A lot of us cruisers tend to sail in clusters.
Twice I’ve sailed in a group of nine. On the ship we’d go our separate ways most of the time, yet it was always easy to track someone down.
My daughters are the sunbathers, so they could be found out by the pool. My mom and one of my sisters are gamblers and spend a lot of time (and money) in the casino or at bingo. My other sister likes to curl up with a good book in the shade out on the promenade deck. My son-in-law is usually in the Lido, snacking on something in between meals.
Even in port, we’d tend to part company: some to the beach, some to tours, others to the nearest jewelry store.
At nighttime we’d come together for dinner and share stories of our day’s adventures. We operated in a bubble though, seldom mixing with our fellow passengers.
It was much the same when I’ve cruised in a group of four or six — although buying a round at the piano bar was much cheaper on those trips.
But I’ve never cruised alone. Me, myself and I.
I don’t want my husband to get all in a panic, but the idea of a solo cruise appeals me. Doing what I want, when I want. Staying up late, sleeping in – or going to bed early and getting up to see the sun rise. Relishing the alone time, but getting out of my comfort zone, too, and meeting new people.
Before signing on for solo cruise, one has to do a lot of homework.
First, what size ship? A big ship of 4,000 or more passengers might be ideal for some. A medium-size or smaller ship might work out better for others. Another option is sailing on a tall ship or yacht, for a more intimate experience.
Second, investigate pricing. A lot of cruise lines charge a premium for solo cruisers. Cabins are priced for double occupancy on most ships, so there is a “single supplement” added for the solo cruiser. A quick source for solo pricing information can be found at vacationstogo.com; click on “singles discount.”
Of course if the single supplement is too much for your budget, you can opt for sharing your cabin with a roommate, but that pretty much defeats the whole purpose of sailing solo. And he/she might snore — or worse.
You can avoid the single supplement aboard the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic. Norwegian Cruise Line offers 128 studio cabins on that ship. Fifty-nine single staterooms will be available on Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway too, when those ships debut. Solo cruisers booking the studios get access to the Studio Lounge, a private area that offers complimentary coffee, espresso and snacks. It’s a place to read, watch TV or socialize with other solo sailors.
American Cruise Lines also offers accommodations for solo cruisers — without a single supplement. The smaller ships, which carry no more than 150 passengers, each have several staterooms for singles. On Queen of the Mississippi, 15 percent of the cabins are for singles and most have balconies.
Other things to consider for the solo cruiser:
- Dining options. Table for one? Fixed seating with a table for six or more (and hope for a great mix of tablemates)? Or remain flexible with open seating? You can socialize as much or as little as you want, and there is usually the option of ordering room service.
- Excursions. It’s a great opportunity to interact with your shipmates or to explore on your own within the safety of a group.
- Roll calls. Think about joining one at sites such as cruisecritic.com or cruisecrazies.com. You don’t have to become BFFs with anyone, but sometimes it’s fun getting to know your fellow cruisers before you set sail. Many online roll call groups plan a “meet and greet” once aboard, too.
- Ship-sponsored singles gatherings. If the ship offers them, stop by and check it out. If it’s not much more than a matchmaking venue, you can walk away!
- Onboard activities. Piano bars, karaoke, game shows and contests, slots tournaments, pub crawls — all offer the chance for camaraderie on board.
The ultimate solo cruise is being offered by Island Windjammers. “Sagitta’s Solo Sojourn” sold out for the Nov. 10 sailing, so three more cruises were added: one for Nov. 3, plus two in November 2014. The 24-passenger tall ship sails from St. Maarten and will call on Anguilla, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Barts and St. Eustatius.
There are two single cabins aboard that share a bathroom. Solo cruisers also have the option of booking a regular cabin and paying the single supplement, or be paired with a same-sex cabin mate and pay the standard, double occupancy rate.
The cruise is promoted as exclusively for solos — no couples, no kids — who want to travel on their own terms. Think “adventure” not “Love Boat.”
My solo sojourn is but a daydream now, yet I enjoy pondering the possibilities of navigating new seas. I’m sure whenever I decide to take the plunge, things will go swimmingly.