As an experienced cruiser, I've got tons of tips to make your next cruise vacation a breeze.
We all know what it is like when that itch to take a vacation hits, and the urge is particularly strong at the moment with us all being in various degrees of quarantine or self-isolation. I find myself starting to plan for the future and hoping that things will return to some sort of normal. But what can you do if your usual partner in crime for cruise-time shenanigans is otherwise indisposed or maybe not quite ready to dive back into the cruising life? You might very well think that the opportunity to soak up the sun in a tropical place is a no-go if you're solo.
But I'm happy to tell you that is far from the case! It's time to consider booking yourself a solo trip that will allow you to really embrace what it is to cruise the seas and experience faraway places. I know it might seem like a pretty crazy thing to do, but it doesn’t have to be scary. It is your opportunity to do things at exactly the pace that makes you feel the most comfortable. Take it from me—booking a solo cruise might just be one of the best decisions you ever make.
Here are 10 handy tips for getting the most out of the opportunity to cruise on your own.
1. Look for Cruises That Offer Solo Cabins
Given the community of people taking cruises is such a varied and amazing bunch, it has given cruise operators the opportunity to adapt to many of their clients' wants and needs over the years. One of these changes is geared toward us cruisers who aren’t travelling with another person.
The opportunity to access staterooms that are tailored to your needs as a solo traveller means you don't need to fork out the dosh for a full-size room. These rooms are generally quite a bit smaller, but the real benefit can be found in not having to pay the single-traveller supplement, which usually equals something along the lines of paying for two tickets anyway.
Cruise lines make their calculations about profit and loss on the capacity potential of the ship. This is based on having at least two people in an average room, so by making the cruiser pay the solo supplement, they are able to ensure that they have offset some of the potential for lost profit. But by booking a single stateroom, you can avoid paying the single supplement fee.
If having a smaller space and no balcony is okay with you, booking a single stateroom can save you a bundle.
2. Don't Despair If the Single Rooms Are Gone
Single stateroom cabins are a pretty awesome idea . . . if you can manage to snag one! They are popular and there still aren't a lot of them being designed into ships. If you happen to miss out on the opportunity to capture one of these mythical creatures, all is not lost! There are benefits to being a solo cruiser paying for a normal stateroom.
It's a Chance to Rack Up More Reward Points
With awards programs like the Crown and Anchor Society, if you book a normal cabin, you will end up getting double points. That gets tripled if you happen to have a little bit of a cash splash and splurge on a suite to treat yourself.
The more points you accrue, the faster you move up the awards program ladder and the sooner you get access to the opportunities that come with it.
You'll Have Ample Space and a Private Balcony
Having a normal stateroom all to yourself gives you a decent amount of room to move; it's nice not having to worry about smacking your shins on the coffee table!
There are many benefits to a single occupancy room, but you should definitely consider whether you are happy to incur the loss of space that comes with the reduced fare. And keep in mind that if you love a balcony, single cabins don’t tend to have them, so you will have to deal with public spaces for your daily dose of water views.
You Might Be Able to Use It as a Bargaining Chip
The single supplement fee sucks—we all know that—but it can work in your favor, especially if you consider it a bit of a bargaining chip when negotiating your booking with your travel agent.
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3. Savor the Chance to Dine Alone
Sailing the open seas by yourself doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the finer things in life. Specialty restaurants welcome all who wish to participate, so don’t hesitate to make a booking for one. You might even find that they pay you some extra attention to make sure you enjoy your experience.
You won’t be made to feel out of place, and the staff won’t make you feel like you are taking up the table; they will just go about their jobs, which is making sure that you have an awesome dining experience. You can also pretend you're waiting for someone else and order two desserts for yourself!
This is not to say that you aren’t welcome anywhere else, so make sure you partake in the various dining options included in your fare.
4. Treat Yourself!
If you are cruising alone and you have the means, don’t be afraid to spend your money to make the experience everything that you want it to be. Of course, don’t spend yourself broke, but don’t let your self-talk convince you that you don’t need something that you really want either.
Why not have that massage, buy that watch, or go on that excursion that you normally wouldn’t? I tend to go for a drinks package so that I can keep those cocktails on tap. Or your splurge could be like what I mentioned above—choosing a balcony room instead of a solo room.
5. Take the Time to Talk to the Crew
Solo cruising can be tough and somewhat isolating . . . if you let it be. If you are a little introverted and other guests are all in their own groups, having a chat with people can be a hard thing to get started. If you don't know any other guests onboard and starting a conversation feels daunting, make a special effort to talk to crew members. Most of them will take the time to have a quick chat if they can.
The crew are friendly to all guests. It is kind of part of the job and a by-product of the type of people that get into those sort of roles, so if you find yourself on a solo cruise, take a minute to get to know those people around you who are taking the time to make your experience wonderful. The waiters, cabin attendants and bar staff are great to start up a conversation with, and they are all really interesting people if you take the time to get to know them.
An added bonus of getting to know the crew is that you might get some insider tips and tricks for the ports that you are visiting. You might also get their opinions of other cruise journeys and ports that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit.
6. Find People in the Same Boat (Pun Intended)
If you would like to see a few friendly faces on board your ship other than the staff, do the thing that we are all getting used to doing oh so well now and communicate with people online before you leave for your trip. The glorious internet has made it so easy to reach out and find people with similar interests, and cruising is no different.
Use the Internet to Find Friends Before You Set Sail
After I have booked a cruise (and sometimes even before booking), I will go online and search for forum posts and groups to find others who are going or thinking of going on that cruise. Facebook groups for particular ships and sailings are usually the easiest to find; simply go to the search function within Facebook and type the name of the ship that you are looking to travel on.
The great thing about it is that you can forge bonds with people without the pressure of being on the ship and trapped with them. You can join in on the conversations online, and if it doesn’t interest you, you can fade into the background. At the least, you will have some people that you can nod your head at in the hallways during your trip.
Groups will usually arrange a meet-up sometime early on in the cruise, and if they don’t, you can always take the lead and suggest it or even arrange it. In the end, it is your holiday and you are not under some binding contract to meet up with them every day. But hey, it's always nice to be able to share a drink with someone or even split the expense of port-day travel.
7. Travel to the Beat of Your Own Drum
Cruising solo means you get to do what you want when you want. I know that when I am cruising with others, I occasionally find myself feeling almost obligated to walk the same path as them. When you have others in tow, you may find yourselves joined at the hip, which can get old in a hurry. The great thing about solo cruising is that you can be a little bit selfish and march to the beat of your own drum if you so wish.
As a solo cruiser, the world is your oyster—you are free to be yourself and do only those things that bring you joy. If you're not in the mood for a big day at port, you don’t have to be dragged about and can quickly jump back on board the ship (and maybe even find yourself the perfect spot near the pool!). You might initially feel a bit weird being able to choose your own adventure, but believe me, you will get used to it pretty quickly and will grow to love it.
8. Share Your Trip on Social Media
Some people can be a little uncomfortable with sharing their holiday experiences on social media, which is understandable. But a number of fellow cruisers I have spoken with over the years have told me that they like to keep that connection open with their loved ones, sharing their experiences with family even if they can’t be a part of it.
The benefit of sharing your experiences with those at home whilst on a solo cruise is that you have the opportunity to engage with friends and family and discuss the things that you are doing. Knowing that people are aware of and following your daily goings-on can also help you feel more secure and give you a sense of confidence.
If you don’t have people at home that share your interest in cruising, then be sure to check in with some of the amazing groups that you can find online and on social media networks. Finding people who share the joy of a cruise as much as you can be just as rewarding, and they will all live through you if they aren’t currently on a cruise of their own.
If you plan on keeping in touch online, just make sure you factor in an internet package and keep your devices charged so they are ready when you are.
Just Don't Get Too Caught Up in Posting
Some can get a little lost in the sharing, though, so please just make sure that you aren't sharing the experience at the cost of actually having the experience. I don’t think there is a lot of value in experiencing your own holiday through the lens when the sights are directly in front of you.
9. Take a Tour or a Class
Stay alert for chances to do activities that you might not have done if you had others with you. Why not sit in on one of the classes (just don’t let them hit you with the hard sell) or take a ship tour (which most find really rewarding and fascinating)?
Take the opportunity of being almost anonymous on board to try something you normally wouldn’t. If you have been too scared to try the downward dog, now is your chance. Or sign up for a cooking class or book a tour around the inner workings of the vessel to get the inside scoop on the operational side of the ship. These activities can make for a really enjoyable vacation.
Be sure to read your ship's newsletter to see what all is going on.
10. Try Lots of Activities and Excursions
Your time on the ship is truly what you make it, so if you find that things are getting a little quiet for your liking, make sure you take the time to check out some of the activities that happen all over the ship. The same thing goes for port-day excursions!
The staff on board make sure to fit as much as possible into the ship’s newsletter, so make sure you give it a look. Activities are most often held during the day, but there are often things happening well into the evenings if that is your thing.
Being a solo cruiser gives you the opportunity to try new things and blaze your own trail, so don’t be afraid to do it your own way. And no matter what you do, make sure you have fun!
© 2020 Paddy Michelson