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Bernie January 7th, 2003 08:40 PM

the British invasion
I just returned from a marvelous 40-day cruise on the Marco Polo's Grand Africa/South America tour. It was a wonderful experience in almost every way, but I have to air a few gripes about a certain group of passengers...

This cruise was unusual in that it was actually two cruises, the first from Mombasa (Kenya) to Capetown and the second from Capetown to Buenos Aires. On the first half the passengers were a fairly mixed group, mainly Americans, Africans and western Europeans. The composition changed dramatically in Capetown where about 2/3's of the passengers disembarked and were replaced by [mainly] Brits. The demeanor of those on board changed dramatically at that point, and I'm sorry to say, for much the worse. I always had the notion that the English were a very civilized, cultured people - and for some individuals that was certainly true - but there were many instances where it was not the case.

My first negative impression came in the dining room. I had second sitting for the first half of the cruise and enjoyed pleasant company in a tranquil atmosphere. My new table mates were fine, but the noise level in the room was such that conversation was virtually impossible and caused headaches and indigestion. All the shouting and raucous laughter made it sound like a beer hall. OK I thought, people are entitled to enjoy themselves, but since I'd rather listen to my immediate company than those three tables away, I reluctantly changed to first sitting. The noise level improved somewhat, and I was seated with three other couples, one American and two British. As it turned out the two British couples were from different social strata and at first would barely speak to one another. They even sat so there was an empty chair between them. By the end of the cruise class differences had been set aside and we were one happy family. But there were some difficult moments.

The British seemed anxious to squeeze every moment out of their holiday. Whenever there was a queue of any kind, they literally pushed and shoved to get a place in front. Being generally at ease, I held back and let them have their way, but the constant clamor to "push ahead" and linecutting got annoying after a while. This behavior was most apparent when it came to reserving space. The Marco Polo has a policy of no reserved deck chairs. This worked well in the two weeks prior to the British invasion. There was almost never a shortage. People used chairs as needed and gave them up when done. There were plenty to go around. After Capetown, however, there was never a place to sit. People would get on deck first thing in the morning, grab a chair, 'reserve' it with a towel and book, and expect to keep it the rest of the day. It was not uncommon to find eight empty chairs in a row, each with its placeholder book and no one in sight. It got so bad the ship's Daily Program had to repeatedly publish the no reservation policy with a warning that belongings left unattended would be returned to the pursor's office. That problem never resolved itself and there were a lot of unhappy confrontations.

An English company called Mr. Bridge had booked a large group for the South Atlantic crossing. These were totally dedicated bridge players who required strict silence and no signalling between partners. They even had a monitor who patrolled the tables making sure there were no infractions. They played with this intensity for eight hours a day, never speaking or looking up from their table. It was amazing to watch. This odd obsession wouldn't have been a problem except for the fact that on the first day at sea they comandeered the largest lounge and made it their exclusive domain. This was also the area that had been designated for ballroom dancing and the only bar with a happy hour for pre-dinner cocktails. Those of us who wanted a drink had to enjoy it in silence at the bar. I really missed listening to the dance musicians for the rest of the cruise. I spoke with the ship's bridge director about it and discovered that she was also upset about the situation. This group had not made arrangements beforehand and shunned her suggestions to accommodate them in a more reasonable fashion. They insisted on having it their own way and because of their numbers, the staff had to defer.

There are a lot of other anecdotes that are more humorous than worriesome. I ordered a whiskey and soda with ice one night and was amused to hear someone remark very sternly to his companion that "Americans had no idea how to consume beverages and had to have everything chilled". The team trivia games - which I had enjoyed success at initially - changed for the worse when the questions started coming from the British edition of the game and seemed to include a high percentage of soccer and English political trivia. We Yanks had to switch to the left staircases to avoid traffic. The pale-skinned Brits seemed determined to soak up enough tropical rays to achieve the most phenomenal burns I've ever seen. Smoking increased dramatically both inside and out of the designated areas. Wherever the accepted currency was dollars and not pounds, indignation was made known loud and clear.

In retrospect, I have to say I got to know several very nice people from the UK during the trip, but my illusion about the 'well-mannered English' is gone and I'm less inclined to agree when I hear references to 'ugly Americans'. All present company are excluded from this gripe, of course. :)

Mikey Sr. January 8th, 2003 07:36 AM

Re: the British invasion
I must say I was wrong by using the phrase ' Ugly American. I have read nothing but bad words spoken about our great country by countries that are supposed to be our allies. Our fellow citizens fought in places like France, South Korea and kept the peace from communist Eastern Europe and all they can do is hate us for it. Every American ask "what can be better than freedom"? It is always worth fighting for. I think we have given too much to to those who degrade us. Let countries like south korea protect themselves and bring out people home. Let them see if north korea will let them protest while their tanks are running them down. Sorry Kuki I now this post is off the beaten path. Peace, Mike

mbuckellew January 8th, 2003 08:49 AM

Re: the British invasion
How interesting, Bernie. I lived in London for a time, and some of this behavior sounds typical of the people I encountered (excessive smoking, no ice), and some is quite surprising to me (queue cutting, deck chair saving.)

The bridge group sounds very rude, sorry you had to put up with that. Surely they could have found a less intrusive place to play.

It's also interesting what you said about the class differences at your table. I am very much an unabashed anglophile, but class differences are still there, even today, and still observed, subtly if not openly. That's one of the reasons it is written in the American Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal" - so that we Americans do not have these differences.

The vast majority of people I encountered in Britain were well-mannered and polite. However, I live in Orlando right near Disney World, and have noticed many instances of very rude behavior from British families on holiday. Perhaps Britons on holiday behave with more abandon than Britons at home.

Michelle B.

Rick January 8th, 2003 11:05 AM

Re: the British invasion
Our Century cruise a few weeks ago had a large number of Brits sailing on it. As always found most of them to be wonderful. (Deb is standing behind me with a rolling pin telling me what to type) lol.

DougR. January 9th, 2003 07:42 AM

Re: the British invasion
Despite our perception of the British as a cultured and refined people, the reality is quite at variance with the perception. The fact is they can be quite often rude, crude and boorish, especially when they are on "holiday". They are quite renowned in continental Europe as having absolutely no respect for other cultures, customs or langauge. Our tour director in Spain said she cannot recall one Brit who tried to speak a word of Spanish or Catlan. This attitude may be a carry over from the British Empire days, unfortunately no one told them that Britiannia no longer rules the waves.

By the way I am far from an Anglophobe, I visit quite often and enjoy the country

Post Edited (01-09-03 10:05)

ErnieMCC January 9th, 2003 07:57 AM

Re: Re: the British invasion
Glad you told us that, Doug. Some of MY best friends are British! (LOL)

DougR. January 9th, 2003 10:15 AM

Re: Re: the British invasion
Heck not only my best friends but most of my ancestors LOL.

Gee I am also an American and can come up with a million (give or take a couple of hundred thousand) reasons why I don't like New Yorkers (NYC Variety).

junie January 9th, 2003 07:20 PM

Re: Re: Re: the British invasion
See the ugly american's thread!!!

I see similarities.

Evelyn Richardson January 15th, 2003 11:36 AM

Re: Re: the British invasion
As an ex-Brit (naturalised American since l982) I can only agree with the original writer . I was on "Hamony" on S America cruise earlier this year and also had a British invasion. It seems that Crystal in order to "fill" the ship had allowed heavily discounted "package deals" which included hotel, air , cruise, up-grades etc (incl days in Ft Lauderdale and Orlando) promoted in what Brits would call "working mens clubs". You can guess the results. screams of laughter, shouted "good nights, see you for breakfast" in the hallways, complete disregard for smoking rules or dress codes etc

Even worse these people got their deals at far less money than loyal Crystal past passengers .

Crystal are still going down this "Sales, sales sales" road , they are in fact making their past passengers second class in favor of these groups. My latest cruise had college age students asleep on the floor of the Crystal Plaza in the afternoon (stoned perhaps?) same type bringing food down from deck 11 to deck five and sitting on the ornamental staircase blocking access while they ate hamburger and fries! At lunch and DINNER we had several females ( I refuse to call them ladies) who came to the dinning room with their hair in rollers even though each cabin had 2 (two) hair dryers.

Auguste January 16th, 2003 08:38 AM

Re: the British invasion
I lived in England for a few years and found all the people very friendly and helpfull. But maybe the times have changed . Was even amazed how everybody would que at bus stations, banks asf. Can not even imagine going in any dining room with hair rollers Ewww Auguste

Zeena May 15th, 2003 06:06 AM

Re: the British invasion

As a person born in the U.K.of mixed parentage and a cruiser,I just have to agree with what has been said about Brits. on holiday.Our last cruise on the Mercury-trans/canal thankfully didn't have many Brits.on it,but they definately made their presence felt.
At San Diego port we were in the marquee for security checks-the complaints started-why is there no seating?its too hot in here-why haven't we all got a cold drink?etc,etc.Once on board-dont like the colour of the carpet-why has all the buffet gone?-WHAT NO LAUNDERETTE?!!(this has become our catchphrase now when we browse the brochures)-but why can't we use our iron in the cabin?-as you can imagine we made the decision that if we spotted a fellow Brit.we would take a quick about turn,we were so ashamed at their behaviour we preferred the company of the non-Brits.
Thank goodness most Brits. stick to P.O.!!

Tasha May 16th, 2003 09:25 PM

Re: the British invasion
My husband is English and I lived in England for over 5 years. I found the people to be friendly and nice. Some of them do have very strong opinions or maybe it's just that they weren't afraid to share them. A lot of my conact with English people was through church though as that was who I associated with. I've never been on holiday with a large group of them. Sometimes I think that when people get in a large group with others like them they feel more confidant or more able to let go of thier normal restrictions. I remember doing that as a teenager. I'm NOT saying it's ok. Especially when you are around other people you need to make sure you are considerate. Hopefully I'll never run across this kind of behavior en mass no matter what nationality.

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