When you watch TV commercials for cruise lines, you either enjoy families together or couples seem vaguely romantic. None of the companies has ever shown someone sitting alone at dinner or really anyone doing anything on their own.
To be fair, a picture of me typing on a laptop at an outside table in Central Park in Royal Caribbean (RCL) An oasis-class ship or a coffee myself at one of MSC’s star cafés might not sell many cruises.
All major cruise lines, including these two as well as the Carnival Cruise Line, are still (CCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) , many individual passengers on board. In fact, even Virgin Voyages, the adult cruise line that caters to couples, still attracts a lot of people sailing alone.
Sailing alone will cost you more time. Few ships have single person rooms, but in most cases room rates are based on double occupancy, so single pays for 2 people, but won’t pay double and port fees.
Once you get past the cost issue, there are a few things that you as a solo traveler should consider before boarding the plane. Of course, if you’re looking for solitude, some of these tips might actually be things you don’t want to do.
1. Join Facebook or Cruise Critic Roll Call
Most, but not all, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, MSC, and Virgin sailing ships have a conference call either on Facebook or on the Cruise Critic website. Some groups are more active than others, but this is a good way to meet some passengers before boarding the plane.
In addition, people use these combinations to create poolside rallies, pub crawls, and casino slot draws. You can join one of these events and have an easy way to meet people before you set sail. Some people will share that they are sailing alone in order to communicate with other passengers in the same boat (so to speak).
2. Decide how you want to be social
I am a beautiful young man and often already know people on a cruise or make friends early on. This is great for hanging out by the pool or even going on an unplanned trip with a group that adopts you for a few days. I generally draw the line at dinner and tend to plan meals myself.
In the main dining room, this may not be an option as some cruise ships only have larger tables. However, specialty restaurants will accommodate someone eating alone and you won’t be the only one doing so (you may see mom or dad eating alone while the other parent takes the kids to the buffet or main dining room).
Broadly speaking, I want to meet people and make friends but some solo cruisers cherish their alone time and are not looking for other people. You don’t have to choose. I’m happy sitting alone in a bar on the Royal Caribbean watching an acoustic guitarist play and sometimes I long to find a group to watch the Comedy Store or spend a day at the beach with her.
3. There are individual cruise deals
While it’s rare, some cruise lines run promotions where they offer individual cruise deals. This can mean waiver of the Singles Supplement, the additional fees (essentially the second fare minus taxes and port fees) that you pay to take a cruise on your own.
MSC is quietly offering this deal on some of its cruises out of Florida. In other cases, calling the cruise line or asking your travel agent can sometimes result in the cruise line being willing to strike a bargain on the price of your individual cruise.
4. Participate in group activities
A few months ago on a Virgin Voyages cruise, I did a pub crawl on opening night. It costs $40 or so, comes with four drinks, and was a small tour of the ship. There were about 35 people involved and a crew member made us interact and get to know each other before handing out our drink tickets.
This event made a number of people on board familiar faces while also introducing me to a few people who would become my group in the next few days. Maybe the same thing happened at a cupcake decorating class at Royal Caribbean, or a presentation on a Carnival ship (events with a drink or two seem to make it easy to meet people).
5. Get all the benefits of going solo
One of the biggest pluses of traveling solo is that you can make every decision based on what you want. I can get a drink package and don’t have to consider that most cruise lines require every adult in the same cabin to have the same drink package (which can make the math more difficult in some cases).
I can also stay up early or get up early without having to think about whether I’m waking someone up. These things seem like little things, but in a room less than 200 square feet, I can’t exactly work on my laptop while my son or wife sleeps a few feet away.
Solo travel, for me, is an opportunity to recharge, reset, and maybe make a few friends. I have several cruises planned this year and then with groups I met while sailing on my own and I have a few where I’ll have some fun on my own and run my own adventure.