The problem: My husband and I are going on a cruise. This ship has open seating, so we will often be dining with strangers, and dinners can last up to two hours. One of the main purposes of this trip is to get away from the daily bombardment of politics, which has made our lives miserable for the past year. My dream is that the maître d’ will ask “red or blue?” before he seats us. Barring that unlikely circumstance, what should we do if we get seated with people whose political views are vastly different from our own?
Low road: Invite them to your cramped, windowless, third-class cabin to watch “Titanic.”
High road: The likelihood of imprisonment with political enemies is small. Cruise ships offer many dining options now, aside from the traditional set-time-and-table scenario. Flexible dining and dine-around, for example, allow more control in dining times, tables and even restaurants. (Hint: Specialty restaurants have many more tables for two.)
Cruise Critic editor Colleen McDaniel noted that her company’s forum Roll Calls allows cruisers to interact with people they’ll be cruising with in advance, then decide if they want to break bread together. And this being a cruise, buffets are set up from stern to bow. You won’t go hungry.
More likely than political paralysis is getting trapped in deadly dull small talk for two hours, in which case you can be grateful you weren’t the couple writing to Cruise Critic after being stationed with supreme bores — for 49 days. (I need to follow up to see if they swam home.)
If the worst happens, jump in with a cheery, “Oh, we’re taking a vacation from politics!” then smile and keep changing the subject. If your fellow diners don’t back down, Brian Nystedt of Minneapolis-based New Departures advises that you catch the eye of the maître d’, slip him or her a few bills, and enjoy the stroll to your new table. But voyaging on glorious open water, you’re just as likely to make lasting friendships. Cruise over to your shared table with an open mind and find out.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to email@example.com. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.