Monday, August 27, 2007

Final Thoughts - Using Common Sense on Cruises

This is basically where I vent about things that really annoyed me on the cruise. I'm trying to be funny about this, and a bit snarky's the only way I can blow off steam. But some of this advice is good for travel in general, not just for cruises. What this boils down to is - have respect and consideration for your fellow passengers/travelers. It's not all about you. Respectful and considerate people seemed to be few and far between on this trip, and I'm just trying to be honest here. I don't want to give the impression that cruises are absolutely fabulous and relaxing and wonderful. They are also very stressful a lot of the time.

Some people really love cruising. I don't believe I'll ever be one of those people. I'm glad we had the experience, though...and I'm not at all sorry we did it. I would consider taking a cruise again under different circumstances.

So, without further ado:

* For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT WEAR A SPEEDO! The only exception to this is if you are an Olympic swimmer or diver. Our eyes do not need to be assailed by the site of your saggy, furry 70-year-old body stuffed in a plum smuggler (Lance's phraseology, not mine). And to the guy who had his t-shirt tucked into his Speedo…well, great hopping horny toads! You are NOT all that and a bag of chips. None of you are Adonis, so please wear something sensible to the pool. There is such a thing as swim trunks, and I imagine they are probably more comfortable.

* If flash photography is not allowed, PLEASE LEARN HOW TO TURN OFF YOUR CAMERA'S FLASH! If you do not know how to do this, you have no business owning a camera. If you have a camera where that isn't possible, don't take pictures. There is a reason why flash is not permitted, and there are no exceptions to this rule. Do you want to be partly responsible for ruining some of the world's great art? By the way, flash photography isn't even necessary in many cases (and ruins photos sometimes)…for most of the cruise, I didn't even have the flash turned on, and most of my pictures turned out just fine.

* If 300 people are trying to photograph the same thing at the same time, it is incredibly rude to jump up next to the famous landmark to have your picture taken with it (especially if you give the camera to a person who has no clue how to operate one, and spends 5 minutes trying to set up the shot). 299 people do not want a picture of you, and we don't really have time to wait, given the way we are rushed through the various sights. You don't have to be in EVERY picture to prove that you were there. (You will notice that I'm in very few of the cruise photos - and Lance in even fewer - and when I am actually posing with something, it's because nobody else was trying to photograph it at the time.)

* Don't criticize the tour guide because he/she doesn't "think in English" (whatever that means…I'm quoting directly here). He/She is not a native English speaker, so what do you expect? However, he/she speaks 2-3 other languages fluently, in addition to his/her native language. How many languages do you speak? Yeah, I thought so. And to the lady who complained that the road signs in Norway were not in English...learn Norwegian, then. Besides, you weren't even driving.

* Do not talk while the tour guide is talking. Some of us would actually like to hear what he/she is saying. Thank you.

* If you hate a certain religious/racial/ethnic group or someone of a different sexual orientation, it is wise to just keep your mouth shut about it, instead of broadcasting your prejudices to all and sundry, especially in the presence of the tour guide. (And really, you should avoid a cruise altogether, since people from all walks of life are on the ship with you.) It's bad enough that Americans don't have the best reputation in the world right now, but you are only making things worse (and your fellow Americans aren't liking you much either). Also, don't take the tour guide to task on the gaps or contradictions in her history…she grew up under a Communist government, so her version of history is different than ours. You don't have to be a jerk about it and try and make her feel only succeed in making yourself look stupid.

(Why do some people even step foot outside their homes, let alone go to foreign lands?)

* If you are kindly requested numerous times by the cruise line to dress conservatively (no shorts and sleeveless tops) and not make yourself stand out during the shore excursions, it is wise to follow that advice. If you decide to wear your American flag t-shirt in Russia, don't complain when you are swarmed by panhandlers and aggressive street vendors. You are essentially wearing a big bullseye on your shirt. This also makes you a prime target for pickpockets. This is pretty much the case for travel anywhere outside North America. Unfortunately, traveling in a group makes you stand out anyway, whether you're trying to or not (which is one of the things I hate about it). But don't make things worse for yourself. Have some common sense.

* There is a reason that antibacterial hand gel is located in all the dining areas. You can't miss it…there are about a dozen bottles of it situated at various points in the room. The rest of us would appreciate not sharing your germs and being possible victims of Novovirus. Thanks.

* The ship has rules. Follow them. This means not coming dripping wet from the pool into the buffet (swimwear is not allowed there for a reason). This means not drinking from glasses or bottles in the jacuzzis (which we saw constantly). This means not saving seats in the lounges or theater for your friends. Also, don't talk loudly to your friends during performances. If you want to chat, leave. We came to see a show, not to hear you gossip and laugh.

And finally, I'll end with something positive:

* Don't be afraid to sit with strangers while you're on the cruise. You never know if they could end up being friends. We didn't exactly make lifelong friends from this trip, but we ended up sitting with some really nice people and had some great conversations.

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