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Cruise Ships: A Floating Playground Of Potential Friends

We get into ruts. We get comfortable with our routines, seeing the same people and eating at the same restaurants. A life that was once interesting and exciting has become boring and routine.

It’s time to shake things up. It’s time to go on a cruise.

Choose The Right Cruise

Cruise lines have their own personalities. Disney is identified with family cruising. Carnival marketed itself as “the fun ships.” Princess has staked out romance because they started it all with the “Love Boat.”

Do your research and make the right choice. If you love opera and only opera, a rock and roll revival cruise is not for you.

Personally, my wife and I prefer Cunard, which operates transatlantic crossings on its flagship Queen Mary 2. Because there aren’t any stops for seven days, the ship is the destination. It has a formal, British atmosphere. Everyone dresses for dinner.

Why Bother Cruising?

There are many ways to take a vacation. You can fly to Hawaii and bask in the sun or fly to Europe and explore a capital city. But you aren’t going to make lots of new friends.

But a cruise ship is a sealed environment. About 2,500 people are brought together for a week or so. Everyone then goes their separate ways, possibly to never see each other again. These characteristics, plus the luxurious surroundings, speed up the development of relationships. It’s easy to make friends.

There’s no shortage of possibilities to meet people. If your ship holds 2,500 people and you meet 50 new people in a week, you would need to take the same trip with the same people for 50 weeks, almost a year, before you meet everyone!

A World Without Social Media

Don’t expect cell phones and texting to work at sea. Most ships do have internet access, but it is slow and expensive. As a result, you will meet people using old-school techniques such as talking and writing notes.

10 Ways To Meet New People

You could systematize the whole process to put yourself in front of other people, but that’s too much like work. The process should be casual and serendipitous, not forced. Here are 10 ways you can do it.

1. Meals – Part 1. Many ships have early and late dinner seatings. You are asked your preferences as part of the booking process. You are then assigned to a table.

Tip: Ask to be seated at a large table. Chances are you’ll hit it off with someone. If this isn’t the case, immediately after dinner, ask the maître d’ to reassign you to another table.

2. Meals – Part 2. You’ll discover a casual dining, cafeteria-style service somewhere aboard the ship. Skip it. You can do that at home. Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room are usually open seating. 

Tip: Ask to be seated at a large table. It’s like playing poker. At each meal, you are dealt a different hand of cards. With any luck, you’ll find a winner. If not, the next breakfast or lunch is a fresh deal.

3. Find a bar. Bars and cocktail lounges are abundant aboard ship. You’ll find the sports bar, the jazz club, the champagne bar and the cigar bar. Pick one and become a regular.

Tip: The hour before dinner is pretty quiet aboard ship. Show up at your favorite bar, talk with the bartender and the people around you. Another strategy is to arrive early, grab the best four seats near a window and beckon another couple over when the place fills up.

4. Cocktail parties. The ship will have at least one big reception, the captain’s welcome-aboard cocktail party. Seating will be at a premium.

Tip: Show up about 15 minutes early as the line forms. Once inside, immediately find a table. Nail it down. Chat with the people at your small table and the couples nearby.  Couples arriving later will be looking for seats. Motion someone to come over.

5. Scotch/wine/gin tastings. The bars usually have organized tasting classes. The wine stewards will likely approach the serious wine fans in the dining room, telling them about organized tastings.

Tip:  If you are a serious fan, sign up for a class. It shouldn’t be difficult to find things to talk about with the people around you.

6. The sports bar. It’s not an “hour before dinner” activity; it’s whenever the game is on the big screen.

Tip: If you’re a sports fan, just show up. You’ll make friends quickly.

7. Poolside. Any film with scenes of shipboard pools features people in tiny bathing suits, often throwing beach balls. That’s not reality. The decks are an open space. There’s lots of seating in the shade.

Tip: Cruise the outdoor seating areas at different times of day. Find where you would be most comfortable. Chances are you will find like-minded people.

8. Talks, ship tours and lectures. In the United Kingdom, The Telegraph reported people spend more time watching cooking programs on TV than they actually spend cooking. 

Tip:  Expect a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour and cooking classes. If that’s your interest, you’ll meet like-minded people.

9. The gym. If you work out regularly, you will have plenty of company. The gym is a structured environment. It’s likely you will see the same faces day after day.

Tip:  If you are a gym rat, chances are you have lots in common with this crowd.

10. Bar games. Karaoke isn’t dead. The British love pub quizzes. These and other activities should be available. It’s a shared experience. It brings down barriers. People are friendly.

Tip: Check the ship’s program. Turn up at least once, early in your trip. Join in or watch the action. Because it’s usually crowded, you’ll meet people.

Make The Connection

After you’ve connected with a few folks who share similar interests with you, this is what you need to know.

Your cabin number is key. When you meet someone interesting and are considering getting together later, give them your name and cabin number. You can write each other notes and slip them under the cabin door.

Cabin parties. Invite your friends for drinks and canapes in your cabin before dinner. The purser’s office can usually arrange for a tray or two of canapes, at a reasonable price. Bringing your own wine onboard is usually permitted, providing it’s consumed only in your cabin. Your steward can get extra glasses.

Private parties. Let’s say you are willing to spend a bit more. The ship has smaller function rooms. Ask if you can reserve one for an hour-long party. You pick up the drinks tab. The staff will likely provide chips and munchies, just as if you were sitting at the bar.

Lunch. It’s usually open seating in the dining room. Speak with the maître d’. Let them know you will be bringing six of your new friends for lunch tomorrow at 1 p.m. Can they reserve a table? You pick up the drinks tab.

Shore excursions. If ports are on the itinerary, suggest getting off the ship together and exploring the town. Another option is for all of you to book the same land tour. Everyone covers their own expenses.

Contact information. Approach each new friend or couple you met. You had a great time. You have lots of shared interests. You would like to stay in touch. They will likely provide an e-mail address, phone number, mailing address or whatever you want. Provide the same information in return. This should be done privately because some of your new friends might not have bonded with other new people you’ve met.

It can be easy and rewarding to meet people at sea. It helps to have a system to meet them and remain in touch.

is president of Perceptive Business Solutions in New Hope, PA. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" is available on He can be reached at [email protected].

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