For some people, there is nothing more appealing than the idea of setting sail on a ship surrounded by their fellow countrymen. And no other race seems as wedded to this idea than my own, British kin.
Lines such as P&O, Thomson, Cruise and Maritime and, of course, Fred. Olsen, have made their almost all British passenger sailings a cornerstone of their marketing efforts. And, while Cunard markets it’s ‘Britishness’ it has, in truth, always been more of an international product.
So, what is it actually like, setting sail with a shipload of Brits? With a certain amount of tongue in cheek latitude, here are some of my observations, based on over thirty years of making just such voyages.
Firstly, the British reputation for politeness and ‘waiting in line’ remains true. Often, they might be waiting in line to complain at the Purser’s desk, but the fact remains that we are, as a whole, true to our national trait of exercising patience, and not ‘cutting in line’ as so many of our more excitable neighbours might be prone to do.
In many ways, we are also predictable to a ‘T’, Nowhere more so than, as it happens, at afternoon tea. Whichever the ship, and wherever in the world it happens to be sailing, most Brits will partake of the whole ritual, many for every single day of the voyage, And they will be there from first to last as well.
Deck chair hogging, whereby passengers arise before the sun and place personal items on the best situated sun beds, blocking them for literally hours on end, is something most Brits sniffily like to think that they are above.
In my experience, the reverse is true. Brits are every bit as selfish, avaricious and possessive over such prime real estate as our famed Germanic cousins, the people we are so fond of lambasting for the same obsession. In an old English analogy, this really is a case of ‘pot calling kettle’ black.
Largely, the Brits still follow formal dress codes at sea, and probably do more so than any other single race. While certain standards have dropped through the floor in the sartorial stakes, the Brits do like to posh it up and put on the Ritz. The older generation, in particular, can be relied upon to do it, and God bless ’em for maintaining a proper standard.
On the other hand, there are some these days- a worryingly increasing number- that feel it is perfectly OK to come out of an evening, sporting a look best described as ‘dragged backwards through a hedge’. No. It isn’t.
Brits rightly show disapproval aboard foreign accented ships when people move around ash trays to designated, non smoking areas to suit their whims. But some of us are far from being above doing the same things themselves in certain situations. It is often done ever so surreptitiously, in the hope that us non smokers will either fail to notice, or simply accept it as a fait accompli.
We do notice, love. Cut it out. Nobody wants your second hand cigarette smoke as a post dinner culinary treat.
While Brits are fond of lambasting our American cousins for their often overly enthusiastic penchant for buffet food, the fact is that many Brits are just as bad. That sweet, little old lady who smiled as you held the door open for, will turn into a whirling dervish, her elbows sharper than a Sultan’s sabres when it comes to getting exactly what she wants from a food outlet. And all at a speed that would make a rampaging Panzer division seem as benign as a Sunday school picnic.
And yes, we like our money’s worth. If we do not get what we perceive to be proper service, we will frown over our frappes, mutter darkly over the froth, and then make a point of thanking the server that delivered it as we leave, never to return..
So, there it is. Just some of my observations. Thoughts?