There is some light beginning to peek in at the end of the COVID tunnel…. it’s called a vaccine. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be starting to think about your next (or first) cruise. So, while you’re contemplating where to go, and what ship to sail on, I’ll give you some other thoughts to consider…. how to get to The Captain’s Table and snag a seat of honor during dinner on that cruise.

It’s the epitome of snobbery. It’s the height of prestige. It’s the coup of the cruise. And besides all that, it’s just plain fun. Being invited to dine at The Captain’s Table, the premium spot on a cruise ship, is fantasy for many cruisers…reality for a select few. This coveted chair, this seat of status, exudes a mystique that reigns throughout the length of the cruise.

Formal Waiter

The #1 Waiters are chosen for Captain’s Tables

Who are those people chosen for the centerpiece of the dining room? How were they picked to be put on that imaginary pedestal? Having sailed on approximately 150 cruises, I’ve sat at many a captain’s table and conducted many an unscientific survey. I’ve picked the captains’ brains and prodded the passengers into confessing the following secrets of their success. Take a peek at the results of my subtle snooping:

BE CUTE AND CHIC: Be stunning and sophisticated. Be bright and beautiful. Note: It helps to be all of the above. And, by all means, be traveling alone. From the moment you walk up the gangway, you’re being sized up for the number one spot next to the captain. If you looked disheveled as you boarded the ship, you have one more chance that first evening. Make a grand entrance, lovely and ladylike, into the dining room. Again, come alone. During the first nights open seating, the maitre d’ is surveying the scene, still scouting for suitable dinner partners for El Capitan.

Fancy Dinner at the Captain's Table

Wine flows freely at the Captain’s Table

BE SPUNKY: Connie and Louis were. This couple of cooing honeymooners got to the captain’s table on sheer chutzpa. Connie wrote to the cruise line and explained that they were coming aboard for their honeymoon. Being grownup grandparents, they requested a group of stimulating people to dine with. The cruise line gave them a nice wedding present…a seat at the captain’s table.

BE SOMEBODY IMPORTANT: If you are, they’ll find you. A famous name is even more eye-catching than a fabulous figure.

BE A REPEATER: Faithful followers of a cruise line always get preferential treatment. The repeater is the backbone of any business and cruising is no exception. Sara, who had sailed 18 times on one cruise line, and Rosemary, who had cruised 114 times on her favorite line, shared those words of wisdom with me.

KNOW SOMEBODY: Preferably the captain! If you’ve never met the captain, a mutual friend who knows him will do. As soon as you know you are cruising, set the wheels in motion. Have your friend contact the captain. If he likes your friend, you’ve got it made.

Musicians Serenade a Table of Diners

A tableside serenade will most likely be on the menu

BE RICH: One wealthy department store heiress, when making her reservation, simultaneously booked the captain’s table. When asked why she thought she might get there by such a highly irregular method, she replied: “Because I don’t sit anywhere else.” And she didn’t.

BOOK A PENTHOUSE: Rich or not, the mere pretense of wealth will practically assure you of an invitation to join the captain.

BE LUCKY: Have the same name as an old friend of the captain. When he peruses the preliminary passenger list, he will pick a name that he thinks he knows. My first experience at a captain’s table found an astonished captain who didn’t recognize his doctor friend that he had assigned to his table. It turned out that this `Doc’ wasn’t his friend…in fact he wasn’t even a doctor. He was just a guy nicknamed Doc with the same last name as the captain’s friend. After laughing over the case of mistaken identity, it still turned out to be a compatible table aboard this renowned ocean liner.

Heart Shaped Dessert

Desserts are works of art for the Captain’s Guests

BE OBNOXIOUS: Stage a sit-down strike. Arnold, the Maître d’ Hotel on one of my cruises, told of a persistent passenger whose request was denied because of a lack of room at the table. “She sat down on the floor in front of the table for an hour during dinner, until he finally removed her with a promise to let her sit at the captain’s table. In her own peculiar way, she was accepted by the other diners at the table.”

BE A PHONY: When registering your name for the cruise, give yourself an impressive title. If the cruise line is savvy, it will check you out in the International Blue Book. However, if it is careless, the faux titled passenger could end up as the captain’s guest.

DAZZLE YOUR TRAVEL AGENT: Become a legend in your own mind…and make your travel agent believe it! Travel agents have lots of clout with cruise lines.

BE A BELIEVER: “You must have faith,” said David, the concierge on one of my cruises, “like the young Hawaiian beauty who met her first husband at a captain’s table in the 1940’s. After his death, in the 1980’s, she sailed on the same cruise line and requested a seat at the captain’s table, stating she had met her first husband in that manner. As luck would have it, she also met her second husband there. He died two years later, at which time she knew exactly what to do. She sailed the same cruise line, and the charm worked for the third time. This time she met a colonel from Honolulu. I never heard the outcome of that meeting.

PLAN AHEAD: If at first you don’t succeed, try…try again. That old adage still works. Become friendly with the captain, or the maitre d’ on your first cruise and line up to be the numero uno choice for a seat at the coveted table on your next cruise. When there’s a will, there’s a way.

MARRY THE CAPTAIN: When all else fails, this is the way to go! Colleen from Scottsdale, Arizona, did a transatlantic crossing in the mid-1980’s. During the course of the voyage she met Captain Michael. They were married aboard the ship several years later. She sat at the Captain’s table happily ever after.

Cappuccino with design

Conclude with Cappuccino at Your Captain’s Table

Now that I’ve shown you the way, say hello to the captain for me.

Bon appetite!
P.S. Don’t fret if you don’t make it to the Captain’s table. You might end up at a table with a fun-loving entertainer or a younger, more handsome officer.

couple in formal wear toasting

Don’t fret if you don’t make it to the Captain’s Table… second place could be even better

PHOTO CREDITS: Janet Steinberg

Janet Steinberg, winner of 50-travel writing awards, resides in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.