Somewhere over the last eight years, Derrick and I have become “Cruisers” (as in ship cruising people 🙂 ). 10 cruises ago, I never considered the idea of cruising, and now I can’t image vacationing any other way. It’s a comfort, and an excitement. Even before we get off our current sailing, we tend to book the next one. What is it about being on a cruise ship that we love so much? The ports are a selling point: We are just back from a 10 Night Baltic Cruise on the very charming Serenade of the Seas. We started from Denmark, and visited 6 countries (Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Lithuania). In short, it was a lot of churches, a lot of castles, and a lot of lines. We loved it! And we loved the food. There’s a reason why the average cruiser puts on one pound a day on a cruise. Nowadays, the bigger ships have upwards of 20 places to dine, which we of course need to try them all, daily if possible… Trying out the Royal fleet of ships is also an adventure in its own! Each ship has its own character, and its own amenities. The staff are incredible. And of course, the towel animals. These are just some of the factors that get us to book the next cruise, but the real reason we love to cruise…
It’s the dinner table.
Formal Dining puts people together who very likely may not have met otherwise for a three (or 6 +) course meal every day. We always request a big table, which means we could be seated with anywhere from four to eight other people. Same time, same table, same people- no reservations required. It’s a dynamic that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.
We’re always a little nervous for that first dinner. We’ve lucked out the last nine times, but there’s always that question of what if this time, we don’t. What if we end up with people who won’t talk, who don’t like us, or worst yet, end up at a table with just the two of us!? (the horror! We would be so bored… sorry Derrick). Being a 10 night cruise, it will be 10 great meals, or 10 awkward ones.
We walk into the familiar Reflections Dining Room, scanning for our new table, number 322. The servers are already in full swing, bustling with bread, drinks, and appetizers. Purposefully, we arrive about 10 minutes late. This allows us to eye up the table and the dynamic prior to our arrival. 402, 302, 319, 320, 322. Hey, young people (people under the age of 60)! That’s almost a cruise first! We sit down, say hello, and jump right in with the key ice breaker questions: where are you from, and how many cruises have you been on? We find out that we are the more experienced cruisers, so we (mostly me) started sharing our stories and insider tips. I can get a little excited sometimes. Mike Plumton- working on wooing over the strangers. Derrick grabs my leg signaling that maybe I’ve talked enough. But I think they’re interested, so I keep talking! Dinner for the average table is 90 minutes. We leave at 2 hours. I think this will be a good table.
As the nights go on, Table 322 quickly moves from a table of eight new strangers to a table of eight old friends. We come together over food and drinks, laughs, and a few too many lemon drop martinis. We have Adam and Carissa from America, Rod and Karen from Guatemala. and Nicola and Kevin from Ireland. Our mini UN daily dinner party.
To give you a glimpse into table life, check out this video from Dinner 4 below. This sort of silliness was a regular thing for us. After our main courses are cleared, the dessert menu is passed around. I’m focused intensely on my big decision of the day, when singing starts, and a crowd of servers gather behind us with a cake in hand. I look up, and realize that it’s for us. It’s a surprise Anniversary (but it’s not actually our Anniversary) Party.
It gets even better when our table mates pull out homemade signs. I am entirely surprised, and can’t stop laughing. It was just such a silly random moment. Over cake and drinks, I ask where the idea came from. Carissa responses: they thought it would be funny, and they loved how we just rolled with it. Then there was a pause, and grin: “We also wanted to be in your blog. Are we in yet?”
From the dinner table, to excursions, to the bars and the dance floor, we started connecting outside of the dining room. It’s sharing spiked hot chocolates in the snow on the top deck while leaving Stockholm. It’s competing in a game of mini golf, and cheering (or taunting, Kevin…) each other as we scale the rock wall. And it’s group photo shoots.
On the last night, we arrive feeling a little sad. Sad that the cruise is over, and sad that this table, and this specific dynamic, is docking for now. Yet, we are feeling full of gratitude for all of the Table 322 moments shared. Derrick brings along a bottle of champagne, and we toast to a beautiful final night. We hug, take a few more photos, and hug again. It’s amazing what can happen over a few days when you’re trapped on a boat :). What took us 6 months in Philly, just took a few days on board: Friendship, the most valuable currency both on land and at sea. Cheers friends!
A big shout out to the amazing tables from our previous cruises: We have had the ‘royal’ treatment with our amazing tables each and every time we’ve cruised. Who’s up for a Table Reunion??!?!
If you’re thinking about cruising, for the first or the 26th time, I suggest you book at a big table. You never know who you’ll be seated with, but I do guarantee you’ll make a story. To my fellow cruisers: What are your dinner stories?! Who wants to join us for dinner next time?!
PS: The other person in a few of the photos: that’s CeCe from Nigeria. She was our “Plus One” on Night 6, Night 9, and the last night. We loved her company, she fit right in, and she laughed a little too much at my terrible jokes (for example: no need to be “Russian” tonight, we’ve got a few hours) :).
Song of the Day: Sorry (with love, from the Canadians to Table 322 )