What Would You Do? Beating Shyness, as a Solo Cruiser

August 15, 2013 | By | 23 Comments

On a recent cruise with a shipload of honeymooners and couples (and a few families, like mine), I observed a rather grumpy old French man in the cabin next to mine. I thought nothing of his situation as we exchanged nods in the corridor.
But then I saw him eating dinner alone one night, in a dining room packed with noisy, laughing people, looking rather sad and dejected, exuding loneliness. Did I go and invite him to join us?

No dear reader, I did not, but it struck me that for all the hype about the adventure of a single life at sea, maybe solo cruising isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Perhaps I ought to rephrase that.
Maybe solo cruising on the wrong ship – if you’re not particularly happy in your own company – isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some people like dining alone and are comfortable spending all day alone; others go on cruises specifically to make new friends and will happily chat to anybody.
But it’s hard; we’re not all gregarious, after all. The singles’ mingles offered by big ships are more often than not pretty dire. And while I have met some wonderful people while I was cruising alone, they’re usually couples and however welcoming they may be, nobody wants to feel like a gatecrasher for a whole week.
So what’s the formula for happy solo cruising if you’re not the world’s biggest extrovert?
My personal choice would be a cruise on a smallish ship with all the excursions included; when you’re touring around together by day, it’s much easier to break the ice, chat to different people and feel you’re not alone.
I’ve had fantastic solo cruises on Orion, Noble Caledonia and Un-Cruise Adventures with this formula and on all three, the open seating dining at big tables made the evenings fun, too.
A big ship with thousands of people, some of whom you’ll never see more than once, can be the loneliest place in the world, although a really single-friendly vessel like Norwegian Epic or Breakaway, with an area of single cabins and a dedicated lounge, might work for younger cruisers.
If you do prefer a big ship, get a flying start with the saviour of the solo cruiser – the Cruise Critic message boards, which provide a chance to hook up with fellow cruisers before you leave through our Roll Calls and to chat to other single travelers.
Sign up for the roll call for your cruise, join forces with fellow travelers looking to make up a group for independent excursions and don’t be afraid to voice your anxieties.
As a case in point, check out the wonderful thread started this week by member Hal_9000, about to embark on his first solo cruise and nervous as hell; the advice from fellow members who have taken the solo plunge is positively heartwarming.
Do you have any advice for a shy single cruiser? How do you make friends on cruises? Give us your tips in the comments.
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    23 Responses to “What Would You Do? Beating Shyness, as a Solo Cruiser”

    1. Rhonda
      August 15th, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

      I recently cruised by myself..my husband hates the sun, and my Best Friend who I cruise with each year had a conflict…I needed a vacation and decided to go anyway! Made friends with people on the Cruise Critic Board, asked for a large table, and became friends with couples.. The only time I was really ever alone was in my cabin.

      I loved every minute of it.. Could go to dinner or not, see the shows or not… I would not hesitate to do it again!!

    2. Jay rosen
      August 15th, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

      If I remember right, on our last cruise with holland , they had a few evening mixers for people traveling alone.

    3. Jean
      August 15th, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

      I’ve cruised with friends mostly but the one that I took alone (cabin mate had to bail at the last minute) was an eye-opener.

      I only did one excursion – to Tabyana Beach in Roatan – and avoided the dining room. BUT, I found a comfortable seat at the pool bar & made friends with a couple of the bartenders. Early in the cruise one of them suggested that I hit the hot tub for the evening movie. I was loathe to intrude on the two couples already their but my wise barkeep told me to go & have fun. Needless to say, those two couples (sisters & their husbands) are now like family to me. We just met up for another cruise this spring! It’s the only time I’ve made new friends on a cruise since I’m usually busy with the ones who came with me.

    4. sherry
      August 15th, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

      on a recent cruise my cousin & I took, there was a young man cruising by himself,& lost his luggage & I am here to tell you , he had more fun than anyone on the ship !!!! after seeing this, I would have no problem cruising along

    5. Bud K
      August 15th, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

      I love cruising and would cruise many times a year if it was not for the cost of travelling alone at twice the cost of a normal cruise it’s not worth it, I understand why but it still sucks!

    6. Gary
      August 15th, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

      I absolutely love cruising alone…love the freedom, never feel lonely or alone. Four already and a fifth in February. My one time with others was somewhat “higher maintenance” than I have grown used to, but I would not rule it out.

    7. lee laurino
      August 15th, 2013 @ 5:29 pm

      I have only solo cruised a number of time and all of them for 3 or more weeks… often to reach Italy for my 6 week writing adventure each year.

      i have SO MANY opinions i started a blog for solo mature travel….. i have no problem traveling solo it is the OTHER ark (2 by 2) people who do.
      I am NOT SAD or SINGLE, i am SOLO….
      the dining room has been the ONLY problem on every cruise, often forcing me to each less quality food in the buffet.
      however, in May Holland Americans staff made every effort to accommodate my wishes for a private table…. on the Queen Mary, on formal night it was easier to eat on my balcony, why do people stare??? if the lighting was better during dinner I could write about THEM AND ALL THE fights they have during the weeks at sea.

      go solo, explore yourself

    8. Marcia
      August 15th, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

      I love cruising, but don’t always have someone to go with me. Sign up with one of the companies that offers ‘hosted’ singles cruises. They are a great place to make new friends for that cruise and you will cruise with again later. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not ‘hook-up’ cruises, they are for people of all ages who want to travel but have to do it solo for whatever reason. I’ve done 11 of them and have 4 more scheduled. Best thing I ever did.

    9. Pat
      August 15th, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

      River Cruises are great for solo travel! Smaller ships and fewer passengers make meeting new people much easier. I have done several River Cruise solo and have made many new friends. I highly recommend it! Oh, most companies waive the single supplement on selected cruises too!

    10. Ross in Dayton
      August 15th, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

      I took my first cruise on the S/S Norway in 1984 when I was 19yrs and it was great and I’ve been cruising solo and with friends every since. There used to be a company called SingleWorld Cruises that offered single travelers cruises in groups of 15-40. This was a great way to meet others while traveling or you could also not socialize and be alone. It was just a cheaper alternative to cruising with discounts for singles I did 3 SingleWorld cruises in all and now I cruise yearly with friends. I sill would cruise alone if I couldn’t find anyone to cruise with.

    11. Diane
      August 15th, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

      I cruise alone since the death of my husband two years ago. I was a bit apprehensive at first but signed up for the roll calls and met many people at the meet and mingle. Also established a friendship with the dining room matre d who made sure I always had a large table and lots of people to talk to. If you have an outgoing personality, you will be fine. I love, love, love traveling alone.

    12. Penny J
      August 15th, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

      Bud K, I agree with you about the pricing. I went on cruise and got a balcony cabin, just for me. It was a splurge for sure and one I won’t be able to do again. Besides with all the smokers on the balconies it forces a non smoker inside, so I might as well have gotten an inside cabin, although I did love being able to look out in the morning. I disagee with the writer of the article. I don’t think it’s safe to annouce on any website that you are cruising alone and are looking to meet people. I was traveling with friends who had their own cabin and I never told anyone I was in a cabin alone. I think traveling totally solo is ok if you don’t mind being alone and doing things alone. It’s really up to the who you are and what you want out of your vacation.

    13. Maureeen
      August 15th, 2013 @ 8:06 pm

      I cruise mostly solo. I retired young and everyone is still working. Carnival is a great cruise line for solo’s, there is always something going on. They try to seat you at dinner with other solo’s. You have to be willing to step up to the plate. As far as the Epic and solo rooms I was not impressed, they seat you by yourself at dinner etc.. I try to go every year for Super Bowl, there’s always something going onboard. This year I am also considering the CMT cruise it sounds like a hoot.

    14. David Templar
      August 15th, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

      I totally agree I prefer the smaller ships too been cruising since 1994 made a few friends but most never keep in in contact some lines don’t help charging 200% for a singe

    15. Tracy Antonioli
      August 15th, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

      I’ve cruised by myself three times now and absolutely loved it (and wrote about it on my site several times as well). I’ve made actual life-long friends (who I first met here on Cruise Critic). It can be a fabulous way to travel solo, and I’d do it on a small ship, on a large ship, on a mid-sized ship…on a ferry, a dinghy, or a canoe!

      I do think it odd that this article on solo cruising is written by someone who hasn’t cruised solo. Perhaps ask for a first hand perspective? (cough me cough cough).

    16. Cathy M
      August 15th, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

      Most of my friends are married and it’s difficult to find someone who can travel at the same time I want to (I avoid school breaks) — so I have taken several cruises solo. NCL’s new solo studios are a perfect solution (I just wish they offered a solo balcony). On my Epic cruise, I met so many people on CruiseCritic that the Solo Lounge gatherings were almost unnecessary. I had company whenever I desired it for meals, etc. I like to spend time reading on my cruises, and it’s nice to know that I can set my own schedule. It’s very freeing and relaxing (and who’s lonely, I’m around people all day at work)!

    17. scott bricker
      August 16th, 2013 @ 12:59 am

      There is nothing wrong with getting out there on your own to do whatever you want on your own. If you want to meet or talk to people, then you will. Don’t invite yourself to dinner with people unless asked. Only negative thing about going alone is for dinners. Yes you meet people when you dine, but you meet different people and have to explain yourself all over again and again on what you do for a living and why your going solo. But it’s still worth it.

    18. Sue O
      August 16th, 2013 @ 4:45 am

      I love cruising and have cruised solo several times on RCL, Celebrity and will soon be doing the same on board Carnival. I always get to know my fellow cruisers on cruise critic and that really helps. I ask to be on a table seating at least 6-8. I also love trivia and being asked to join a team has led to some lasting friendships.

    19. Marian Conner
      August 16th, 2013 @ 7:34 am

      I generally cruise alone and love every minute of it. I always request a large table and have met really fun people. Also, I load my Nook reader and have a chance to catch up on my reading. Having time alone is really refreshing. The only drawback is the price solo cruisers have to pay.

    20. grace
      August 16th, 2013 @ 10:27 am

      I usually cruise solo and I love it. I get to do what I want and when I want. I download a lot of books on my IPad. I go to lectures, art auctions, and other things. I have never had a problem going solo. I do find that most people, who are traveling with someone, are in awe that I cruise solo. I get asked a lot of questions and I sometimes think that they are the ones that are jealous of me. The great thing about cruising solo is that I get to go “out” after dinner and see shows…something I don’t do at home. Thankfully Princess credits solo cruisers with 2 trips instead of 1.

    21. Jen
      August 18th, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

      I went on my first cruise & it was solo on NCL breakaway the first week in August. Stayed in the studios. My advice, if you are a shy person be prepared to get out of that mindset quickly or you won’t have a good time. Go to the solo cruisers meet and great day one and join roll calls for your cruise prior to departure. I made 2 friends that I spent the majority of the cruise with, though I did branch out and meet other solo travellers too! I meet a bunch of women and men that when I told them I was solo, they were envious! They were sick of their significant other!

    22. marie hebden
      August 21st, 2013 @ 11:48 am

      I have travelled with P&O for the last few years as a female solo passenger and have loved every minute. P&O staff are excellent and a daily solo club meeting takes place either in the morning where coffee is provided or at afternoon tea. Members of staff attend and are on hand to answer any questions and to introduce newcomers to the group.It is a great way to meet other solo passengers and I have found that the solo table is the noisiest in the dining room because we always end up having a good laugh.

    23. Shep Willner
      August 22nd, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

      I’ve been a solo cruiser for many of the cruises I’ve taken for the past 30+ years of sailing on cruise liners. I’ve made friends with the folks at the dinner table, with folks I meet on shore excursions, and with folks I meet ashore on private islands. The author should stop viewing us solo cruises as a sad bunch: Really, the guy in the photo above eating lunch or dinner is sad? He’s got a smile on his face, telling me that he’s enjoying his meal. One reason I cruise solo is that I don’t have to consult a significant other about what shore excursion to take, what meeting time and place to rendezvous, and what activities to participate in aboard ship. In addition, when I’m having fun gambling at the ship’s casino, there’s nobody tugging at my elbow nagging me it’s time to hit the sack, go to dinner, or do something else, like shopping for jewelry (yeah, I’m a guy!). Fellow solo travelers: let’s enjoy ourselves and raise a glass to salute our single status!

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