How to take a solo cruise

4 October 2019

Long regarded as the go-to holiday for families, loved up couples and senior citizens, taking a cruise might not be the first option that comes to mind if you’re planning some independent travel. But with more and more cruise lines catering to solo travellers, there’s never been a better time to set sail while single. Armed with a few tips, you’ll be able to enjoy the open ocean without a worry in the world.

Cruising on your own may just be the best journey you’ll ever take. Photo: Getty Images

Figure out what you want from the experience

The reason why you’re cruising alone is a big factor when it comes to booking your experience. Are you the independent sort who enjoys your own company? If you don’t want to be distracted by anything except a good book, a beverage and the view, it might be best to book on a large ship. If you’re sailing on a vessel the size of a small town, you’ll easily be able to wander around unnoticed.

On the other hand, if you’re wanting to meet people and make friends, a smaller cruise might be just the ticket. River cruises are generally a lot cosier than those at sea, with maximum capacity in the hundreds rather than the thousands. Smaller ocean cruises also offer adventure – a moderately sized vessel means the potential to visit more remote locations like the Galapagos, the Pacific Northwest or even Antarctica. Adventure equals fun and fun equals instant friends – easy!

Cruising the Inside Passage, Alaska. Photo: Getty Images

Book smart

One of the biggest downfalls of a solo cruise is the dreaded ‘single supplement’ –  the fee some cruise lines slap on for single people occupying a double room. Sometimes it’s an extra 50% fee, sometimes the full 100%, which you definitely want to avoid. The good news is, with the demand for solo cruising options increasing, some cruise lines have significantly reduced the single supplement or dropped them completely thanks to dedicated solo cabins. Norwegian Cruise Line now offers 128 single solo studios on Norwegian Epic, while Fred. Olsen Cruise Line has around 200 single cabins across the fleet.

If your preferred cruise doesn’t offer single cabins, don’t worry, there are still ways you can save. Depending on what itinerary you choose, cruise lines like Regal Princess and Crystal Cruises have single supplements as low as 28%. Another way to reduce your costs is to cruise off-season or during wave season; the reduced room rates will mean a cheaper supplement, and hopefully fewer crowds too. As with any other travel experience, booking way in advance will also make your holiday much easier on the wallet, and some cruise lines like AmaWaterways drop the single supplement entirely if you book a year ahead.

Finally, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could always share a room with a fellow cruiser. Holland America offers a Single Partners share programme so you can easily find someone to share a room with, or jump on a cruising forum and find someone who’s keen to buddy up.  Downside? They might be a snorer. Upside? You can spend the money you’ve saved on excursions with your new pal.

Snapping a photo in the Norwegian fjords. Photo: Getty Images

Think about itineraries

An epic month-long, 20-stop cruise might sound like heaven while daydreaming from your desk, but before you book, think about how comfortable you are with long-term solo travel. If it’s your first solo trip, you may want to book a shorter cruise and build up to the ocean odyssey for next time. Does your cruise offer a bunch of group activities, excursions and social mixers? For those wanting to make friends, a kayaking trip or a hike is the ideal opportunity. For people who just want to escape and relax, try looking for a cruise with a spa onboard.

Dine like a pro

Traditionally, dining on a cruise involves a large shared tabled with a mix of other guests and an a la carte menu. This can be perfect if you’re a social butterfly who doesn’t mind being the only single person at the table, but not so great if you’re wanting time to unwind and reflect. Try to dine later in the evening – it means you’ll get to spend more time at port, with the added bonus of avoiding family groups rushing to get their kids fed and into bed. If the cruise’s arranged seating isn’t to your liking, you can always request to be seated with other singles so you won’t feel like the odd one out.

The buffet and specialty dining restaurants can also be wonderful for solo travellers as you have the option to sit alone. Get friendly with the maître d’ and they might even make a special effort to reserve your table/spot at the bar if you find a place you really love. Remember, there’s no shame in bringing a book, or plugging into a movie or podcast while you enjoy your meal – doing exactly what you want and when you want is one of the best parts of solo travel.

Don’t overthink it

While it can be a bit daunting to set off on a cruise on your own, remember you won’t be the only single person there. Cruise passengers tend to be a social bunch, and a simple smile and hello goes a long way. There’s a good chance you’ll make great friends, but there’s also a good chance you’ll never see any of these people again, so let go of your inhibitions and go where the ocean breeze takes you.

Kristin Hall

Kristin Hall is a former TVNZ reporter currently travelling through Europe on her belated OE.