Dealing with dodgy dining companions

Fans of P&O Cruises are enjoying a bit of fascinating banter on the Cruise Critic forum today: the tricky subject of TCFH, also known as Table Companions From Hell!

TCFH must be one of the biggest worries for first-time cruisers, although a genuinely bad experience is, in fact, pretty rare and you can always ask to be moved if things are really dire, or request a table for two. But it’s a peculiar notion nonetheless, that you’ll go on holiday and have to share your dining table with up to six strangers.

The reality today is that most cruise lines offer alternatives to traditional dining – either free-for-all, open seating dining, or a choice of places to eat with tables for two or more, just like a normal restaurant. S0 don’t be put off. But there’s a core of cruisers who very much enjoy the social side of dinner, which is why lines like P&O, Princess and Royal Caribbean continue to offer assigned dining tables and times as an option.

Dinner needn't be a minefield!

‘Traditional’ dining  can often be a chance to make great new friends. Member Rum_Rat says: “On our last cruise we had a table of 8 and ‘clicked’ on the first night. Fantastic. The table was such a laugh.”

And while taking pot luck on your table companions by choosing open seating dining sounds tempting, it can be repetitive, as member Bigpete47uk points out: “The chances are you will sit with different people every evening and have to start the same old conversations again and again. Do you cruise often? Which other ships have you been on? What did you do today? Do you have a balcony? Where are you from?” Yep – we’ve all been there!

Most cruisers ultimately enjoy the company of people they meet but there are nonetheless TCFH out there – encounters you’ll one day dine out on. Some of the more cringeworthy habits mentioned in the thread are:

  • Dining companions plonking their ‘gold’ cabin cards down on the table so everybody can see they’re in a suite
  • Being unbelievably rude to waiters, snapping fingers and so on
  • Eating “like a pig with sound effects”, a horror member Elaine0138 had to endure

What’s your best/worst/weirdest experience in the dining room? The strangest combination I’ve experienced was on a river cruise, as one of only four Brits in a sea of German speakers: me, a geography teacher who doubled up as a Buddhist monk and two very opinionated members of UKIP (UK Independence Party). Despite our political differences, we had a blast.

Tell us your own stories – and please share your top tips for first-time cruisers worried about those TCFH!




Filed under Advice

6 responses to “Dealing with dodgy dining companions

  1. Jean

    I know it may sound unsociable, but we always request a table for two. At lunch, we often sit with other people, but some are just so rude to the waiters that I have to bite my lip not to say anything!

  2. P&O Cruise Girl

    Jean, I understand exactly where you are coming from. When I cruise I usually visit a specialist dining room at least twice, not to be unsociable but when I’m away I like to spend time with my partner with out having to share conversation with other passengers sharing our table. Another way to avoid having to share your table is to pick a cruise which has the option of any time dining which means you can arrive at the restaurant between certain hours (usually 6.30-9) and be sitted together. However if you go at ‘rush hour’ 7.00-8.00 then you may be less likely to get a table for two. I have sailed on Azura earlier this year and found quiet a few specialist restaurants to choose from.

  3. Lee

    I met my now best friend on an Alaskan cruise at dinner 8 years ago and now she will be my maid of honor at my wedding on another Celebrity cruise in the spring. We call each other cruise buddies and even though we live in the same state, we are many miles and cities apart. I have met and gotten to know many wonderful people at dinner and even though we don’t stay in touch they have all brightened my cruise experience.

  4. cruisegal415

    My husband and I once sailed by ourselves and were seated for the entire one week cruise with a couple who spoke no English. We did not speak their language, either, so every night we had an awkward dinner where both couples spoke only to each other but limited because we both were conscious of not being rude by having conversations in languages we did not understand. We did try to communicate, but their English was non-existent, as was ours to their language. They were not really friendly, either. It was definitely an awkward experience. We tried to get our table switched, but were unable to do so. This was over 20 years ago, probably much easier to switch now.

  5. Caroline Gurney

    Back in the late 1970s my parents and I went on an Aegean cruise with assigned tables. Our table companions were the only snobbish Australians I have ever met. Their airs and graces were particularly ridiculous on a relaxed Greek boat. This couple had specifically asked to be seated with Brits because they didn’t like Americans. If they were expecting table companions who would join them in looking down on the rest of the world, they must have been so disappointed with us. As the days went on they became more and more offensive until the low point was reached one night when my father mentioned having been involved in some tough negotiations with an Australian firm. The man sneered, “And how do YOU negotiate with Australians?” My father had had enough and replied, “Well, I begin by ofering them beads.” Much to our delight, the couple immediately left the table and asked to be seated elsewhere. We spent the rest of the cruise with a delightful group of Texans.

    • On the plus side, my husband and I asked on a Crystal cruise to be seated on the biggest table possible. We were on a table for 10 and it was party central – singles, couples, different nationalities but all English speaking. People came and went, sometimes eating in the alternative restaurants in the evenings, but good conversation was always guaranteed. Dinner times still stand out as one of the highlights of that cruise.

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