I rarely choose the set-seating dining option when anytime dining is available, so I generally have the option of dining alone. But on the few occasions I’ve eaten with strangers, I had delightful experiences. I wondered: What’s with the stigma? Then, on one of my most recent sailings, my travel companion and I were stuck at a table for six with one couple who told us far too much about a disabled relative’s ailments and another couple who complained about every item on the menu before dousing their dinner in ketchup.
In honor of Cruise Critic’s Dining Week, I’ve compiled a list of the worst tablemate types. Have you eaten with any of them? Or, worse yet, are you one of them? Be sure to share your most horrific “when tablemates attack” stories in the comments below.
1. The Over-sharer: Maybe she has bunions. Maybe she prefers to sleep in the buff. Maybe she gets “stomach discomfort” if she eats too much of the pool-deck soft serve. If it’s TMI, she’ll share it with you while you nod politely and attempt to regain your appetite.
2. The Disapprover: You finish your first plate of food and opt for a second. (You’re on vacation, after all.) Cue the split-second nearly indiscernible glare from your new tablemate. You have two choices: shift uncomfortably in your chair and sheepishly ask if anyone would like a bite, or plant a huge smile on your face and make exaggerated “yum” noises as you dig in to let Mr. Judgmental know exactly what he’s missing.
3. The Bomb-dropper: This tablemate will tiptoe carefully to the brink of discussing hot-button issues and back away just in time to watch the rest of the table erupt into a heated debate. She will likely sit back quietly and observe while others, red-faced, try to prove why the sky is blue.
4. The Debater: He preys on the weak and defenseless, often teaming with The Bomb-dropper to dominate conversation at the table. He generally makes everyone else uncomfortable for the sake of promoting his own beliefs. Surely you’ll see it his way. The Bomb-dropper sets, and The Debater spikes. Game over.
5. The Complainer: She thinks the weather’s too hot/cold/rainy/sunny. The toilet paper is too scratchy. The kids’ club is too noisy. Oh, and, by the way, the pool water isn’t wet enough. Also, waiter, will you cut her food for her? Prepare yourself for an onslaught of gripes from this whiney character. Every. Single. Night.
6. The Bragger: You’ll know this guy right away. He’ll be the one who introduces himself on the first night as “John Doe, Super-Duper Deluxe Awesomeness Spa Suite cruiser.” He will then inform you that his suite, which takes up an entire ship deck, comes complete with butler service and a gold-plated, diamond-encrusted heated toilet. He can also be identified by his alias, The One-Upper. If this is your 10th cruise, it will be his 100th. Been to Hawaii? He’s been to Fiji … twice. He might also choose to flash his specially made Supercruiser name badge, which he received for moving up to the tippy-top of the loyal cruiser program. (In case you didn’t hear it the first time, this is his 100th cruise, you know.)
7. The Advice-giver: You’ve been on six cruises. Your tablemate, who’s clearly an expert, tells you she’s been on seven, then proceeds to give you tons of unsolicited advice on everything from where to snag the best duty-free bargains to how you should dress in port. Sure, some of it might be helpful, but she’s not really telling you anything you don’t already know.
8. The Latecomer: You’re in the dining room promptly at dinnertime every night. He, on the other hand, chronically strolls in 20 minutes late, thereby delaying dinner for the rest of your table. You and your other tablemates offer weak smiles as he approaches. You attempt to greet him, but the sound of your voice is drowned out by the grumbling of your stomach. He takes his time looking over the menu, then becomes indignant when dinner runs long and he’s late for that night’s production show.
9. The Clinger: Just because you’re forced to eat dinner together doesn’t mean you’re forced to spend the entire cruise together. But unfortunately for you, that’s not how she sees it. She asks if you’d like to meet up later for the comedy show. She follows you across the pool deck the following day as you pretend not to hear her calling your name … then sets up camp on the lounger right next to yours. She casually asks which shore excursions you’re planning to do in the next three ports of call and — surprise! — books the same ones. She chit-chats about the minute details of her life, including the fact that she’s afraid of heights. You resolve to spend the remainder of the sailing atop the funnel.
10. The Drinker: After a day of excessive boozing at a bar in port, The Drinker still isn’t done. He’ll be the one who’s barely coherent while ordering a bucket of beer to accompany his steak and lobster in the dining room. The only thing on him that’s gotten a workout on this trip is his all-inclusive alcoholic beverage package, and his behavior shows it. He’s loud and sloppy, he’s inappropriate, and he ceased being able to read the shock and horror on his tablemates’ faces a six-pack ago.
11. The Bad Dresser: It’s formal night. You’ve spent a significant amount of time getting ready, and you’re psyched for dinner … until Ms. Booty Shorts plops down next to you, her hair a mess, the smell of sweat and tanning oil lingering in the air. Unless Cosmo says it’s the latest in glamorous boho-beach cruise-ship fashion, you’re not quite sure why she’s allowed in the dining room at all.
12. The Slurrer: Your tablemates are super friendly, you share many similar interests, and you’re getting along swimmingly … until The Slurrer makes an off-the-cuff slur about your waiter’s ethnicity. You turn bright red and sink down in your seat, hoping your waiter (and the dozens of others tirelessly serving the tables around yours) hasn’t overheard his ignorant comment.
13. The Ankle-biter (and The Caretaker): There’s nothing wrong with children, when they’re well-behaved. The problem comes when you’re stuck with little Susie, who crawls under the table, throws things across it and screams when she has to sit through two courses before she can have dessert. She can only be topped in bad-tablemate behavior by The Caretaker, a parent who allows the child’s behavior to continue, uninterrupted.
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