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Old November 21st, 2006, 06:20 PM
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Default Dining Room Etiquette

Everybody,

I recently replied to a question about etiquette in the main dining room on "the other boards" with a twelve-point synopsis that got a far more enthusiastic positive reaction than I ever expected. On the off chance that it might be helpful to somebody, here it is with some minor editing related to the absence of context of the original question.

Dining Room Etiquette

>> 1. Come to the dining room on time, wearing the attire prescribed by the host (the master of the vessel, through the daily program) each evening. It's quite proper for members of the armed forces to wear the uniform that's equivalent to the prescribed attire. (On "formal" evenings, the proper uniform is the so-called "mess dress" or "dinner dress jacket" uniform or, for members not required to own that uniform, the substitute prescribed in the service's uniform regulations.) Cultural variations such as the Scotsman's dinner jacket worn with a kilt and the Bermudan's tuxedo worn with formal shorts (with the same satin stripe as standard formal trowsers) and black knee stockings on formal evenings, are also appropriate, so long as they are socially equivalent to the prescribed attire. If you make other plans and you are not coming to your assigned table in the dining room, communicate this fact in advance to your waiter, and, if possible, to your tablemates.

>> 2. When couples arrive at the table, the lady should sit to the right of the gentleman because.... well, because a gentleman always shows respect for a lady by giving the place of honor, which is to his right, to her. The only exception is if the gentleman holds an office of higher rank, which would entitle him to greater honor as a matter of protocol, in which case it's acceptable either to follow protocol or to follow the normal social custom.

>> 3. Always greet your tablemates and your waitstaff with a smile and a chearful "Good evening!" This gets the evening off to a good start! Also, be sure to complement the ladies at the table on their appearance -- especially on "formal" evenings! Try to keep the conversation pleasant and cheerful. If somebody says something that you find disagreeable, you can smile and say something like, "I really don't agree, but let's not spoil the evening by arguing about it..." and segway to a completely different subject as cheerfully and smoothly as you possibly can. (It's best to avoid discussion of the three taboos -- women, politics, and religion.)

>> 4. As soon as you sit down, open your serviette ("napkin") so it's folded in half and put it on your lap. Don't wait for the waiter to pick it up and hand it to you. If you leave the table before the end of the meal for any reason, place your serviette on the seat of your chair -- NOT on the table -- until you return.

>> 5. Decide what you are going to order as soon as your waiter brings your menu so that you are ready, and thus don't hold up the table, when the waiter comes to take your order. (Tip: Most ships post the menu for dinner right outside the dining room during the day, so you can review the menu and make your selections in advance. That way, you don't have to divide your attention between the conversation at the table and your menu.)

>> 6. Most cruise lines set each place with the forks to the left of the main plate and knives and spoons to the right, in the reverse of the order needed, up to and including the main course. Thus, it's proper to use the outermost utinsils first. If you skip a course, skip the corresponding utinsils if the waiter fails to remove them. The untinsils "above" the main plate are for courses after the main course -- that is, for coffee or tea and dessert. A few cruise lines set the table only with utinsils for the first course and bring the utinsils for subsequent courses with the respective courses, so "which utinsil to use" is not an issue.

>> 7. The bread and butter plate is always to the left of the forks and the beverages are always "above" the knives and spoons. The bread and butter plate seems to be the one that somebody invariably messes up, whereupon several people to the right of the initial offender follow suit because they don't want to embarrass the initial offender. Thus, it propagates around the table to the other side where somebody gets caught between those who get it correct and those who get it wrong, and has the choice of making a scene or doing without....

>> 8. Wait until the waiter finishes serving each course before picking up your utinsils to eat. If some passengers skip a preliminary course, the waiter may serve their next preliminary course (but never the main course) to them while the others are eating the courses before it to achieve better synchronization of the whole meal. In such situations, the rule applies to those who are in the same situation rather than to the whole table.

>> 9. If somebody else at the table shares a bottle of wine and you accept, reciprocate when the bottle runs out. If there are several people who accepted the initial offer, share with all of them.

>> 10. If you have any sort of difficulty with your tablemates or your waitstaff, be civil for the rest of the evening, then see the maitre d' as discretely as possible and ask him (or her) move you to another table for the next evening. (On some cruise lines, you can call the maitre di' during the day to request a change of table for that evening.)

>> 11. If your tablemates decide to go to an alternative restaurant as a gruup, go along. You just might enjoy the change of pace.

>> 12. Above all else, be polite to your waitstaff. Simple courtesies like "please" and "thank you" and addressing them by name, rather than "hey, you!," mean a lot, and invariably motivate them to go the extra mile for you. On the last evening, make sure that your waitstaff get the proper gratuities, calculated based on the length of the cruise rather than the number of evenings that you actually ate in the dining room. They are there for you even if you eat elsewhere, and they do a great job!

I realized, in the discussion that ensued on "the other boards," that this synopsis neglected a few points like sitting erect with one's tush at the back of the chair, keeping one's elbelows off of the table, cutting one's food one modest-size bite at a time and eating that bite before cutting the next, breaking one's bread into bite-sized pieces and buttering one piece at a time, spooning one's soup properly, etc., which obviously still apply.

Norm.
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Old November 21st, 2006, 08:22 PM
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Nicely done! Thanks! I'll be emailing these to my kids (20 and 17)....not that they need etiquette help....just so they know it's not just their mom who believes in this! Thanks again.
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Old November 21st, 2006, 08:30 PM
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Good grief. Remembering all that (and all the self-conscient baggage that ensues), and trying to keep a decent conversation flowing.....

I'll stay ashore. Thanks.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 07:28 AM
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Default Dining Room Etiquette

We just returned from the Jewel OTS. On the second formal night, as we were walking into the dining room (dressed formally, I might add), there was a guy in front of us in a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and carrying a can of beer. The attendant at the door just smiled at him as he entered the dining room........
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 09:40 AM
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are you as a tablemate offended when your other tablemates leave before everyone is done with desert, coffee, etc....

I have a hard time sitting through an entire elaborate dinner, but I love the dining room food, I often leave early, it is I just have to get up and do something, a little adult ADD going on. It has occurred to me that some folks might get offended, I always request a table for me and my traveling companions only, but sometimes, depending on the size of our group we get seated with other people. I always warn them on the first night, that they should not take any offense, but I generally do not sit through the entire meal, especially desert and coffee, I usually go up to the buffett a little later and get desert and coffee and go up to the outdoor deck and watch the stars, sea, etc. some of my family members stay for the entire thing, it isn't like the whole group leaves, usually just me and my significant other.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 10:09 AM
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Norm,
Thank you for posting that.

Laura
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 10:20 AM
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Hi Norm,
On my last cruise we were seated at a table that should have had 3 couples including us. The one couple didn't come to the dining room the whole cruise. The other was a female gay couple. Which would not have been a problem if the one lady who was about my mom's age hadn't been hitting on me the whole cruise. We violated the one about sitting on the right on day 2 because I didn't want to sit that close to this lady. She kept staring at the twins yes they are real and my eyes are up here.

She also asked me why I felt the dollar had declined in value as compared to other currencies. I could tell she wanted to turn the discussion into a President Bush bashing talk. However, I majored in finance so I give her the facts from a financial point of view including a talk about the Chinese Yuan as compared to the US dollar. I was just getting into a talk about natural market cycles. When the waitress came to take my order at which time my tablemate changed the topic. I allowed the change in topic and she never try to engage me in political conversation after that.

We should have requested a change of table because that one tablemate made me uncomfortable the entire cruise. For me you should not undress your tablemates with your eyes and the three topics you should not discuss in the dining room are: money, politics and religion.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 11:51 AM
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>> 4. As soon as you sit down, open your serviette ("napkin") so it's folded in half and put it on your lap. Don't wait for the waiter to pick it up and hand it to you. If you leave the table before the end of the meal for any reason, place your serviette on the seat of your chair -- NOT on the table -- until you return

I have to disagree with part of this one. If you leave the table, IMO, you should NOT place the napkin in the seat of the chair. You have been sitting on that seat and IMO it would not be appropriate to place a napkin there. Place in on the arm or the chair, if you had one or on the back of the chair. Sanitary reasons. I am open for discussion on this one.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 03:58 PM
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Hey Rev:

Thanks for starting this thread, it's easy to pick up bad habits and this is a good reminder to correct them.

While I think it's a good thread and worth reading, I'm afraid you are wrong on leaving a napkin on the seat of the chair. RayB is right on this one.

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Old November 22nd, 2006, 06:14 PM
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I would only worry about leaving the napkin on the chair if you have a dirty butt. That is what I usually do.

I enjoy the dining experience in the main dining room and always go every night. With all the new alternative restaurants now I think it has taken something away from the experience. I feel bad for the waiters when I see alot of empty seats. Some are in the alternatives but others are in the Windjammer because they don't want to get dressed properly or think they can get out of tipping.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 08:38 PM
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RayB and Bill,

Quote:
Originally Posted by I
>> 4. As soon as you sit down, open your serviette ("napkin") so it's folded in half and put it on your lap. Don't wait for the waiter to pick it up and hand it to you. If you leave the table before the end of the meal for any reason, place your serviette on the seat of your chair -- NOT on the table -- until you return
You replied:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayB
I have to disagree with part of this one. If you leave the table, IMO, you should NOT place the napkin in the seat of the chair. You have been sitting on that seat and IMO it would not be appropriate to place a napkin there. Place in on the arm or the chair, if you had one or on the back of the chair. Sanitary reasons. I am open for discussion on this one.
and

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill
While I think it's a good thread and worth reading, I'm afraid you are wrong on leaving a napkin on the seat of the chair. RayB is right on this one.

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This point usually should be moot because one normally should take care of head calls and other personal needs before sitting down so that one does not leave the table during the meal. If one does need to visit the head or to leave the table for some other reason during the meal, though, the proper place to put one's serviette, or napkin, is on one's chair. The serviette goes back on the table only when one leaves the table at the end of the meal. (Placing the serviette back on the table actually is a "service cue" that signals the busboy or the assistant waiter to clear your place because you are not returning to the table.)

There are two reasons for leaving the serviette on the chair rather than on the table if you leave the table temporarily.

>> 1. From a sanitary standpoint, a serviette that has been in contact with your mouth might come into contact with, and thus spread bacteria to, the tablecloth and other items on the table that the waiter must handle before the end of the meal, with the possibility of transmission through the waiter's hands or the other items to other passengers.

>> 2. From a standpoint of social acceptability, a serviette can become quite unsightly -- especially if smeared with cocktail sauce, tomato sauce, and other colorful fluids that might get onto your hands or your lips in the course of eating. If placed on the chair during your temporary absence, it's out of sight of your tablemates.

The item about serviettes ("napkins") in Bill's link specifically says that one should leave it on the table when one leaves the table at the end of the meal -- and this is absolutely correct. Of course, the underlying presumption is that the table finishes the meal together so everybody is leaving the table at that time. I would add that one should just gather the serviette in the middle (it's easy to do this with one hand by starting at the edges or corners nearest one's knees and working up toward one's waist, let it double over one's thumb, and set it on the table. Correctly, one neither crumples nor refolds one's serviette.

Norm.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 09:15 PM
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msblackjack,

Quote:
Originally Posted by You
are you as a tablemate offended when your other tablemates leave before everyone is done with desert, coffee, etc....

I have a hard time sitting through an entire elaborate dinner, but I love the dining room food, I often leave early, it is I just have to get up and do something, a little adult ADD going on. It has occurred to me that some folks might get offended, I always request a table for me and my traveling companions only, but sometimes, depending on the size of our group we get seated with other people. I always warn them on the first night, that they should not take any offense, but I generally do not sit through the entire meal, especially desert and coffee, I usually go up to the buffett a little later and get desert and coffee and go up to the outdoor deck and watch the stars, sea, etc. some of my family members stay for the entire thing, it isn't like the whole group leaves, usually just me and my significant other.
The norms of etiquette indicate that one ordinarily should stay at the table until the end of the meal. Nonetheless, there are situations in which we all sometimes have to excuse ourselves from the table before coffee or tea and dessert -- perhaps because the ship scheduled an event a little too early for second seating or because a medical condition flared up that requires immediate attention.

That said, I have to confess that I'm more than a little skeptical whenever I hear someone say that somebody has "Attention Deficit Disorder" (ADD) because I have seen too many instances in which this diagnosis became a convenient way to avoid addressing a matter of very serious dysfunction in a family or in a person's life. Thus, my instinct is to wonder whether perhaps more exposure to social situations ashore might help to ease your discomfort at dinner on a cruise ship -- and perhaps that is unfair to you. If so, I ask your forgiveness. In any case, I hope that you can get the right treatment for your situation so you won't be in the awkward position of having to excuse yourself from the table before the end of the meal, as a matter of normal routine, for much longer.

Norm.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 10:25 PM
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Norm... sorry to say that if you were seated wtih me, you'd likely have to break your own rule and go see the Maitre d to request a table change immediately.

My manners would get to you before the salad course was done
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 11:04 PM
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Norm, not to split hairs, but.....no, you should not place your napkin on the table if you plan on coming back, but you do not have to place it on the seat of your chair. Using the arm of the chair (or even the back) is perfectly acceptable.

I don't know if I would feel "offended" if someone left my table, but I sure would wonder...

On my first cruise the 3 year old at the table stuck her finger in my dessert. I'm pretty sure that's on the "don't" list.

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Old November 23rd, 2006, 03:27 AM
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Norm,

If I read RayB and Bill correctly, they were discussing placement of the napkin on the chair itself. The arm of the chair or the back would seem better choices than the seat, according to them, and I agree.

You may agree as well, but that point didn’t come across in your initial discussion.

I must say, however, that yours is an impressive breadth of knowledge, and I enjoy reading and learning – and yes, haggling over details.

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Old November 23rd, 2006, 05:30 AM
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Good post, but I have a question. What do you do if a tablemate slides under the table?

You see, we were dining at a table of 8 and 1 couple was a man and a gorgeous woman. Right after we sat down and the drinks were ordered I saw the man sliding down his chair and then under the table. The woman was unconcerned and didn't appear disturbed at all. After a few moments I told her "Maam, I think your husband just slid down his chair and under the table." She replied, "No he didn't, he just walked in the door!"

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Old November 23rd, 2006, 03:16 PM
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Kuki,

Quote:
Originally Posted by You
Norm... sorry to say that if you were seated wtih me, you'd likely have to break your own rule and go see the Maitre d to request a table change immediately.

My manners would get to you before the salad course was done
*ROF*

I really doubt that you would behave THAT badly! Remember... I spent five years as a naval officer, dealing with both sailors and marines, so I really doubt that you could say or do much that would shock me.

And, of course, the other rule of etiquette is that one should deal with a rude guest as graciously as possible....

Norm.
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 08:48 PM
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>> 2. When couples arrive at the table, the lady should sit to the right of the gentleman because.... well, because a gentleman always shows respect for a lady by giving the place of honor, which is to his right, to her. The only exception is if the gentleman holds an office of higher rank, which would entitle him to greater honor as a matter of protocol, in which case it's acceptable either to follow protocol or to follow the normal social custom. >>

I would have to say on our last cruise to the Baltic, our table of eight did not follow this etiquette rule. We all enjoyed each others company so much we played musical chairs. Some nights all the women sat on one side with the men across from us. Most nights we did not even sit as a couple. The other couples were concerned we would miss out on dinner, the night we had an evening tour in St. Petersburg. That is until they found out it was open seating that evening. Oh well so much for etiquette when you are having such a great time at dinner that they go on for hours and continue after dinner.
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 09:46 PM
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Will I be the only one to admit I have NRVER heard the term serviette? I sure hope not...While I don't pretend to be Emily Post, I act appropriately, when dining..to see these rules, some of which seem a bit archaic to me these days.

Would someone really be upset if the lady is not seated on the right? As I have mentioned before, as above posters have also mentioned, we play musical chairs at the table..A different ear, a different vantage point in the dining room, makes for a nice change nightly. I also tend not to want desert, for the most part..So if someone left early, I would not be offended in the least. Before alternatibe dining, if you were a couple shy, you would know they were not happy with the table complement. Now, you really have no idea.

So, can we add your name to the serviette list? PULEEZE
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 10:38 PM
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Trip,

Quote:
Originally Posted by You
Will I be the only one to admit I have NRVER heard the term serviette?
It's somewhat obscure here in America. Other than in French class, the first time I heard of the term was as a naval officer embarked aboard USS Saipan (LHA-2). One of the ship's officers did a presentation on British customs and terminology for the sailors. One of the points in the presentation was to ask for a "serviette" rather than a "napkin" when eating in a British restaurant because, in Britain, a "napkin" wss "something that a woman wears between her legs." I decided to use the British term rather than the American term only to avoid conjuring up the wrong image for our British members.

Quote:
Originally Posted by You
Would someone really be upset if the lady is not seated on the right?
Probably not. That rule is one of the more obscure and least problematic. Most current and former military and naval officers probably are aware of it because it's in the textbooks on etiquette and protocol in the officer training programs and people who go to "finishing schools" or elite academies also would be aware of it because that's what such schools are about, but most other people probably are not. It's also a rule whose violation causes absolutely no problem whatsoever. OTOH, nobody learns if the information isn't posted just because it's less critical than some other information. There's also an reality that, for better or worse, those who are "in the know" notice these details and form impressons of others accordingly, so posting such details may help some CruiseMates to make a more favorable impression on their tablemates.

Quote:
Originally Posted by You
As I have mentioned before, as above posters have also mentioned, we play musical chairs at the table..A different ear, a different vantage point in the dining room, makes for a nice change nightly.
There's no problem with that, as I have noted in an earlier reply. My original post assumed that couples sat together, as that is what has happened at my tables on nearly all of my cruises. In my experience, couples who move around to talk with different tablemates tend to do so as couples rather than individually.

Norm.
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Old November 23rd, 2006, 10:46 PM
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Quote:
One of the points in the presentation was to ask for a "serviette" rather than a "napkin
In Canada a serviette refers to a paper napkins, like those used in fast food restaurants, combined with plastic cutlery.
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Old November 24th, 2006, 12:20 AM
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If you look up "napkin" in an English/French dictionary, oddly enough you get "serviette".

However, the proper French term is "serviette de table".
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Old November 24th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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What is the proper etiquette if you belch loudly during dinner?

a. Place hand over mouth, smile and say "excuse me."

b. Say "Whoa!!!! That was a good one, can anyone top that?"
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Old November 24th, 2006, 01:57 PM
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Trip, I always use the term serviette. Then if people look at me weird, I will say napkin. (Also in the USA, sometimes they say sac(k)- instead of a bag- to place your purchases in. Gee-I am not buying something THAT big am I?)
Thanks for the bread plate info-I always get mixed up by looking for clues at my tablemates(at my husband's work Xmas party do's). I hate those round tables!! I will remember-water glass on right, bread plate on left.
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Old November 24th, 2006, 02:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DougR.
What is the proper etiquette if you belch loudly during dinner?

a. Place hand over mouth, smile and say "excuse me."

b. Say "Whoa!!!! That was a good one, can anyone top that?"
Never read anything on the proper etiquette regarding this subject. However, in my humble opinion, I would like to offer:

If it's un-avoidable, sometimes it just happens, "a" would probably be best.

If at a table with people who have absolutely no consideration for the other guests, option "b" would probably be as good as anything.

Again, just my opinion.

Bill
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Old November 24th, 2006, 09:36 PM
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"excuse me".
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Old November 26th, 2006, 05:16 PM
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I'm with Kuki. You'd be changing tables in a hurry if you sat with us, because we'd be having way too much fun, and might inadvertently break a rule.

--We don't much care who sits to the left or the right, because we're not in the military, we've been equals for 37 years and we mean to keep it that way. At a round table, it all boils down to convenience. Sometimes there's a table mate one of us especially wants to chat with, so we'll seat ourselves accordingly.

--The easiest way to solve the "serviette" issue is to simply call it what 99.9% of the English-speaking world calls it, to wit: a "napkin." Using substitutes for a simple, straightforward word might be considered pretentious, which is itself an etiquette violation.

--While at times it might be fun to trot off to an alternative restaurant with your tablemates, I can think of a number of instances where it would not be a good idea. And I certainly don't agree that failing to join the group is a violation of any rules of good taste. For example, some specialty restaurants limit the number of times you can go during any one cruise. What if you've already planned a nice birthday dinner with your spouse? Surely etiquette would not dictate that you cancel it in order to go with the group. There's a difference between "rules" and "suggestions." They shouldn't be intermixed.

--Of course, fewer and fewer cruiselines retain the policy of directly tipping the waitstaff, and have gone over to the policy of adding the tips to your shipboard account. Some passengers don't like it, but that's the way it is. Of course, it still holds true that you shouldn't shortchange the crew by removing the tips from your bill as some particularly boorish people are wont to do.

Fact is, a lot of the stuff in the original post is basically correct, and most people adhere pretty closely to decent behavior. But it's also true that even though some lines still cling to the more formal dress policies, cruises are not the same as big deal dinners at the officers' club. Which isn't to say that they're places to be rude or inconsiderate, but the whole point is to have a good time, and if one or two of these rules are bent in that spirit, there's usually no harm done.
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Old November 27th, 2006, 01:09 AM
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I agree with you AR it's important to be polite tablemate. I also believe that Norm has provided good information. The point is you are on vacation; relax and enjoy the meal.

I remember me and my husband’s third cruise there was a newlywed couple at dinner. They had order the soufflé and so had I. I watched as the dessert was put in front of them. I could see their confusion and discomfort on whether they should use a spoon or fork. When my dessert came I looked at them and said "I can't tell if I should use a spoon or fork. I think I'll use a spoon.� They looked so relieved and also used spoons. If I should have used a fork; who cares I'm on vacation as long as I don't use my hands it's all good.
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Old November 27th, 2006, 07:19 AM
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Hey Katlady:

That was a nice and thoughtfull gesture on your part.

With the exception of the occasional wedding and or a cruise, most people don't have the opportunity to sit down in a semi or formal dining room with several forks, spoons etc. Common sense should allways prevail.

Bill
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Old November 27th, 2006, 04:05 PM
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We just got off the Crown Princess on Saturday. The first formal night we went to the dinning room- personal choice.

There was a table of 4 people at one table next to ours. There was an empty table for 8. Then all of sudden a brand new bride and her sisters, parents walked in and one of the sisters announced to the whole dinning room that she had been refused service for more drinks. They went on to tap on the glasses every 5 minutes- NO joke. We had it timed out. She went onto to say- if you don't click your glass you are not an American!
The grooms table- only 4 of them were sitting there in a state of shock.
The drunk girl- got into a loud verbal agrument with my sister and in 30 plus cruises we have never seen that type of behavoir in a dinning room. The dinning room staff did not do anything.

When I said something to the person at the door- I said why didn't you put them in a corner so they would have some private space? My job is to sit people...

Needless to say- we went to the other dinning room 3rd night on.

Jan
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