The Top 5 Ways to Make the Most of a Solo Cruise

I never thought I’d take a cruise by myself–yet one month ago today I was walking off of the NCL Gem to spend three days exploring Bermuda.  I’m not sure which planets lined up to cause such a trip to occur–after all, I had the idea on a Saturday, booked it the next Friday, and sailed the next Sunday.  My loyal readers will know that this sounds nothing like me–but yet, there I was.  And I am so very, very glad that I went.  It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.  Just…um…don’t tell my husband I wrote that!

I can safely say that my first solo cruise will definitely not be my last solo cruise.  In fact, I plan on cruising solo as much as humanly and fiscally responsible in the coming months.  Cruising is an easy, relaxing, and fun way to travel by yourself.  But, as with anything in life, a little advanced planning on your part will help make the trip even more successful.  And so, I bring to you my top five tips on how to make the most of a solo cruise.

5.  Pick the right itinerary.  I ended up solo on a cruise ship simply because I wanted to go to Bermuda.  However, you might hate beautiful pink sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters (though I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would hate those things!)  If that’s the case, consider a European cruise or a cruise to Alaska.  But remember–not all Mediterranean cruises are created equal.  Before you book the sailing, make sure that you’ve selected a trip that visits places you are genuinely interested in and that you feel comfortable visiting on your own.  For example, are you comfortable traveling in a country that has a different currency?  What about a different language?  Consider these questions before booking.

4.  Research the ports you will be visiting.  My first day in Bermuda, I gave a young couple directions to Tobacco Bay Beach from St. George–I’d just walked there and back myself and was happy to direct them.  The next day I ran into the same couple in Hamilton.  They were looking for the bus station, so I directed them there and even told them which bus number they needed for their destination.  Looking confused, they asked if I come to Bermuda often–and were shocked to hear it was my first visit, too.  I’m just a very OCD planner, I told them–and they laughed.

This advice ties in with #5 as well–you’ll likely have to do this research before you even book the trip.  Things to consider include how far from the attractions you will be docked, what types of shore excursions are offered, how public transportation works if you–like me–choose to skip the shore excursions.  You might even want to know if you are tendered or docked at each port, as tendering can increase the amount of time it takes to disembark–and thus decrease the amount of time you’ll have in each port.  Study the maps before you sail (or during at sea days) so that when you get off the ship, you know where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there.  The old Boy Scout motto–always be prepared–really is advice to live by when you are traveling solo.  Trust me–when you’re the only one in charge of your trip, you will feel 100% more comfortable–and have 100% more fun–if you can confidently navigate the streets, buses, or even metro system of the towns, cities, and villages you will be visiting.

Not all cruise ports are the same. This is me on board in Bermuda...

...and this was me on board in Alaska!


3.  Shop around for a good deal.  The fact is, most cruise lines have very similar itineraries.  The other fact is, most cruise lines charge a single supplement that can be up to 200% of the listed single fare.  This means that a cruise an inside cabin going for $600 will cost you, the solo traveler, $1200.  However, if you are flexible or just plain lucky, you may find a fare that’s more than reasonable.  There are two ways to do this–you can either tirelessly search for a random, unannounced single supplement fare (which is what I did) or you can search for a sailing that’s so well-priced already that you don’t mind paying double (which is what I will be doing in the future.)  Honestly, when you factor in all you get on a cruise–lodging, transportation, food, and entertainment–sometimes it is still cheaper to pay double than to take a land-based trip.  And it is always a better value to travel alone–and pay more–than to travel with a less-than-ideal travel partner!

2. Join the roll call for your sailing on the Cruise Critic Forums.  While I have absolutely no affiliation with Cruise Critic whatsoever, I so appreciate the information provided there that I’m linking the site to this blog.  Beyond finding information on the forums that will help you pick the right itinerary and research your ports of call, Cruise Critic has a board dedicated to roll calls–threads started by people all sailing on the same ship.  So, say you were sailing from NYC to Bermuda on the NCL Gem on October 16th, 2011 (which is what I did.)  You can go on Cruise Critic, find the roll call for that sailing, and meet people before you even board the ship!  I ended up with dinner plans for the first night of the cruise before I even left home–and I ended up sharing most of my meals during the entire cruise with the same lovely ladies.

1. Participate in on-board activities.  Even though I’d cruised once before, I somehow didn’t realize how many daily activities are offered aboard cruise ships (perhaps that’s because that prior cruise was for my honeymoon…ahem…)  Each evening, the next day’s itinerary will be delivered to your stateroom.  Take some time and look over the list.  Mark the things you are interested in doing–and then do them.  Follow this one bit of advice and, I promise, you will not be lonely or bored for one single moment of a cruise, no matter how long the sailing may be.  I was afraid of being bored and lonely on a 7-day cruise; the next cruise I’m looking at is 17 days long!

So–there you have it!  Five easy things you can do to make your first (or fifth…or twentieth…) solo cruise a success!  Of course, I’m sure you may still have some questions or concerns about cruising solo.  And so, in my next post I will address some Frequently Asked Questions about solo cruising.  By the time I’m done flooding the internet with ‘why solo cruising rocks’, cruise ships shall be overflowing with happy, well-informed, well-prepared solo travelers!  That’s my personal version of a plan for world domination!  Muahahaha!

If you have any questions you’d like answered in my next post, please feel free to add them to the comment section below.  I’d love to help answer any and all questions you may have!

Additionally, if you’d like to read more about my solo cruise, check out my guest post on Solo Friendly! 

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