Q: I was on a cruise on a ship that had just returned to the Caribbean from the Mediterranean. They didn't have Diet Coke in any of the bars or restaurants, just Coke Light, which is supposedly the European version of Diet Coke. Well, it's totally different. I love Diet Coke and this ruined my vacation. We should have been warned when we booked online or given some sort of discount because of it. What do you think?
A: Oh no, not Coke Light! The horror, the horror!
Let me get this straight—when you booked, you expected some sort of giant, blinking popup saying "WARNING: We will not have Diet Coke on your cruise. Do you really want to go?"? And because they didn't warn you, you now think the cruise line needs to compensate you for not stocking a particular kind of soda? What do you do if you dine in a restaurant that only has Pepsi products, threaten to sue? I'm sorry, but you're acting like my 1-year-old when he gets a plain sippy cup instead of his favorite one with Elmo on it. Coke Light may not be Diet Coke, but it's not strychnine! Be a grown up and deal with it.
Q: I've recently become vegetarian, and I have to go to Germany soon for work. I don't want to be rude (either to restaurant staff or my colleagues who'll be traveling with me), but I do want to eat vegetarian. Do you have any advice? Will I be able to follow my diet in Germany?
A: Sure—just let me introduce you to your new BFF, the pretzel! Seriously, while you might end up eating a fair amount of pretzels, don't worry. Being a vegetarian in Germany is no big deal.
Before you leave home, learn how to say, "Do you have any vegetarian dishes? I do not eat meat or fish," in German. When you're in a restaurant, greet your waiter politely, then give your little speech. (You might even want to have it written out so you can show him in case your pronunciation's not so hot.) The key here is to be pleasant and friendly, not demanding. Chances are the waiter will come up with something.
However, don't get upset if what he suggests is salad or vegetable side dishes. If you're with colleagues, just smile and say, "Salad sounds good anyway" (even if you're sick of it) and then get a snack at a bakery later. (Which is in no way a bad thing. You cannot have too much apfelkuchen.)
Locker Room Etiquette
Finally, since it sounds like you'll be traveling with a group, offer to take charge of restaurant reservations. It's nice for the person with the tricky dietary requirements to step up here—the extra work is totally worth it if you get to eat in restaurants you'll enjoy.
Q: What do you think of a mom allowing her nine-year-old son to change in the ladies' locker room at a hotel pool? I understand bringing a toddler of the opposite sex into the locker room with you, but it was creepy to have a nine-year-old boy walk in while I was half naked.
A: That is creepy. If someone's not comfortable letting her son change in the men's locker room by himself, fine, but this is a hotel—she should have him change in their room.
Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at firstname.lastname@example.org.