If you’re lucky enough to be invited to dine with the captain of your cruise ship, don’t push it.
Your luck, that is.
And if you run out of things to say to the other guests around the table, try bringing up the subject of dining-room superstitions.
The passengers and crew who will scoff at such silliness will almost certainly be outnumbered by those who will start praying to their god, or whatever entity they believe in.
Unlucky for some
Of course if there are thirteen seated at the captain’s table, someone will have to leave.
It’ll probably be the captain.
Especially when he realises he’s just avoided the terrible omen of starting a cruise on Friday 13th, only to have the misfortune to employ a personal steward who has sent out one invitation too many, to a baker’s dozen.
For many sailors are sufferers of triskaidekaphobia, a word coined in 1911 for those of us who try to avoid bad luck by keeping away from anything numbered or labelled thirteen.
In many countries, businesses and manufacturers use another way of numbering or labelling to avoid that unlucky number, with hotels and tall buildings being conspicuous examples.
Some of which have no floor 13 despite being umpteen levels higher than the Tower of Babel.
Fortunately, in some countries, like Italy, 13 is considered to be a lucky number.
So you should be all right on an Italian ship.
Just don’t quote me on it.
Unfortunately, for some, there’s more
As for expanding the subject of maritime superstitions whilst dining with the captain; there are too many to list here.
One of them is that a woman on board a ship is bad luck.
This probably stems from the archaic idea that women are not as physically or emotionally capable as men and therefore have no place on a working ship at sea.
More to the point, sailors observed that when women were aboard, some of the red-blooded heterosexual crew members were too easily distracted from their duties.
Then there are the evils of the banana (sic!), which is supposed to herald disaster if one is found on board a ship.
Oddly enough, nobody mentions what happened to all those banana boats.
Some sailors will not only avoid yellow fruit but also people with red hair for the latter, like the former, are believed to bring bad luck to a ship.
Fortunately, that bad luck can be averted if you speak to the redhead before they speak to you.
Just never say good luck or allow someone to say good luck to you, unanswered. The only way to counter this possible curse is by drawing blood. A swift punch in the nose is usually sufficient. Or a kick in the pants.
And flat-footed passengers are definitely a no-no.
Don’t cut loose
As is anybody who tempts fate by cutting their hair or nails at sea.
For such clippings were once used as offerings to Proserpina (the ancient Roman fertility goddess and Queen of the Underworld), and Neptune got jealous if those offerings were made while the offerer was sailing on his kingdom of the sea.
Fortunately, it is considered good luck for a ship’s figurehead to take the form of a naked woman.
Sadly, there are few such figureheads to be found on any of the world’s cruise ships today.
So, if you are lucky enough to get the undivided attention of a real naked woman – provided she’s not a flat-footed redhead eating a banana while cutting her toenails and didn’t set out on her cruise on Friday 13th and doesn’t wish you ‘good luck’ while you’re trying to seduce her, you’ll probably be all right.
Did I mention that maybe it’s bad luck to raise any of this at the captain’s dinner?
If you compound all those bad omens by accidentally upsetting the salt, grab some quick and throw it over your left shoulder while trying not to hit the three passengers who are trying to light their cigarettes or cigars from one match.
The real bad luck on a ship – if you’re a determined smoker – is that you won’t be encouraged to light up in the dining room after the captain has regaled you with all the other superstitions sailors believe in. Or, alas, anywhere else on some cruise ships.
It’s enough to make some of us reach for our cigar case, portable ashtray and lighter – with our crossed fingers.