The Social Life While Cruising
Written by: Kuki
While it’s not likely the primary reason people choose to cruise, the social life you encounter once at sea probably has a lot to do with your enjoyment of the cruise… though it may not immediately come to mind as being all that significant.
When reading reader reviews of their cruises, the most often areas they report on are food, service, accommodations, and scheduled shipboard entertainment. There’s no question these are important factors affecting your over-all cruise experience.
Many people also devote significant portions of their reviews and reports to ports of call and shore excursions; valuable information to those who are on cruise ships as travelers, who see a cruise ship as a convenient method of visiting and touring a variety of different places and cultures in one trip.
The social aspects of the cruise experience seem to often be left out. But I believe this is one area that is growing in significance as a reason people choose to cruise, and even why they choose one cruise line over another.
One just has to look at the incredible growth of Social Networking sites on the Internet, to see that it’s becoming a world where people want to be in touch with others. I’m by no means any type of expert, nor have I done any research into the success of these types of sites. Perhaps people in urban areas are feeling more isolated from other people, even when living in large cities, because of the time consumed at their jobs, or because their “social circles” have become more limited by the demands of their every day lives.
The old means of meeting new people do seem to be require more concerted effort. While, via the Internet, it’s relatively simple to sit in the comfort zone of your own home, and meet people from around the globe.
Whatever the reasons, I think the Social Networking system has also invaded the world of cruising. One just has to look at the cruise related web-sites to see how prominent roll calls for particular sailings have become. People are trying to get in touch with other cruisemates prior to their cruise, and getting to know each other before they sail, and before they sail arranging to meet onboard. All an effort to make their cruises a more social experience.
The cruise lines themselves are now very much encouraging this early social networking, with areas within their own web sites, such as Carnival Connections, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Meet and Greets, as well as employee written Blogs, encouraging people to have conversations, and discussions, with the employees as well as each other.
Most of the new mass market ships are large, carrying anywhere from 1500 – 3600 passengers, so it’s not that simple to simply go onboard and make new friends. On those ships, it seems to be getting quite rare to find people who aren’t traveling with other friends, or participants in some sort of group cruise.
It’s not uncommon at all to find various affinity groups when you cruise. Those who are cruising totally solo, or as single couples, are seemingly becoming more rare.
These days when you look in a ship’s daily bulletin it’s much more common than it used to be to find various organized meetings for affinity groups as well; Veterans gatherings, Friends of Dorothy, Internet Connections, etc. The purpose of all of them is to create an opportunity for people to meet and socialize.
Personally I don’t think it’s all that difficult to meet people on any ship, if you’re at all outgoing. You can meet in the lounges, discos, bingos, on ship’s tours, etc. However on the mega-ships it’s much more difficult to accidentally meet them again, unless you just happen to be visiting the same lounge or whatever again.
And with today’s trend to various adaptations of open seating dining, and away from traditional assigned dining tables, it makes it even more unlikely you’ll see a lot of new people you’ve met again, unless you take the initiative to make arrangements to do so. In fact, on some of the large ships I’ve sailed on, I can think of many people I’ve met, and then never saw them again during the entire cruise.
I recently cruised on the luxury brand, Silversea Cruise Line, and one of the things which impressed me most was the system they’ve set in place that by design encourages social networking on a daily basis; and somewhat surprisingly it revolves around their dining room.
If you’re traveling with others, or have met people you want to dine with, you’re certainly able to do that easily. However, if you enter the dining room on your own, or as a couple, you are encouraged to join others at a table for dinner.
On previous cruises with other lines, if we entered as a couple, the system dictated that we were automatically seated at a table for two, unless we specifically asked to join others. On Silversea, the reverse was true; you would have to request a table for two, otherwise you’d automatically be seated at a “joined table”.
For Mrs. Kuki and I, traveling without friends or family, this system worked perfectly. And as a result we met so many interesting people, who under other circumstances we may have not even talked to.
By it’s very nature I believe dinner to be a very a social event; just think of how often when you get together with friends at home, you go out to dinner, or alternately have friends in for dinner.
The seemingly insignificant system of having “joined tables” encourages that type of dining experience on board the ship.
Admittedly, on a ship such as the Silver Shadow, carrying a maximum of 382 passengers, it’s going to be easier to run into the people you’ve dined with again, than on Mega-ships. However, I do think the basic system of “joined tables” could adapt well even to those ships, to improve the sociability of the dining experience.
It would only require the cruise lines which offer the -open seating, any time, my time dining systems- to show more initiative in placing passengers at “joined tables” first, unless they request tables for 2.
If you’re on a cruise offering some variation of “open seating dining“, and not traveling with other friends or families members, would you prefer to be seated with new people each night, or would you prefer to be seated at a table for two automatically? Or do you try and stick to ships offering only traditional assigned dining times and tables?
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Posted: March 10th, 2009 under Kuki.