curve.
10. Be generous. Tip. Our waitress on the Freedom of the Seas is paid $50 a month. Yes, you read that correctly! The rest of her income comes from gratuities. To the family in the cabins across from me: I heard you all making plans to order room service for 16 on the last night of the cruise so you could avoid having to tip in the dining room. Shame on you!
Fortunately, rude passengers were a minority on this cruise. Freedom of the Seas is a beautiful ship, and Royal Caribbean offers wonderful cruises for travelers of all ages — I’ll have more on that in a few weeks. For now I will step off my soapbox (endless ranting isn’t polite either, even for a good cause).
But I will ask you: What peeves you on your vacation? Drop me a line and let me know.
John Frenaye is the president of JVE Group, Inc., a diversified company based in Annapolis, Md. With nearly ten years as a senior executive in the retail travel industry and a background in business management, he writes about the travel industry as an insider with an outsider's perspective. E-mail him or visit his Web site . Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting Frenaye's forum.
Cruise for a Cause!
Tripso wants to take you on a cruise for a cause! See how far New Orleans and Cozumel have come since Katrina and Wilma. Join us October 26, 2006, for four nights on Carnival’s Fantasy, one of the vessels that Carnival offered for hurricane relief. Chat with your favorite Tripso columnist and contribute to a worthy Gulf Coast relief organization. Space is very limited. For more information, e-mail us or check out our cruise page.