TEN TIPS FOR SOLO CRUISING
In many ways, cruising is an ideal getaway for solo travelers. Several cruise lines welcome singles with receptions, usually held early on in the cruise, that allow them to meet other solo passengers. Some — like Crystal or Holland America — even have gentlemen dance hosts onboard lengthier voyages so women traveling alone don’t feel like wallflowers when the band strikes up.
PHOTO: Silversea is offering a promo for solo travelers. (photo via Silversea)
Solo cruising is a booming market segment, but many travelers remain apprehensive about sailing on their own. In spite of the drawbacks, solo cruising can be one of the most relaxing, worry-free vacation styles. While many how to solo travel lists tend to focus on how to meet people while traveling alone, here are some tips on how to best plan and book a solo cruise without that assumption.
PHOTO: Travel technology, booking (photo courtesy scyther5/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Most cruise lines charge fees, known as single supplements, to solo travelers occupying a cabin designed for at least two people. Solo travelers can expect to pay up to twice the cruise fare when occupying a double cabin during peak demand periods. However, many cruise lines reduce or waive single supplements on select sailings, while others offer single cabins priced for a one, so it helps to keep an eye out for these offers.
Palo, an adults-only restaurant onboard Disney Cruise Line (Photo via Disney Cruise Line)
For cruise lines with traditional fixed dining, table size is a matter of personal preference. Choose a large table, and one may be seated with a group of other solo travelers or other couples. Small tables for two (solo tables are virtually unheard of) can be rare in many dining rooms and offer personalized, faster service, but no company. Staff in “flex” dining rooms will typically ask if a diner prefers to sit at a shared table or on their own.
Remy is an adults-only restaurant onboard Disney Cruise Line (Photo via Disney Cruise Line)
When to Dine?
Cruising solo comes with more flexibility, but some of the same old questions remain, such as whether to dine at a fixed seating early or late, or whether to do flex dining. Solo travelers have the luxury of not needing to balance preferences among a group, but we’ve noticed that some of the same rules apply: fans of routine tend to prefer fixed dining, where early seating’s are good for those who don’t mind children and who don’t linger over meals. Those who like to linger or prefer longer cocktail hours like late dining, and flex dining offers more flexibility, but less personalized service.
PHOTO: Rendering of the Observation Deck aboard the Victoria Sabrina. (photo via Victoria Cruise Lines)
Take A Seat—And Keep It
From bars and nightclubs to onboard theatres, virtually none of the seating arrangements (except the bar) are designed for solo travelers. This means solo travelers will often end up at a table or seating area for two or four. It’s important to remember that seating in these venues are first-come-first-served, and solo travelers are under no obligation to move to accommodate a larger, later-arriving party.
PHOTO: Cruise Outlook (photo courtesy Choreograph/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
After several days on one’s own, it’s natural to feel lonely and begin questioning the wisdom of cruising solo. Some solo cruisers find their antidote in people-watching. Pick a seat in a trafficked area, and watch passers-by. For every happy family or couple, there are bound to be at least a few travelers who appear as though they might have had more fun on their own. It helps maintain perspective.
PHOTO: Carnival Horizon. (photo via Flickr / RealCarlo)
Show up Late(r)
We’re not suggesting travelers miss the boat, but veteran cruisers know that embarkation is typically the most crowded during the first 90 minutes, when everyone is eager to get onboard and get their vacation started. Embarkation formalities are already easier for solo travelers, so wait a bit and you’ll walk right on the ship.
Modern digital DSLR camera. Photography concept.
Photos Aren’t Required
It can be awkward to be approached by the ship’s photographer when traveling solo, but there’s no shame in politely declining to be photographed. A simple “No, thank you,” is sufficient to stop them in their tracks, but if you’re feeling it, it’s a decent place to get a high quality spur-of-the moment portrait without a selfie stick.
PHOTO: Cruise ship deck. (photo via LeeYiuTung/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Pick Later Shore Excursions
The same rule for arriving later at embarkation also applies to port calls: there’s an initial rush to get off the ship that slows to a trickle after the first half-hour or so. That means passengers who have booked excursions departing immediately after the ship arrives in port have no choice but to brave the lines. Solo travelers can pre-book shore excursions with ease, for they only need a single seat (although some excursions may cancel if they don’t get enough bookings).
PHOTO: Cruise ship cabin interior. (photo via iStock / Getty Images Plus / studioportosabbia)
Try a “Run of Ship” Cabin Assignment
Many cruisers have specific preferences about cabin location while others aren’t as picky. Solo travelers without specific needs like an accessible room, one with a bathtub or near/far from the elevators can play “cabin roulette.” Give the cruise line the flexibility to assign your cabin close to departure (because overbooking, cabin mix-ups and other oddities do happen) and you may end up pleasantly surprised (or you may end up with exactly what you booked, which is ok too).
PHOTO: Bolt will be the first roller coaster on a cruise ship. (Photo via Carnival Cruise Line)
One of the primary benefits of cruising solo is that you’re surrounded by people you’ll likely never see after the cruise is over. Always been secretly curious about the art auction, that particularly confusing table game in the casino, or the karaoke competition? Go for it—if it doesn’t go as planned, your friends and family on shore will never know. The same goes for food; there’s nobody around to know what you tried and didn’t like.