Picture this: you're in the middle of the ocean, water extending as far as the eyes can see. There's no cell reception, and the Wi-Fi service costs upwards of $5 a day for barely functional capabilities that will leave you more frustrated than satisfied. You're completely confined to the equivalent of a large, floating hotel at sea, and the sloshing of the waves all around accompanies your every move -- from eating dinner at a table full of strangers, to showering in a bathroom roughly the size of a Porta potty. If any of the above sounds even the slightest bit appealing to you, congratulations! You've just found your next dream vacation.
Now, to be fair, vacationing on a cruise isn't all that bad. You get to travel in style across the sea, visiting new cities, countries, and even continents, all the while being waited on hand and foot by an incredibly diverse cast of charming employees. The food is pretty good, and the variety of yummy, tropical drinks they offer only serve to make the on-board shows, clubs, casinos, art galleries, mini-golf courses, waterslides, and spa centers all the more enjoyable. But, one of the best parts about going on a cruise is definitely the incredible opportunities available to engage in everyone's favorite pastime -- people-watching. Cruises are notorious for attracting a gaggle of fun characters, and as someone who has recently survived a spring break cruise to Mexico (but only just barely), I can attest to the fact that the people you will meet on the cruise make the experience entirely something else. So, for your reading pleasure, I have assembled a list of the top 10 kinds of people you will definitely run into at some point during your vacation. Who knows? You might just discover your new favorite niche!
1. The Overworked Mom Squad
In all honesty, these are my favorite kinds of people. The Overworked Mom Squad (OMS for short) is the collective group of tired moms just trying to have a good time. They drop off their kids at the on-board daycare center first thing in the morning, and have their husbands get the kids when the daycare place forces them to confront reality at the end of each night. The OMS can be found by the pool, lounging in the sun wearing their fasionable swimsuits and sarongs, margaritas in hand, chatting it up with every Denise, Sandra, and Brenda in sight -- who have also just come from the daycare center and are ready to have some mommy-only time too. Keep an eye out for the OMS to make an appearance at karaoke night, belting out one-hit-wonders from their youth and throwing caution to the wind -- they truly are the backbone of this country.
2. Vacation Dads: Extreme Edition
If you thought regular old dad jokes were bad, you're in for a real treat. The Vacation Dad is precisely that: just a dad on vacation. But make no mistake -- this many dads wearing novelty T-shirts and Hawaiian button downs in one confined space, with the added effects of delicious alcoholic drinks and the inescapable threat of fun dance music playing from every speaker on board, makes for a wild time for all. The VD's can be found recounting stories from their youth to other VD's in the casino, or trying their hardest to embarrass their mortified children at every occasion available. Bonus points if they're rocking a swimsuit that is way too small for them, especially if it's in a bright color or print.
3. Terrifying Hoards of Youths
Don't be alarmed: they can't actually hurt you. These brat packs stroll the decks in large groups, loudly acting exactly like you might imagine a bunch of 14 to 17-year-olds that have free reign of a giant boat with little to no parental supervision to act. Because cruise ships usually have a "teen" club (essentially, daycare for the older kids), odds are you won't see them a lot during the day, but be warned -- once nighttime falls, they are usually found cramming into the hot tubs and running through the halls, slices of 24-hour pizza in hand, causing a commotion and generally disregarding the rest of the guests around them. My advice? Just let them do their own thing and stay out of the way.
4. Frat Star Party Bros
My cruise was during spring break so the number of Frat Star Party Bros's was exceptionally high, but for the average cruise goer, you're likely to only encounter a small sect or two of these fabled creatures, no matter what time of year. Armed with an inflated sense of masculine pride and Hawaiian shirts rivaling those only the Vacation Dads would dare to wear, the FSPB's are usually found checking out the girls that are tanning on the main deck, or taking over karaoke night in a flurry of bro-hugs, frat chants, and ironic boy band classics. They can be friendly, and even quite charming on their own, but when the squad is all together and the alcohol is flowing, their antics can get very old, very quickly. Matching bro tanks are also a great identifier of the FSPB, usually in a pastel shade and with their frat letters boldly emblazoned across their muscled, ever-growing chests. You have been warned.
5. The Family Reunion at Sea
Speaking of matching shirts, there's no possible way you can miss this fun group. Their neon green "SMITH FAMILY VACATION 2016" shirts can be spotted from a mile away, and the begrudging teenage girl rolling her eyes trying her hardest to ignore the rest of her family is definitely a dead giveaway. The Family Reunion group has all their meals together at one giant table, and has professional portraits taken every single day of the cruise with every single backdrop that is available. They usually split up into smaller groups during the day, but you'll definitely see them in their full, matching glory every time you get off and on the ship when you dock. A word of advice: when you're in line for the buffet, don't let Grandma snipe you with the pictures of her grandkids -- that's going to hold you up for at least 30 minutes.
6. The Bachelorette Party
Trust me, you'll know them when you see them. Usually, the bride-to-be is decked out in the appropriate garb (a tiara, a giant button pinned to her bikini, etc.) and her bridesmaids are never far behind, with drinks in hand. Generally, these gals are living life to the fullest and just want to have a good time. They're usually a really nice bunch, all dedicated to making sure their fearless leader has the time of her life before her big day, and can be found partying day or night in the pool, jacuzzi, or anywhere music is playing (and drinks are being served). Give them a chance, they're actually super fun to talk to, and are always happy for you to join their dance circle in the club or jump on stage with them at karaoke night. After all, girls do just wanna have fun!
7. Old People Who Just Love Cruises
For these seasoned veterans, this is definitely not their first rodeo. Whether it be with their fellow elderly pals, or with their wrinkly old spouses, chances are the old people sitting next to you at dinner have some awesome stories to share, and would probably love to talk to you. Many of these wise sages go on multiple cruises a year in their retirement, so they can usually offer some advice to some of the newer cruisers. They can sometimes get cranky, and definitely do not have the patience to deal with the aformentioned hoards of youths running about the ship, but they'll do their own thing and have a great time doing it.
8. No Man's Landers (The 18-20-year-olds)
Cruise ships can be awesome for almost everyone, but for a small number of guests, they might find that their fun times are somewhat limited by their age: specifically, those that are too old to join in the "teen" club (as mentioned in item number three), but too young to drink, gamble, or go into some of the ship's areas intended for the older guests. Usually, the NML's can be found dragging along with their parents, headphones in their ears and their eyes set on a nice lounge chair away from their family, but in most cases, the NML's can benefit significantly from having a sibling or a friend that they can stick with instead. Sure, you might be limited by what places you can go and what activities you can participate in, but you can definitely make the most of your trip by exploring everything the ship has to offer! Or, if not, make sure to bring a buddy that can commiserate your lack of access and availability of adult beverages with you.
9. Cutest Couple of the Year
Okay, these couples can be kind of gross, but they're also sickeningly sweet, in a #goals kind of way. Newlyweds, couples renewing their vows, or just pairs taking a vacation together are the prime suspects for this particular niche, and they're definitely not hard to spot. Holding hands everywhere they go, feeding each other exotic fruit and putting sunscreen on each other's backs -- they're like a walking, talking, happy ending to a romantic comedy. Unless they're in a group with other couples, these lovebirds tend to stay to themselves, but are friendly and always willing to talk about how they met or their proposal story, so if you find yourself sitting across from them at dinner as they clink glasses and stare at each other with puppy dog eyes, why not engage them in a little conversation?
10. The Living Personification of a Viagra Ad (A.K.A. The Mid-Life Crisis Men)
You know the type: tanned and leathery, feeling like they've lost their youth and that they're past their prime, likely divorced, wearing shirts that expose a bit too much chest hair, etc. These guys are just looking to recapture what once was, and they're hoping to get their mojo back, one young, bikini-wearing babe at a time. They'll buy drinks, they'll talk of their glory days, and probably even brag about their success at some point. Find them in the casino, trying to impress some of the younger ladies at the slot machines with their blackjack prowess, and cruising the bars looking to give away as many piña coladas as it takes to strike up a conversation with a PYT. Proceed with caution.
So the next time you are thinking of getting away for a while, why not try these characters on for size? Cruises are a very different kind of vacation, that's for sure, but tons of people absolutely love them, and they're a great way to travel and see new places without a lot of the quick-paced hassle that accompanies airports and such. A lot of these people are generally pretty harmless, but some can be more or a nuisance depending on how your trip goes. No matter what cruise you go on, or when or where you go, you will always find some familiar faces in these kinds of people, so don't be afraid to try something new! And, definitely stock up on the motion sickness medicine -- you probably won't need it, but it will absolutely save your life should worst come to worst. Take it from me!