September 1, 2010

A Chance to Travel: Cruise Characters

By Judge Thomas C. Warren (Ret.), Chelan, WA (or somewhere in the world)

Cruising is an interesting way to travel. It has become a real cult for some people and they book their cruises as an exclusive way to get away from home. It is a very comfortable and safe way to be pampered, with just a bit of exploration. A cruise takes all the hassle out of travel, and if you have cruised before you know what to expect. After four cruises now, I have to say I have observed some predictable characters that you will find on just about any cruise ship.

No one falls into just one category, but see if you recognize yourself in any of the following:

The Shopper: The cruise lines tempt you with their shops and sales. The world’s greatest shopper seems to buy a new watch on every cruise. Each day of the cruise there will be a special sale of some class of items you cannot live without. These include perfumes, gems, cruise-line logo wear, watches—and the list goes on. The objective is to have you spend all your shipboard credits (used to entice you onto the cruise) and then get you into spending in excess of the credits. As Wonder Woman can attest, you can burn through a lot of credits in the spa. A massage, manicure, pedicure, and leg treatment (whatever that is) can make a big dent. The bigger the ship the more shops and opportunities to satisfy that buying urge. Everyone has a bit of shopper in them!

The Sun Worshiper: As you walk onto the pool and hot-tub decks you immediately see signs everywhere that say not to save the deck chairs and loungers. Ha! If you arrive after 8 a.m. the place is covered with books, towels, hats, and related paraphernalia, but very few people. Obviously, this is a tough issue for the cruise staff. They don’t want people to be left out of the sun worshiping, but they also don’t want to irritate guests by being deck police. Oh heck, I get bored lying in the sun anyway.

The Professional: I suppose I knew that some people were actually addicted to cruises, but I had no idea to what extent. On our recent cruise to the Caribbean, we were traveling by ourselves, so at every meal we asked to share a table. Thus we talked to a lot of people and found out how really serious some people were about this travel “genre.” Over half the people had traveled on the cruise line before. We talked with many who were on their 20th or 30th (or even higher) cruise. Our cruise line, Oceania, has only existed since 2002, and one lady on board was on her 18th cruise with the line. Figure out how many cruises a year she must take!

The Impaired: You always hear a lot of comments about how cruising is for those really “old” people! On our previous cruises I did not feel the guests were really old, just maybe middle-aged. Needless to say we are not traveling on the “young family” cruise lines like Walt Disney or Carnival. However, on our recent cruise there were some really, really old people there. I am going to attribute this to their always escaping from the cold of the northeast to the warmth of the Caribbean and just haven’t bought a condo or mobile home in the Florida tornado alley! And how did I know there were so many old people? It is a tip-off when you see a whole lot of people on a ship with walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and motorized scooters. Thank goodness there is a doctor and nurse on the ship because there were always people falling down on our shore excursions.

The Player: On a cruise, especially on “at sea” days, there are many things you can find to do. My idea is to sit down and read a book or take a nap. Others, however, are constantly going from one playing activity to another all day long. The options seem endless. You can partake in golf putting, shuffleboard, ping pong, team trivia, wine tasting, martini tasting, dance lessons (preferably before you sample wine and martinis), mahjong, bridge lessons, political and history lectures, computer lessons, and for total addiction, you can just sit down all day in the casino.

The Affinities: A good part of the ship population can be taken up with the affinities. These are groups that have booked together and have something in common. They tend to stick pretty much together and have special events such as before-dinner cocktail parties that you aren’t invited to. On our most recent cruise these groups included the Texas A&M alumni, the Victoria, British Columbia, Ballroom Dance Club, and a group of 50+ who always book together from Sun Tours in Albuquerque. You sure couldn’t miss the “Aggies” as they were always wearing lanyards with ID cards and had signs on their stateroom doors that said “Aggie on Board.” They are obviously not traveling incognito.

The Drinker: Speaking of wine, martinis, and cocktail parties, there is just an incredible number of ways on a cruise to hit the booze. If you sit down in any public area, expect to talk with a cocktail waitress. You can drink in any of the four restaurants, pool deck, casino, cocktail lounges, entertainment lounge, your room, and in the disco club. My, you do have to pace yourself, but keep in mind you have to use up all those shipboard credits!

The Staff: One of the really fun things about a cruise, particularly on a smaller cruise ship, is meeting and talking with the staff. On Oceania every staff member wears a name tag that includes their country of origin. They are more than willing to talk about themselves, their work experiences, and the pride they have in their cruise line. The staff was very international and really there were very few Americans. However, they all speak excellent English and had received excellent training.

The Eaters: You cannot discuss a cruise without visualizing all the characters that are eating—seemingly all the time! It must be a contest between cruise lines as to which has the best and the most eating experiences. To start with, you have 24-hour room service, so you might never leave your room while eating all the time. It was surely more fun to eat breakfast in the grand dining room enjoying white-tablecloth breakfasts with choices from smoked salmon to breakfast steaks. Being still hungry you could go to the cooking class taught by the executive chef and sample all the food demos. Then move on to lunch and you could go formal or casual. You could eat gourmet sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, or full multi-course lunches, or take your pick from an 80-foot buffet. In the mid-afternoon why not enjoy the ice cream and milk shake bar? Certainly you can’t make it all the way to dinner, so take in the 4 p.m. tea, with all the little sandwiches and elegant desserts. You could then roll right out of the tea into happy hour so you can wash down all the food and satisfy your appetite with peanuts and pretzels! Finally you could fill yourself up with a five-course (at least 2½-hour) dinner. The choices were endless with the formal grand dining room, the steak specialty restaurant, the Italian restaurant, and the tapas buffet. And please don’t forget the wine and drinks at dinner so you can work on those credits! And to complete the day, don’t forget to enjoy the mint left on your pillow, next to the Tums you placed on the nightstand. 

Judge Thomas C. Warren ( is retired from Chelan County District Court in Wenatchee, Washington, and is active in the ABA Senior Lawyers Division and Judicial Division.