A quick and painless guide to avoiding eye contact, small talk, and a group experience with people you will never see again.
Millennial with a recent addiction to cruising? Welcome to the club. Ever since I popped my cherry on a Virgin Voyage, I’ve been hooked on ticking off multiple countries without logistical stress. But just because I now choose to satisfy a desire for adventure by way of ship, doesn’t mean I want an army of new friends who, let’s face it, I’ll never see again.
I go away to spend quality time with loved ones, or myself if traveling solo, so making small talk for a week is, quite frankly, not my idea of a vacation. I do enough of that at work, thank you. Plus, I’m British. If you’re using precious annual leave time on a cruise, don’t feel bad for wanting to focus your energies on making memories with your spouse, not Karen and Paul from Florida. I’ve learned to avoid inviting unwanted attention, both on large and boutique ships, without (to my knowledge) offending the friendly folk on board. Here, I share them with you, dear cruiser, so that your next jaunt on the seas doesn’t look like an episode of White Lotus.
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Befriend the Staff
This may sound counterintuitive, but trust me, it works. I recently sailed with Uniworld in India. It was a fabulous boutique ship, with fewer than 30 guests on board and 13 days of activity. That’s a lot of contact with the same people. Every evening there’s cocktail hour and a next-day briefing, which I never miss because, well, martinis. Rather than stare at the floor to avoid eye contact, I sit at the counter and converse with the local host. I learned a ton about India from a very enthusiastic young man who I can’t remember the name of, and as soon as the time is up, there’s no awkward “Would you like to join us for dinner?” because Mr. what’s-his-name is working, and I know very well never to block a seaman in his tracks.
Have a Killer Playlist
You’re not going to want to miss magnificent sights like the fjords of Norway, and when I was on the Norwegian Cruise Line, I knew I wanted to soak them up semi-clothed (oh my!) from the outdoor pool deck. Before you head off, make a playlist to soundtrack these vistas and drown out all chatter from your fellow cruisers as you bask in sensory heaven. FYI my playlist looks like this: Me, Myself and I (Beyonce), I’m Not Here To Make Friends (Sam Smith), and NO (Meghan Trainor).
Act Like You’re on a Honeymoon
Because nobody wants to intrude on a couple fresh out of the sheets, this works especially well on small luxe ships like Windstar Cruises where you’re seeing the same faces each day. People automatically want to give newlyweds space to cuddle, gaze into each other’s eyes, and make everlasting memories. If you’re lucky you might even get a few freebies thrown in too—bubbly, room upgrades, chocolates, flowers, etc. Remember, the more romantic the story, the more you get. So, if anyone asks, you totally met hubby while volunteering to save pandas in China and not Grindr, okay?
Choose a Non-English Operator
Going on safari was a dream of mine for so long, and when I signed up for CroisiEurope, I was glad to spend most of my time observing wildlife instead of talking about politics with Americans. This boutique river cruise line comes from France, but your guides are multi-lingual, so you need not worry about being lost in translation. Most of their clientele is French, and you can ask to be matched (or, in my case, mismatched) with guests from a desired country. The added perk of a French cruise? French food. We dined on delicious quiches, coq au vin, crème brûlée, and fine wines during the tour. Oo-la-la.
Blend in With the Crowd
On big cruises, I find that the best tactic is camouflage. With Royal Caribbean’s adults-only options, millennials will blend in even more amongst the crowd. Wear your least distinctive gear, steer clear of logos, and keep colors neutral. When the ship is docked at the beach club, remember that sunglasses are just as, if not more, important than sunblock. Now you can really relax in the Bahamas.
Utilize Room Service
Sometimes you’ll slip up, we all do, and make friends you simply cannot shake from day one. But fear not, the damage can be undone, and it’s vital to do so on day two so as not to set a communal routine when it comes to dining (and give them a chance to find other suckers). I loved that on Virgin Voyages, you can get almost anything delivered to your room for just $5. Yes, $5! Honestly, with so much dining out per day, for introverts, room service is a real treat. Plus, you’ll get to eat in a hammock—and that’s the life!
Workout in the Gym
The best place to avoid human contact? On most ships, it’s the gym. But know your clientele because on younger cruises, like Virgin or Celebrity, people do actually work out. I was lucky in that I used the gym every day on Uniworld and didn’t once have another person in there with me. It became my happy place, a way to work off the curry so I could double my consumption later. Spice up my life.
The Fake Upset Stomach
Travelers are wonderfully sympathetic to anyone with an upset stomach because they’ve all been there. It’s the perfect excuse to, um, excuse yourself from communal situations. If you’ve got a swanky suite (lucky you) then why waste it? Go do you while the party thinks you’re hunched over the toilet, you clever, clever minx.