Cruises, the Social Network Way to Travel
by Linda Coffman
|Forging friendships on a beach
When we boarded our first cruise ship there
was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Internet message boards. In fact
there was no Internet as we now know it.
husband Mel and I—crossed the gangway
and began our first cruise vacation not knowing another soul.
At the time, it actually didn't occur to us that we would ever want
to "friend" a fellow passenger ahead of time, send a "tweet" out to
potential cruise mates, or join a "roll call" in order to have a
ready-made social circle on our cruise vacation.
The fact is, unlike a resort vacation, cruises are
an inherently social form of travel and it didn't take long to meet
people after embarkation. We were seated with a charming couple for
dinner that first evening and enjoyed their company throughout the
week. Then we met our cabin "neighbors"—a
congenial group of friends traveling together who invited us to join
them whenever our paths crossed. They even invited us to their
summertime post-cruise party in Tennessee. We hit it off so well
that we joined their group sailings several times in subsequent
On Board Networking
While a cruise is a great way to vacation with families and
friends and to share experiences, it isn't necessary to have a
ready-made group of acquaintances aboard ship in order to feel comfortable on a
cruise. Nearly all cruise ships offer activities designed entice
passengers to participate. For instance, you might join others to form a
team at a trivia challenge or meet your shipmates while learning new
dance steps. Arts and craft and exercise classes attract
people with similar interests. With open seating restaurants on many
ships, it's possible to
meet different people at dinner every night or arrange to dine with
newly made friends. In ports of call, you'll often meet like minded
passengers on shore excursions.
Aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises' ships, each cruise features
their unique "Block Party" that brings passengers in neighboring
cabins together. Everyone is invited to bring a wine glass from
their suite and mingle in the passageways as stewardesses serve
wine and cheese for the gathering. It was an ice-breaker when we
sailed aboard the Seven Seas Mariner and participation was high—one
of our neighbors even interrupted her preparation for the evening
and attended in her bathrobe.
Social networking on the Internet has become a popular way to
"virtually" meet others who've booked your cruise through
"roll call" message boards. Some web sites even offer group cruises
for their members.
|A girlfriends' getaway at sea
Groups can work out well, as when I sailed on a girlfriends'
getaway. We "girls" had chatted with each other online for the better part of a year
and decided to take a cruise together. Not all of us knew one
another in real life, but some of us did and that made the decision
to take the cruise easier. In essence, we were small groups of real
life friends within a larger group of virtual friends. We set
ground rules before sailing and agreed ahead of time that we wouldn't be
joined at the hip. No one was offended when we each needed some
private time. We remain friends to this day.
On the other hand, a group—or
its members—can spell disaster, as a friend discovered.
It just so happened that she and her husband were on the same cruise that a large number
of message board members booked as a group. My friend had participated
the message board discussions, but was not officially a part of the group cruise.
Once aboard my friend and her husband quickly determined they weren't interested in spending any
time with the group, but had difficulty eluding them.
Unfortunately, they found themselves being literally
stalked by an aggressive group member
who discovered their cabin number.
While many people swear they can't imagine sailing without
being a message board "roll call" member, there are pros and cons to
diving into a group situation. Group membership offers a certain level of comfort and
acceptance in an unfamiliar environment for people who are not
normally joiners on their own. You may also feel there is an advantage to having
ready made friendships if you are certain your personalities and lifestyles are
compatible. However, don't just go with the flow of
and assume you'll enjoy the company of the group, individually or as
a whole. Exchanging email
correspondence with a few members might help to determine whether or
not you'd want to spend a considerable amount of time with them,
especially if the group is small.
Should you harbor any reservations at
all about whether a group is for you, do not share your cabin number online. On a large ship, it may
be possible to remain anonymous if you choose to, particularly if the message board
in which you participate uses "handles" in lieu of real names. There
is also the matter of security. Do you really want just anyone who
surfs the Internet to know where you live and when your home will
be empty? Unsavory characters can dig up that information.
Ultimately, you have to be the judge of whether social networking—online
or on board—is right for you.