Things You Should Not Discuss on a Cruise
Written by: Paul Motter
I have a theory – two of the main reasons why cruise lines have replaced traditional dining with open seating are (1) the cruising public has become a cross section of America and (2) politically speaking the American public has become entirely intolerant of differing opinions.
In the 1980s you could be sure that most of your fellow cruisers would be college graduates and employed. Not true anymore. A Los Angeles Times expose just showed us that a number of welfare recipients on the dole in California have been taking cruises. How do they know? The state benefits are given to the “needy” in the form of a debit card which essentially looks and works like a regular credit card. Lo and behold, many of these card’s transactions were being charged aboard cruise ships. Eight of those ships were sailing out of Miami, not California.
The California state government has now instructed the bank behind the debit cards not to allow charges from cruise ships. Not too surprisingly there was another location where many on the dole were spending their money – Las Vegas casinos. Something like $12-million was spent on the Strip in 2009 alone. They also put an end to that. However, California welfare recipients are still allowed to charge items in Hawaii and Mexico, even if they are in the Four Seasons Hotel gift shop on Lanai.
Now, you could be seated with a cruiser wearing a brand new set of pearl earrings from the cruise ship gift shop and you just might mistakenly ask them what they do for a living. What are they going to say? If you find yourself dining in uncomfortable silence, at least you can take heart in knowing you can start afresh the next night with an entirely new set of dining companions.
Here are more topics of conversation topics one should avoid on a cruise ship:
“Where are you from?” This used to be the standard opening line at any cruise ship dining table – an ice breaker that never failed. But these days there is hardly a state in the union that doesn’t already have a reputation for political leanings. So, if you are from Utah and you ask mistakenly ask someone where they are from and they reply, “Berkeley, California,” you are doomed to an entire night of awkward silence.
They are probably interested in Napa wines, while you don’t drink; they probably voted for Nancy Pelosi while you live in a state where Ronald Reagan was considered too liberal. All of your children are probably legally married with LOTS of kids, while at least one of their children has a “life partner,” and a toy poodle, and you probably drive to your non-union job daily, while they go to government union job on the BART subway system.
Bottom line; never ask anyone where they are from during a cruise.
The next topic of conversation to avoid is “Do you have any children?” In this economy children, even adult children, can be an embarrassment. There is a good chance they are nearing 30 years and still living in the basement. A lifetime of Internet usage has diminished their social skills to having more affinity to their “Doom” avatar name of “Vulcanized Robber Bear, On!” that their real name, which is your dining companion’s name – plus junior.
The only thing that can make this conversation even worse is if that child happens to be on the cruise with the parents. This is highly likely since mom and dad believe their antisocial child’s depression will only get worse if you point out his shortcomings rendering him unable to face the possible rejection of job interview for another two years.
I once met a lovely couple on a cruise who were both quite affable and good looking. They were funeral directors, but that was not the eye-opener. The shock was how willing they were to talk shop so openly. But after all, they were on vacation.
They met at a convention, for funeral directors, of course. They fell in love when they realized how few “normal” people could ever perceive either of them as anything but ghoulish – despite their apparent good looks. Well, could you make love to your spouse knowing they had their hands on dead people all day long? Okay, that’s an indelicate question and I apologize, but I couldn’t help thinking it.
As we got to know them better, they really opened up. Did you know one of the biggest complaints funeral directors have is interference from the government health department? Now, mind you, the worry isn’t that the environment will become unhealthy for living people, as you might think. The concern of the health department is that the dead should be kept in a pristinely clean and germ-free environment. This was deemed to be highly over-burdensome by our new friends because as they put it, “They’re dead! They don’t care!”
Now that I just wrote that I realize it sounds terrible, but these people were actually very nice. It made perfect sense to them, purely from a business point of view, but all we could do is nod our heads and say “Yeah, that makes sense to me….”
More topics you should never discuss on a cruise ship:
Favorite television shows or commentators. The days of Walter Cronkite are gone. In this modern age if you mention even one commentator you are revealing your entire political philosophy and opening up a real can of worms. The same is true of favorite actors. Whether it is Sean Penn or Charleton Heston, Tim Robbins or Mel Gibson; chances are they have been affiliated with one political movement or another and you cannot discuss their movies without getting into choppy political seas. Television shows are also off the table since Bristol Palin went on Dancing with the Stars.
The only safe topics to discuss any longer are pets. Pets are non-political and non-religious. Gardening is also safe, because plants are like pets that don’t run around. Vampires are also okay; because they are dead and don’t vote in most states.
Keep it simple – pets, plants and vampires.
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