Travel Etiquette: To Talk or Not to Talk

Q: What do you think of people having personal conversations on cell phones on planes? There was a woman next to me who was saying stuff like, "Aww, I wub you more! No I wub YOU more! You're my snookums!" (or something to that effect) for about ten minutes while we were boarding, and I really wanted to tell her to shut up. Another time this guy was going on about his stomach troubles. This really has to stop.

A: Now, now, we don't tell people to shut up. Even super-annoying people, like Ms. Babytalk and Mr. Gastrointestinal Issues. But I agree, those are not subjects to be discussed where anyone can overhear you -- and in the close quarters of a plane, everyone can overhear you.


Unless it's a fairly quick and painless "Boarding now -- I'll call you when we land!" type call, make it from a private spot in the terminal rather than from your seat on the plane.

Q: Can we get some cruise buffet etiquette tips, please? I'll be going on my second cruise soon and I was shocked at how rude some people were in the buffet line the first time I went.

A: Sure. Hey, cruisers! Yes, there's a ridiculous amount of food. Yes, I'm sure you're hungry. And yes, it's easy to delude yourself into thinking that all that food is "free" (even though you have obviously paid for your cruise). But that doesn't give you license to behave like a starving pig set free in front of the biggest slop trough in the universe. You're still dining in public, and you need to act like it.

Don't pick up a portion of something, eyeball it, then put it back. If you touch it, even with tongs, it needs to come all the way onto your plate.

And speaking of tongs, use them. If basic manners aren't reason enough to do so, think norovirus.

Travel Etiquette: The Buffet on a Cruise

No editorializing about the food you're NOT eating. "Eeeww, what the heck is in that? It looks like cat food!" is not appropriate.

Don't mix up serving utensils. If you take a spoonful of mashed potatoes, put the spoon back in the mashed potatoes, not in the carrots.

Sure, sometimes you'll forget to take butter for your roll. No one expects you to go all the way back to the beginning of the line. But you can't just jump in front of somebody -- say, "excuse me."

Only fill up as many plates as will fit comfortably on your tray. Don't stack up plates of food. Trust me, the dessert station will still be there ten minutes later.

In general, it's fine to bring something self-contained (like a carton of milk, a box of cereal or an apple) back to your cabin, but if you want to take a whole plate, check with the staff and see if they can give you a cover for it. And if it's smelly or messy, eat it in the dining room. The other people in the elevator do not want your clam chowder on their shoes, thank you very much.

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