Going on a cruise this season? You've already packed your sarong and sunscreen, you've booked your port visits, you've even confidently looked into the fitness options on board. One thing you might not have considered; the other passengers.
It's a society on there, and while you might hit the jackpot and make hundreds of new friends, and more often than not the majority are just as polite and fabulous as you, be warned … just as on dry land, there are some you should avoid.
These reprobates haven't learnt the general etiquette of cruising, here's how to pick them out.
THE DECKCHAIR HOG
You've woken up early just to snag that elusive spot by the pool. Nothing there, and it's 6.30am. Maybe there will be one in the sun, and out of the wind on the top deck? No chance. There's no one about but there's towels, sunscreen, hats and books strewn all over the deckchairs - a universal indicator that 'this chair is taken'.
It's an old trick, some selfish so-and-so will spread their stuff across 10 chairs so their family and friends can camp there all day, even if some of them don't even turn up.
We think a rule should apply; if you're not there, and you're not nearby taking a dip, the deckchair is fair game.
THE BUFFET BANDIT
Anyone who has been on a cruise has seen them. They are often first in line eagerly awaiting the opening of the doors to the scrumptious display that awaits in the buffet.
They're the ones piling up their plate with all the smoked salmon and prawns, leaving the rest of us waiting until the platters and bain-maries are restocked, and when they are, sure enough the bandit is back for seconds, thirds, fourths, elevenses!
Why do they do it? They are not simply ravenous, they are adamant on getting their money's worth. They got a bargain prepaying for this cruise and they are going to make sure they eat as much as humanly possible, and screw you, fellow cruisers for trying to get in their way.
Sometimes seasoned cruisers are handy to get to know. They know the best nooks and crannies on board that the newbie would never find. And they can give you hints on which activities are worth a try.
But there are always those that wear their expertise a little too proudly - they've been to every port and will tell you, and anyone within earshot what you simply must see and what you must do. Should you want to try something different or proclaim to have enjoyed something they pooh-poohed, you'll be put down on the spot.
They know better, they'll say, and while that could be the case, each to their own.
THE SMALL TALKER
Ever been stuck sitting down on a cruise for a four-course a la carte meal next to a stranger only to emerge three hours later exhausted after being given the Spanish Inquisition. The next night you're at the same table with the same person with more questions.
Sometimes it's hard to break into natural conversation after the requisite, 'where are you from?' and 'what do you do for work?' have been answered. Not everyone has things in common.
Luckily the rise of 'anytime' dining, as well as specialty dining means that forced seating at dinner time with small talking strangers is a thing of the past.
THE SPA SLUG
You'd eyed off those outdoor whirlpools in the cruise brochure and imagined yourself lolling in one post-swim. Finally it's time to try it out and there's a person there, the same one that was in the spa this morning, and yesterday and the day before.
The spa slug knows no manners. They don't care that their fingers and palms are wrinkled by percolating in that warm water day-in and day-out. They are going to enjoy that spa, and to hell with anyone else.
Even worse is a group of spa slugs, say a wedding party splashing and whooping it up for hours while we sit on the sidelines patiently waiting for our turn.
THE DEMANDING CRUISER
They might click their fingers at the hardworking service staff to get their attention, nit pick on how a bed should be made with their cabin concierge, or swear at the reception staff when their credit card is rejected - basically they're just plain rude to staff.
You see them on dry land too but somehow the rudeness goes up a notch on the high seas, it might have something to do with the perceived entitlement that comes with prepaying. It's bad enough to watch but there's nothing worse than being stuck with a negative grump retelling their tales of supposedly being hard done by. We don't want to hear it, we're there to have fun!
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