Travel expert and Cruise International Contributing Editor Sara Macefield gives her thoughts on solo cruising
One of the questions I get asked most frequently is whether cruises are suitable for solo travellers. And I answer, totally truthfully, that I think they are the best type of holiday for anyone who is travelling on their own.
Of course, as I write about cruising, you might expect such a response, but this view also comes from my own personal experiences of travelling alone on oceans and rivers across the world.
Whenever I embark on such trips, I invariably wonder how it’s going to go; who I’m going to meet; and, yes, I admit, there’s even a tiny inexplicable fear that perhaps, this time, I won’t link-up with any like-minded travellers and will be left sitting alone in a corner like a proverbial Bridget Jones or stuck with a crowd of people I have nothing in common with.
Thankfully, that’s never happened and I would be amazed if it ever did, because cruising is great for single travellers – offering the variety that instantly gives them something in common with fellow cruisers.
Communal dining means passengers often join tables as strangers and finish as friends, and can quickly build up a wide circle of new acquaintances, particularly on smaller ships, which tend to have more of a house party type ambience. Special coffee mornings, cocktail parties or group activities specifically aimed at single travellers help to bring passengers together.
Crucially, particularly where single women are concerned, I think cruises bring security and peace of mind in greater measure than on some land-based alternatives.
So it’s no surprise that singletons are flocking to cruise ships in increasing numbers and cruise lines are responding with more sailings targeted at the singles market.
But, as always with cruising, the all-important factor is to choose the right ship for you in the first place. Plump for a ship that’s too big and you could feel lonely and lost amid thousands of other passengers; opt for one that’s family orientated (especially during school holidays) and you could find yourself surrounded with close-knit families and excitable youngsters.
Cruise companies such as Saga Cruises and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines have a long-established tradition of catering admirably for lone cruisers, not only with a higher-than-usual number of single cabins on their ships, but also targeted activities that include tea dances and gentleman hosts. As you might have gathered, they cater for an older age group that often includes a number of widows and widowers.
Norwegian Cruise Line, on the other hand, is definitely for the young at heart, with its waterslides, bars and clubs, funky and compact ‘Studio’ single staterooms, and a dedicated lounge where solo travellers can meet and mingle.
Other lines may not have single cabins and instead offer doubles for single occupancy – but with a sting in the tail in the form of a hefty supplement. This can be as high as 100 per cent, which means lone passengers effectively pay double. It’s worth looking for special deals as cruise firms often reduce supplements or drop them completely on specific voyages, but be prepared to book fast as these sell out in the blink of an eye.
If you don’t mind sharing, why not opt for Holland America Line and its Single Partner Programme, which pairs up solo passengers of the same sex to share a cabin? Customers pay the per person double occupancy fare even if HAL cannot find a partner and they end up having the cabin to themselves.
And let’s not forget river cruises. In my experience, these can be even better for single travellers as the vessels carry only 150 to 200 people and the shared dining and included excursions make the onboard ambience easier for people to strike up conversation. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has even released a series of departures with no single supplement in Europe and Russia for the first time.
Cultural cruise lines such as Swan Hellenic and Voyages to Antiquity not only have single cabins but cater well for passengers drawn together by a common interest in the first place, proving that when the world is your oyster, you don’t have to discover it alone.
Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise here.