Unluck of the Draw: 13 Tablemates to Avoid at Dinner

June 5, 2013 | By | 23 Comments

Cruise line strangers
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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    23 Responses to “Unluck of the Draw: 13 Tablemates to Avoid at Dinner”

    1. AlyK
      June 5th, 2013 @ 11:02 am

      How about the ‘doesn’t speak the same languager’…Went on a Royal Caribbean cruise two years ago with a group of girlfriends. We chose to do the 8 o’clock seating because we like to get to know our waiters. When we got to our table, we were met by a couple from Spain who spoke practically no English. The husband knew a few phrases and was able to tell us that they were on their honeymoon, but that was about the extent of it. The wife, who I sat next to, just nodded her head occasionally. We spent two painful hours trying to create a conversation with them, but it was mostly just us asking questions they didn’t know how to answer and awkward silences. We felt bad talking about our day or what was to come because we knew they didn’t understand. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for them. By the end of the meal, I wished I had paid more attention in high school Spanish so I could have talked with them more. Thankfully, the cruiseline realized our seating arrangement was a mistake and being newlyweds they were supposed to be in another section. Our experience wasn’t horrible, but just very very uncomfortable.

    2. Sailor1959
      June 5th, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

      I’m the
      Fight-Fire-With-Fire kinda guy.

      On a cruise, as I was enjoying my escargot, this was back when smoking was allowed in the dining room. A fellow (smoking) at another table leaned over and asked “How’s your snails” and smirked. I responded “Fine… how’s your cigarette?”. He never spoke to me again!

      Another time a table-mate (stranger) commented after I ordered another serving: “You don’t look like you missed too many meals”. The fella was very elderly and thin, thin, thin.
      I looked him over carefully and replied:
      “My god, you look sickly and on your death bed… you’d better eat more.” Thankfully it was a freestyle-dining cruise and we never saw him again.

    3. Natascha
      June 6th, 2013 @ 7:01 am

      This is why we do Anytime Dining whenever possible. if the tablemates are fun, you can always arrange to meet up for dinner. If not, you only have to sit through the anguish for 1 night.

    4. Taryn
      June 6th, 2013 @ 7:01 am

      Or when you go to breaky in restaurant and get to sit with anyone, who they seat you with and you say hello and they just ignore you :( very rude. Happened twice wasnt going to let that happen again, next time I got up and moved :) Our evening table we shared they were just lovely :)

    5. foreigner
      June 6th, 2013 @ 7:40 am

      Well, not all people on this planet happen to speak your language, so maybe you really should have paid more attention on the class?

    6. Stace894
      June 6th, 2013 @ 8:23 am

      I had the “No English” group as well. Went on a trip with Husband and then 9 yr old son. Was seated with two separate families where neither of them would speak English. They were able to, but chose not to. And then they chose seats that left the three seats available for my family totally separated. One at each and and one in the middle and refused to move. Needless to say, we spoke to our waiters and had a table for three for the rest of the trip.

    7. anna
      June 6th, 2013 @ 8:49 am

      Thankfully on our experience when seated by a bunch of #10 college guys, I went to the head waiter and we were quickly moved before mayhem ensued. Thank goodness for good head waiters and I love RCC.

    8. Janey
      June 6th, 2013 @ 9:11 am

      Exactly why we chose My Time Dining and sit at a table for two. We have our faults, but we know what they are and we don’t mind if we brag a little to each other, or whine a little to each other. At least we are only annoying each other and not a table full of other people :)

    9. Skyler Harvey
      June 6th, 2013 @ 9:17 am

      On our last cruise we were seated with 7 wonderful tablemates and a 40-something woman I’ll refer to as “The Princess”. “The Princess” clearly thought she was very important and thus entitled to special treatment. One of her majesty’s demands was that every night after dinner the head of the dinning room had to present her with the following night’s dinner menu. Her Highness would then place her order for the NEXT evening’s dinner. G-d forbid she have to place her order when the rest of us did! We had first seating so there was no danger of them running out of her selections and she had no special dietary needs. But every night the rest of us would order our meals and then hers would arrived at the table with ours. None of us could figure out why she had to order her dinner a day ahead of time or even the benefit of it. But (as she informed us!) she ALWAYS did this on cruises. I can’t begin to imagine what her poor room steward had to put up with! :-O

    10. BJ
      June 6th, 2013 @ 11:38 am

      On the 2010 World Cruise with the Princess Line we were at a table for 4 and saw the husband once! he came down to explain his wife had food allergies and they could only eat in the steak house where everything was fresh produce, so we dined alone each night. Then on the 2011 “Cherry Blossom” cruise to Asia & Japan at a table for 8, the only other diner who regularly come to dinner was usually well primed beforehand and drank a bottle of red on his own every night, and told the same stories every night, after 2 weeks we were rude enough to ask to be moved. Then in 2012 on the round Oz cruise we finally struck fantastic company on a table of 6, and actually looked forward to going down each night, became firm friends and keep in touch.

    11. kurt ullman
      June 6th, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

      My only concern is with the drinker. From my experience, we should be so lucky that “he ceased being able to read the shock and horror on his tablemates’ faces a six-pack ago.”
      I’d guess it was probably closer to a case ago.

    12. Jim Bridges
      June 6th, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

      My wife and I have always managed to secure a table for 2. We both work as teachers and do plenty of socializing in our “real lives” but we choose to treat our cruises as our time away.

    13. Lynn W.
      June 6th, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

      We had open seating on a HAL San Diego-Hawaii cruise several years ago. We were seated with a single man at a table for 6 early into the cruise. He had lived in our area and attended college here so we figured we’d have a few thins to chat about. No, his conversaton monopolized the table. I was again seated with him at a Mariner’s Society lunch and endured the same tales. Towards the end once again he was seated at our table. During his usual monolog he paused and I piped in with the punch line, but posed as a question. OMG, the look I got! I politely smiled, as did the rest of the table. He left shortly after that and we all enjoyed the rest of our dinner. Could be there is a reason why he is a solo cruiser?

    14. Jane Cunningham
      June 6th, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

      1st cruise was my 15 yr old daughter and I. Tablemates were from NYC but Grandma, Dad & Mom only spoke Russian. Their 13 yr old daughter spoke English but she dressed like a “working girl” – we were shocked and there was very little conversation. It was a LONG week.

    15. Abbie
      June 6th, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

      We always ask for a large table, even when we are traveling with another couple. We have done a dozen cruises over a number of years and still keep in touch with many of the wonderful folks we have met from this country and from others. We have definitely been Blessed and we will continue to enjoy making new friends.

    16. Lynne Patterson
      June 6th, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

      A friend of mine was on a RCCL cruise a few years ago which coincided with a CMA. ( Canadian Medical Assoc) convention. Table mates each introduced themselves and this particular tablemate added the title Doctor to his name, so she asked him if he was on the cruise for the CMA convention……..they never saw them again at their table !
      My friend knew about it because she worked in the Medical Faculty of a university, needless to say , he wasn’t a doctor, just wanted to impress.

    17. ACruiseGuy
      June 6th, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

      So, who’s left after that list?

    18. william brooke
      October 28th, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

      I have never had a bad group of tablemates. Once we left the table almost immediately because it was obvious we would not mesh with the other couple. All other times, we have met 100s of great people, many whom we keep in contact with. The others were lovely to meet and chat with, and learn from, but just not to stay friends with forever. Anyone who gives others a chance at their table and hates it, has only themselves to blame.

    19. Jana Chavez
      October 29th, 2015 @ 1:31 am

      As I write this we have just said goodnight to our dear friends from Scotland who we met on our Southeast Asia Cruise 3 yrs. ago. We were tablemates with yet another couple, also from Scotland. We all clicked!! The other couple were here (So CA) last month. We have all traveled back and forth between our 2 countries since meeting. We have all met each others families. No doubt we will all be friends for a very long time. We CLICKED! We also recognize that we were all very lucky to have “found” each other by simply being “tablemates”!

    20. benjaminwallace
      October 29th, 2015 @ 1:43 am

      don’t get it?

    21. JaneJet
      October 29th, 2015 @ 5:51 pm

      What about the “i feel the need to keep up a constant flow of conversation” people. We had one cruise where we were seated with several others (usually we have a table for 2 or our family has their own table} and every night one of the older men demanded to know why I didn’t talk very much. Every night he would talk loudly about himself, even while we all had food in our mouths, he would still be talking and asking inane questions. Then he would yell across the table “you are a quiet one.” We ended up doing more of the windjammer twice just to avoid them.

    22. Marie Singler
      October 29th, 2015 @ 11:16 pm

      We recently came back from a 14 day cruise. We did “My time dining once.”RCC We met 2 couples from Canada. They wanted to talk politics. I know this is a no-no. We had a fabulous time talking politics and as I was leaving the table the gentleman next to me says “see that wasn’t so bad” I said you were not for Obama and I was not for Bush.

    23. Del
      November 8th, 2015 @ 1:01 am

      14. SNOBBISH ENGLISH SPEAKERS. All cruises are international, not just american. So expect to have a lot of international fellow travelers, who are not obliged to speak english, just because the only language you can speak is english! All 13 characters described in this article is actually about this No 14 character – the one who wants to debate, give advices, stalking, complain etc, and obviously this person needs a listener, who speak english to listen all the b****

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