What if cruise-ship dining companions want to put politics on menu?


The problem: My husband and I are going on a cruise. This ship has open seating, so we will often be dining with strangers, and dinners can last up to two hours. One of the main purposes of this trip is to get away from the daily bombardment of politics, which has made our lives miserable for the past year. My dream is that the maître d’ will ask “red or blue?” before he seats us. Barring that unlikely circumstance, what should we do if we get seated with people whose political views are vastly different from our own? 

Low road: Invite them to your cramped, windowless, third-class cabin to watch “Titanic.”  

High road: The likelihood of imprisonment with political enemies is small. Cruise ships offer many dining options now, aside from the traditional set-time-and-table scenario. Flexible dining and dine-around, for example, allow more control in dining times, tables and even restaurants. (Hint: Specialty restaurants have many more tables for two.)  

Cruise Critic editor Colleen McDaniel noted that her company’s forum Roll Calls allows cruisers to interact with people they’ll be cruising with in advance, then decide if they want to break bread together. And this being a cruise, buffets are set up from stern to bow. You won’t go hungry.  

More likely than political paralysis is getting trapped in deadly dull small talk for two hours, in which case you can be grateful you weren’t the couple writing to Cruise Critic after being stationed with supreme bores — for 49 days. (I need to follow up to see if they swam home.)  

If the worst happens, jump in with a cheery, “Oh, we’re taking a vacation from politics!” then smile and keep changing the subject. If your fellow diners don’t back down, Brian Nystedt of Minneapolis-based New Departures advises that you catch the eye of the maître d’, slip him or her a few bills, and enjoy the stroll to your new table. But voyaging on glorious open water, you’re just as likely to make lasting friendships. Cruise over to your shared table with an open mind and find out.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

Why old enclaves and new islands matter to travelers

Last month, Alastair Bonnett tried to reach a new volcanic island in Tonga when a cyclone intervened. His work uncovering new islands as well as hidden enclaves, utopian societies and even rumored or magical places fills his new book, “Beyond the Map” (University of Chicago Press). A professor of social geography at Newcastle University...
Tips for taking children to the new Legacy Museum and lynching memorial in Alabama

Standing next to me in front of the new Legacy Museum in blazing hot Montgomery, Alabama, my 12-year old son asks: "Why are you taking me to another museum?"  To be fair, it's not surprising that a sixth-grader would rather be playing video games. But we live only an hour from the museum and the also-new National Memorial for Peace and...
5 tips for planning a bat-centric Austin staycation
5 tips for planning a bat-centric Austin staycation

Recently I had a revelation. Despite growing up in Austin and spending most of my life here, I had never seen the famous Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge bats. With bat season now in full swing (it’s March-October), I decided the time had come to correct that. So my husband and I planned a bat-centric staycation for ourselves and our three...
Lake Geneva: Switzerland’s riviera
Lake Geneva: Switzerland’s riviera

Arching around most of the southern end of Switzerland’s most southwest corner, Lake Geneva laps against the French border with a serene beauty. A collage of castles, museums, resort towns and vineyards, this region merits a few days of exploration — though you can enjoy a swift overview of its highlights even in just one day. Last summer...
Land of Enchantment
Land of Enchantment

Last spring, my family and I were driving along a dusty road lined with adobe. The doorways were arched, the rooftops peaked at one or two stories and the front doors stood studded with crosses or turquoise. We were day-tripping, on a small pilgrimage from Albuquerque, and Santa Fe unfolded with an appearance both striking and subtle: It literally...
More Stories