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Crewmember confessions: stupid cruise questions revealed

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Lots of experienced cruisers have heard the same “silly cruise questions” so many times that we have them memorized.  Questions like “Does the crew sleep onboard?” and “What is our elevation?”

In fact, many so-called “silly questions” are really logical concerns, but just posed in a somewhat clumsy manner. 

I remember a time when I did not know whether the crew slept on board. It seemed possible that the cruise ship could stop and drop them off at a dormitory every night, or that most only came aboard to cook and clean when the ship was docked.   

It isn’t a crime to phrase a question in a funny way, but it also isn’t a crime to make fun of people – especially when the questions (or responses) are really funny. So with that, we went looking for, real-life stupid passenger experiences as told by crewmembers.

Room Steward Confessions

One room steward told me he couldn’t believe how often this one happens. Like most stewards, he waits for his passengers to leave for dinner before he enters to refresh the linens and turn down the bed.  But some nights the people never leave, so before he quits for the night he makes a point of checking in to see if they need anything. When they answer the door he says:“I’m just about to head downstairs, so do you mind if I come in and clean up?” To which he has gotten the response, “Oh, is your shower broken? …. Um sure, you can use ours.”

Another room steward has been asked if he could fix the microwave in the cabin, only to have the guest point to the room safe, which has a metal door and a numbered keypad. Then there are the guests who know what a safe looks like – but when they can’t lock it, rather than reading the simple instructions on how to set a combination they ask the room steward "What's the combination for the safe?"  Why do they think the safe is there in the first place?

Room stewards often get this question: “Is that salt water in the toilets?” The real answer is “no,” but the funnier reply is, “I don’t know, I never tasted it.” The logical response that's never uttered is “Why do you want to know?”

If you say “none of the clothes I packed fit me anymore,” the best room stewards are always ready with "it’s the humidity in the Caribbean, it shrinks everything." It isn’t that you gained five pounds.

Here is another common one: Once he told a passenger most of the crew was scheduled to go on vacation in a few weeks. The guest replied, “Well I’m sure glad we cruised now. I couldn’t manage a without the help on board.”

Waiters

All food servers have their stories, but cruise ship waiters have a unique one: They are always asked if the fish is fresh -- but in truth almost all fish on cruise ships and even land-based restaurants comes frozen because you can’t keep fish truly fresh for more than a few hours. But invariably another passenger will reply for the waiter, “Of course it’s fresh, we’re on a boat!”

As former cruise ship comedian Jimmy Dunn points out in his book about leaving ship life, Boat Hack, “I have never seen a crewmember on deck with a fishing pole, pulling in fish and saying ‘here’s your dinner!'”

Shore Excursions

Shore tour managers get some of the silliest questions, like “Will I need my bathing suit?” for a snorkel tour.  A surprisingly common one is, “Do you allow water skiing off the back of the boat?” Even if he could get started a professional skier might manage to stay up for a few minutes but once he fell down it would take the cruise ship about two miles and 30 minutes to make a U-turn and pick him up again.

One shore excursion manager taking a group of people to the ballet was asked what language it would be in. Another person asked why ancient ruins are always found “underground” (because any settlements not hidden away have been ransacked over the years). One tour guide at the Acropolis in Athens said he has been asked if any local sects still worship Apollo.

Guest Services

The workers at guest services, also known as the purser’s desk, get the most abuse, because that is where people bring complaints. So a good silly question can make their day, the hard part is keeping a straight face.

Far too many angry passengers bring them ship’s brochures containing photos of staterooms taken with a fish-eye lens -- which makes them appear much bigger than in real life. They expected a much larger room, despite the fact that exact room sizes are always given in cruise brochures.

Some people want to switch to a different room because all they can see is a parking lot and they bought an “ocean-view.” In fact, “which side of the ship is best” for any given cruise is one of the most common questions heard by travel agents. There is no easy answer, because a ship can dock on either side and it depends on a number of factors that can change at any time.

Some people will point out a certain activity on the ship's daily schedule and ask, “It says it takes place on Deck Five Forward, but which Deck Five is “forward?” Then there is “I know I’m on deck five, but which way is forward?” The trick is to look out the window and see which way the water is flowing.

Speaking of forward, that is where the ship’s bridge (steering control room) is always located, and the navigational officers have their sleeping quarters directly behind it. One guest services person told a loyal repeat cruiser looking for the captain that “the captain is forward in his quarters.” The properly shocked lady replied, “Young lady, that’s none of my business.”

Questions You Should Never Ask:

To the crew: “Do you get to eat the leftovers from dinner?”  No, it isn’t the kind of cuisine they like, and unless the food is completely untouched, eating “leftovers” from other people is gross.

“Do you get paid in your own currency?” No, Russian rubles don’t go very far in Puerto Rico.

“Does your family ever come and stay with you?” No, guests are not allowed to come and stay on the crew deck.

And finally, the one question every crewmember has gotten at least once and cannot stand:

 “So, what do you do for a real job?”

Paul Motter is the editor of CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide. Follow him on Twitter @cruisemates.