Ever wonder what your fellow shipmates will be like and if you’ll gel? I’ve got you covered
By Patti Pietschmann
Whether you’re a virgin cruiser or veteran seafarer trying a new cruise line you might wonder what your shipmates will be like. This is especially true if you’re on a ship with assigned dining and might be sitting at a table with strangersm(we always ask for a table for two). So I’ve curated a passenger profiling list based 400 cruises (yup, been covering the industry since I graduated from college) and reflects the personal observations of my first mate Richard and I:
Carnival: The Fun Ships no longer attract only younger passengers onboard mostly to party and go on active shore excursions. You’ll still find lots of energetic revelry around the swimming pools and in the bars, but families and the middle-aged are now in the mix. These ships are where you will find Middle America; what you won’t find are dedicated foodies.
Celebrity : This fleet of upscale ships attracts a mixed bag of millennials, the middle-aged and seniors who tend to be great fans of the fun and food Celebrity provides. Passengers are likely to be better-traveled and more global than most mass-market lines aimed primarily at North Americans.
Costa: This line credits itself as being “Italian’ but much of the crew hail from other parts of the world. Still the product rings true of Italy via cuisine, Italian captains and ambiance. A large segment of the passengers are from abroad. Most of them are 55 and older, veteran cruisers who generally join in the activities with gusto. A regular Toga Party garners lots of attendance with passengers doing Roman-style garb.
Cunard: Cunard’s famous Queens appeal to older, wiser, more sedate passengers, although the summer Atlantic crossings between New York City and Southampton also attract younger Sloane Rangers and other sophisticates who are anything but stuffy. You likely will encounter a high percentage of passengers from the British Commonwealth, who will carry on the tradition of dressing for dinner. You will also encounter one of the last bastions of the British class system at sea, with portions of the ship off limits to the hoi polloi.
Crystal: Most of your shipmates on the two medium-size ships of this globe-trotting line will be 45 years-old and above, well-traveled and well off, and appreciative of the line’s reputation for outstanding food and service. You will find many repeat passengers who know the ropes and wouldn’t think of switching allegiances to another cruise line. This loyal clientele eagerly attends the lectures, seminars, computer classes and shows that the line works hard to provide. Although passengers tend to be upscale, there isn’t a whiff of pretension.
Disney: what can we say? The passengers (mostly couples with young children) who flock to sail with Mickey and Minnie are staunch fans of everything Disney. They buy out the gift shop during the first days at sea, don logo tee-shirts, Mouse ears and go gung ho on the theme. For the most part Disney fans are not sophisticated travelers. Most are from Middle America but there is a sprinkling of foreigners.
Holland America: Most of the passengers on the HAL cruises I have been on (though none in a while) were older, reserved, dedicated to the line and relatively undemanding regarding food and drink. They know what they want and they know that they like the consistent product that Holland America gives them.
MSC Cruises: untested waters for me, research indicates that this Swiss-based line attracts many Europeans along with Americans. Demographics include couples, families (children under 18 sharing a cabin with two adults cruise for free) and single passengers. Average age is 50 and older.
Norwegian: it’s been eons since sailing on one of these budget ships and the line’ s come along way since then. It continues, however, to attract a lot of firs-time, young cruisers, couples and friends sharing staterooms. You won’t find foodies flocking to the fleet, but you will find plenty of party animals and very active seafarers.
Oceania: Passengers on Oceania’s ships love the food and the far-flung itineraries the line offers. Many have cruised dozens of times with Oceania and wouldn’t sail on any other line, which prides itself on affordable luxury. Your fellow passenger will be middle-aged or above and confident in his or her choice.
Paul Gauguin: this spiffy little ship that has the market cornered on French Polynesia, attracts water babies and arty adventurous passengers who appreciate nature and the beauty of this part of the world. They are usually sophisticated younger than average, well-dressed and love fine food, beach activities and culture. While most passengers are from the US (many lot from California) you will find some French, German and Italians on board. Many who sail on PG spend a few days before or after the cruise in a port such as Bora Bora or Papeete.
Princess Cruises: You’ll find every type of passenger on this line—wide-eyed first cruisers to those who already know the maître d’ and have sailed with the company dozens of times. The line’s big ships offer endless activities and options and a popular shore excursion program. Expect more fellow guests over 50 than under 30, lots of Californians (the line is headquartered outside Los Angeles), and a tolerant attitude toward dress and decorum.
Regent Seven Seas: As with its sister company, Oceania, foodies and gourmets flock to the many restaurants on each of the line’s upmarket cruise ships. RSS’s similarly loyal, nicely put-together clientele comes from all over the world; if there’s a type, it is well to do. They enjoy the line’s luxury and worldwide itineraries and all-inclusive pricing, and if you don’t mind paying for it, you will too.
Royal Caribbean: this mainstream cruise line attracts aa similar segment of seafarers as Princess and Holland America. During the summer there will be lots of families. The rest of year you’ll find a mixed bag of mostly middle class folks. Passengers are fairly well cruised who sail on these ships more for the ports and entertainment then say the food (which is often good but not usually exceptional).
Seabourn: Passengers on the smaller, stylish ships of Seabourn tend to the chic, the sophisticated, and the international. Country club is the prevailing style of the moneyed leisure class that dotes on Seabourn’s easy luxury, excellent food, relaxed ambience and inclusive pricing and find it exactly what they want. They tend to be repeaters who have been there, done that and have the funds to do more of it. Meet them in the bar and you’ll find most as friendly as they are accomplished.
Silversea: Shipboard mates will be similar to those you will find sailing on the other premium small-ship lines that offer inclusive pricing—well-dressed, discerning and, because the line is Italian-owned, more of them may be European. They gravitate to Silversea for the food, varied itineraries, and the Italian-owned line’s refined cachet. The Bar, the convivial center of the ships, is where passengers meet before dinner.
Windstar (photo by Glenn Bozarth): This fleet of mastered sailing ships attract young to middle-age, upscale adventurers who go for the wide variety (and convenient) selection of watersports from diving to snorkeling. Although they prefer being in the water, they love the lure of the wind-propelled sail and the fine food served on board.
Tips for making friends:
Passengers tend to mingle more on upscale ships where drinks at the bar are free. This isn’t because of the comps, but rather it reduces that awkward pause when you’re with people you just met and the check comes.
Also like-minded passengers tend to gravitate toward each other. Say you take a snorkel or biking tour. You’ll notice back on board that the people who were along with be more friendly to you. The same goes for cultural tours etc.
Don’t barge in on passengers when they are sitting down to dinner, especially couples, unless invited. That’s okay at the bars but not the dining venues.