I started my career in travel as a cruise ship photographer and I can tell you that I heard some pretty funny and often bizarre questions from guests on the ship. Many of these have provided lots of laughs when I’ve shared them with family, friends, and former crew members.
In the interest of helping all you novice cruisers avoid some rookie mistakes, I’ve compiled the Top 10 questions you can avoid asking on your first cruise!
What time is the midnight buffet?
This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions. A bit like “When was the war of 1812 fought?” or “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” So while I heard it literally hundreds of times, looking back I think it was actually a good thing. I mean, if you’re able to go on vacation and shut down your brain to the point that you don’t realize that the midnight buffet takes place at midnight, then I say your travel agent has accomplished their mission! Of course, answering this question took a bit of delicacy so as not to embarrass the guest, although most were pretty good-natured about their own brain freeze once they realized the answer.
I booked an oceanview cabin—how come my view is of the pier?
I’ll put this one in the category of brain freeze as well. A guest enters their stateroom only to see their view is of the pier. . .I guess it hasn’t quite occurred to them that ship will be moving at some point! In this case, you just have to wait until we leave the pier and THEN the oceanview kicks in. “Oh yeah, I guess I didn’t think of that.”
Where does the crew sleep at night—on the ship?
Whenever I heard this common question, my first instinct was to answer, “Sleep? They don’t allow us any time to sleep!” For grins, we’d sometimes tell the guests there was a crew barge that followed the ship far enough back that it was below the horizon. If they wanted to see it, they just needed to be out on deck at 4:00 am when it pulled alongside to change crew.
Of course, we’d always ‘fess up that we did in fact have our own accommodations. And back in those days most cruise ships had been converted from pre-jet age passenger liners, so the crew accommodations were typically the former “steerage” or third class cabins. Think very tiny dorm rooms.
Do these stairs go up OR down?
Another of the most commonly asked questions, which we typically answered with, “You’re the guest so they’ll go any way you want!” Most of our guests were first-time cruisers and just wanted to make sure they are respecting the rules of the road. It was actually nice to see that kind of consideration and interest in “maritime protocol.”
Where’s the mess hall?
A question that crewmembers would almost always respond to with a question—“Did you serve in the armed forces?” And the guest’s answer was always, “Yes I did—how did you know?” Calling the dining room the mess hall was a dead giveaway of guests that had military service in their background. As a paying passenger, you can call it the mess hall, grub, or even chow line (but I suggest avoiding saying that to the chef).
How will I know which pictures are ours?
Seriously, we got this question all the time and the only way to answer it was like a politician. . . in other words dodge and pivot with an answer to a different question! “We’ll post all the pictures we take in the photo gallery and if you’re unable to find yours, just let us know.” But really. . . there were times when it was tempting to answer, “Just look for the really bad one.”
This reminds me of another related question; “How come I look so bad?” Diplomacy dictated that we offer some vague explanation like “the sun was really in a bad spot” or “I think I must have moved the camera” or my personal favorite, “we had a stale batch of film.” But, this is a question that I thought was best addressed by a sign I once saw at the driver license bureau:
“If you want a better picture, bring a better face.”
Cruise ship photographers never get to be that bold with their answers (unless they’re ready for instant retirement).
Another comment we ofter heard was, “These pictures are great. . .you must have a really good camera.” NOTHING gets a photographer more annoyed than this! I know this was meant as a compliment, but photographers would like to believe their skill had something to do with making good pictures. In this case, we’d tell the guest that they too could learn to make equally nice pictures at our Photography Seminar, no matter what kind of camera they used. FYI, these “secrets” can be learned in a matter of minutes (look for a future post on this subject).[fblike]
What happens to the ice carvings after they’ve melted?
Seriously? I never really could figure out a way to answer this one diplomatically . . .so I’d usually say I didn’t know and suggest they ask the Maitre D’. I don’t think he was very fond of me for doing that!
How does the ship get from Disney World to the Bahamas?
This wasn’t actually a question we got onboard, but after my tenure as a crew member I worked for Premier Cruise Lines (formerly the Official Cruise Line of Walt Disney World) and we focused on selling a vacation package that included the cruise along with a stay at Disney World.
On more than one occasion I was asked, “How does the ship get from Disney World (in Orlando) to the ocean?” Our answer was, “We use the Disney Channel.” I also once had someone remark that they didn’t realize the lake in front of the Magic Kingdom was big enough for a cruise ship. Of course, Premier is long gone, but if you’re into Disney, you check out some of our Disney Cruise deals.
And then there are some that are just too “out there” to be handled!
There were some one-off questions that stand out for me as extreme cases of “vacation induced cognitive failure”—a condition caused by combining a new environment with too many cocktails and tropical sun causes in which thought processing lags behind the mouth. Here are two that I’ll never forget:
How much air does my snorkel hold?
When I first heard this one, I guess I had succumbed to the tropical heat too, because I thought it was some kind of technical question about the volume of the interior of the snorkel tube. Not understanding why anyone would need this information, I said I didn’t understand the question.”
The guest replied, “I just want to know how long I can keep breathing with the air that’s in my snorkel after I go underwater?” Only then did I realize how off the beam I was. . . I quickly dunked the snorkel in the water and then poured it out on the sand, saying “about that long.” The guest realized her mistake and was embarrassed but was also a great sport and we had a good laugh together! She did ask me not to tell anyone, but I think the statute of limitations has run out on that request!
Which elevator do I take to get to the other ship?
Go ahead, tell me you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t believe it if I’d not heard it myself. I’ve spent years trying to figure out what kind of leap in logic might be strung together to make this possible in someone’s imagination, but I can’t. I answered that this was not possible, and besides the other ship was not open to guests that were not passengers.
So there you have my Top 10. I’ve always said that one of the very best things about a cruise is the ability to truly shut down mentally. Even a short three- or four-night cruise always feels like it’s a much longer getaway because you can truly tune out and enjoy every minute of your time without having to work or think very much at all! And now you can do that without fear of asking some of the questions that’ll certainly brand you as a novice. Browse the best best cruise deals and start planning your dream vacation today.
Have you heard funny or bizarre questions on a cruise ship? Add them in the comments below.[google_plusone size=”standard” annotation=”bubble”] [stumbleupon design=”horizontal_large”]