Witnessing this kind of behavior on the part of my "fellow" passengers just drives me NUTS-- it doesn't ruin my trip, but it sure injects an unwanted sour note into my day. It's hard for me to resist making some non-sequitur comment to the offender just to interrupt their rant and throw them off their game, along the lines of Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" catchphrase, "Well, isn't that SPECIAL??"
I've told this story on these boards before, probably a couple of years back, but it bears repeating, since it's an even more uncomfortable variation on this theme-- namely, low-level frontline service personnel taking abuse not from passengers, but from their superiors-- and as you'll see, in this case, I use the word "superior" very loosely/sarcastically.
In Jan 2003, I enjoyed a week aboard Celebrity's shiny new Constellation round-trip from San Juan. After a couple of previous cruises on much older vessels, this ship was a knockout, and the line's dedication to topnotch service was always evident, right down to the constant cleaning of every public space. One evening, a young crew guy with a Jetsons-looking vacuum cleaner strapped to his back was working on one of the main stairways when some passing Greek officer in the hotel department decided he wasn't doing it exactly right-- his strokes were diagonal rather than parallel to the stair treads or something.
But instead of merely quietly correcting his form and letting him get on with it, the officer launched into a shouting minute-long diatribe about how poor little vacuum guy was a complete idiot, as if he'd been doing something totally unacceptable, like vacuuming old passengers' toupees off for a prank or something. And when the crew member just tried to get on with his work and disarm the officer with an embarrassed little smile, that only made the officer angrier and louder-- "Oh, you think is FUNNY? YOU THINK IS FUNNY?!!"-- and so on. Vaccuum Guy couldn't even look up after that; he looked like he just wanted to drop through the floor. And I just stood there a dozen or so feet up the stairs, literally open-mouthed with disbelief at what a giant flaming A-hole this bastard was being. What could I do?
When he was finally done shouting and walked away, I went over to the crewman and started doing a nasty imitation of the officer-- no words, just twisting my face up into a rictus of mock-rage and making noises like a quacking duck stuck on fast-forward for a few seconds. We both cracked up laughing, and from then on, whenever he saw me through the rest of the week, he gave me a huge grin and a wave.
Sometimes just showing you understand and sympathize is all you can do...and it can really make a difference. In retrospect, however, I wish I'd reported that officer to the head of the department-- out-of-control behavior like that sure wasn't making anybody's cruise experience any better!