Whether you're cruising alone or with an organized singles group, it can be difficult to meet and mingle if you tends to be on the shy side. Wallflowers may find themselves intimidated and overwhelmed, especially at the sometimes noisy and crowded get-acquainted parties prior to sailing. They wind up standing on the sidelines watching everyone else having a good time, reluctant to join in.
Don't let this happen to you. After all, this is the cruise you have saved for and looked forward to; don't waste it by withering on the vine while everyone else has all the fun.
You must resolve to break the ice and start an interesting conversation with a total stranger -- a step that can open doors to new friendships or possibly even romance. Doing so, of course, is not always easy; but there are methods to smooth the way.
Jump Right In For starters, don't hesitate to be the first to say hello and introduce yourself. By divulging your name, you are signaling you want to chat and get to know that person. They, in turn, should respond by telling you their name; if they merely nod, just move on. Don't waste time with someone obviously not interested in making your acquaintance when there are many other passengers who will be.
Once names are exchanged, instead of beginning the conversation by asking personal questions, start with what you obviously have in common—the cruise. In order to be ready with a wealth of knowledge, as soon as you make your reservation learn everything you can about the ship. CruiseMates has complete information about every cruise line and every ship, so do your homework, and you will be able to share interesting facts and features about the one you are on (such as when the ship was first launched, tonnage, how many passengers it can carry, lounges, nightclubs, the spa and equipment available in the gym). If there is extensive art work, as on Costa ships, or learning labs like those on Crystal vessels, share what impresses you. You can do this in a subtle way so you won't appear to be a know-it-all. I can't count the number of times I have been turned off by someone blathering on and on.
Let Them Get a Word In Know when to shut up and listen -- it would be quite embarrassing to sound like you are reciting a brochure and then find out the other person has been on the ship several times previously and knows more than you do. To avoid this, you can bluntly ask if this is their first cruise, but this brings up another topic that can label you a bore. So regardless of how many cruises you have been on, don't brag about it. The other person may be intimidated if they are such a cruise rookie that they worry about finding the way back to their cabin.
Ports of call are also subjects that can keep conversation flowing, so do your research in that area as well. I don't think I have ever chatted with anyone on a cruise when the subject of a port we would visit did not come up. People are always anxious to know about the best excursions, good restaurants, shopping tips, and so forth.
But remember, it is important not to let the conversation become one-sided. You may be so anxious to impress that you don't know when to take a breath and listen, because sooner or later the other person is going to divulge some information about themselves, like where they are from, and then the personal exchange begins. Seize the opportunity to ask open-ended questions that require a response of more than a word or two, such as "What do you like best about living there?"
As for family, instead of bluntly asking if someone is divorced, just say, "Tell me about your family." The response will usually reveal past marriages and how many children, leading up to how much you have in common besides the fact that you are on a cruise together.
Conversational No-nos Once you have someone talking, listen to them instead of trying to figure out what to say next, and you will find yourself asking intelligent questions that keep the conversation flowing. However, it is important to remember the "Don't Go There" topics, such as personal problems, ethnic jokes, religion, or politics. Don't bring up these subjects if you don't know where the other person stands on them. Avoid topics, like health—either theirs or yours--and gossip, especially if you are on an organized singles cruise. It's a no-no to criticize others in the group. And avoid mentioning anything you particularly dislike about the cruise. No one enjoys listening to someone complain, especially if they themselves are having a wonderful time. Remember, too, that people like to be asked for their opinion.
It is also helpful to make a list of things you want to recall when you take the plunge to start that first conversation: Remember the name of the person you are talking to, and try to use it several times as you speak. Practice being able to clearly explain what you do for a living, and learn something about open and closed "body language" in order to sense the other person's reaction to what you are saying. Watch for frowns, smiles, narrowing eyes, and careless shrugs.
Know When to Fold 'Em There are times when you will, unfortunately, discover you have started a conversation with someone you definitely hope you don't run into for the rest of the cruise, e.g. a person who constantly interrupts to take control and never lets go, tries to outdo your story, or cuts you off because they figure they know what you're about to say (or they think you are wrong and can't wait to tell you why). The only thing to do is make a polite exit, say you enjoyed talking with them—even if you didn't—and move on.
Also, there is no reason to be hesitant in joining a group. Do not feel that you have to single out one person to talk to, because you are going to see several people chatting together at a cocktail party or a bar. Just walk up, smile all around, and politely wait for a chance to introduce yourself.
Finally, make up your mind when you board your ship that shyness is not part of your baggage, wallflowers are not allowed, and you will have a great cruise - and make a bunch of new friends.
It's all up to you!