1. Home
  2. Cruise Styles
  3. Singles Cruises
  4. 10 Things Every Solo Cruiser Should Know
10 Things Every Solo Cruiser Should Know (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

10 Things Every Solo Cruiser Should Know

By Ashley Kosciolek
Cruise Critic Editor
Updated September 21, 2017

If you've ever sailed solo, you may already know the perks and pitfalls of traveling unescorted. If you haven't, don't rule out the concept just yet. Lots of people go it alone, and it's not as solitary as you might suspect. Sure, single supplements -- extra fees paid by one person who plans to stay in a cabin built for two -- can be a drawback, but some ships, like Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic and P&O Cruises' Azura, come equipped with solo lounges and special cabins for one.

I recently found myself alone on a sailing, and despite my initial trepidation, I had a wonderful time and discovered lots of pros and cons of sailing solo. Along the way, I laughed, I cried (not really), and then I made a list of the top 10 things I learned.

1. People won't understand.

Prepare for lots of confusion when you tell fellow passengers that you're onboard without a companion. Although most will be polite, they'll still look at you like you're a one-eyed jackalope that's just sprouted wings. Some will even ask you why you're alone, when what they really want to say is "I'm so sorry you're a social leper." Ignore them. While they're arguing with their posse about where they want to go or what they want to do, you won't have to answer to anyone.

2. Solo activities really break the ice.

Check the daily program. On the first couple of days, some lines offer events specifically for those traveling alone. Sometimes they're great; sometimes they stink. Either way, you have nothing to lose by attending. I first checked out a "singles mingle" in one of the lounges, but it seemed dead. The next day, I went to a solo travelers lunch in the main dining room, and I made a couple of friends with whom I'm still in touch -- plus I had people with whom to eat, grab drinks and explore ports.

3. Set-seating dining won't guarantee you tablemates.

One thing that kept me from hyperventilating at the thought of being sans friends onboard was dinner. I figured I'd at least have someone to shoot the bull with during my evening meals. Wrong. I dined alone at a four-top on the first four nights and had to deal with inquisitive looks and pitiful glances. "You're alone?" my waiter asked me the first night, looking slightly confused. I endured the same question from the headwaiter before asking him to check to see if anyone else was supposed to be at my table. He informed me that I was to be dining with a fellow solo traveler who decided not to show. Later in the week, a pair of new friends joined me for the sailing's last two nights, thus saving me from further embarrassment.

4. It's wonderful to have a cabin to yourself.

I left my makeup and various hair products out on the vanity, I took up the entire couch with my mountain o' clothes, and I walked around in my underwear. (O.K., that last part's not true, but I could've done it if I'd felt so compelled.) From deciding what to watch on TV to determining a wakeup time for the following morning, I called the shots.

5. You can totally fly under the radar if that's your goal.

It's easy to assume that those who sail by themselves are looking to meet others, but that's not always true. Some get onboard to escape others. If that's your intention, it's possible -- if not likely -- that you'll go unnoticed. There are usually tons of places to hide, including libraries, Internet cafes and off-the-beaten-path lounges. Passengers are also able to request anytime dining (eat in the dining room whenever and with whomever you want) and tables for one on most lines, which will save you from having to force conversation with people you don't know.

6. Cruising "solo" is different from cruising "single."

One common mistake people make is confusing singles cruising with solo cruising. Those onboard all by their lonesome aren't necessarily looking for love. Some people just enjoy traveling alone and meeting new people. Some may have significant others who weren't able to make the trip. These people are "solos." On the flip side, you can be a "single" cruiser even if you're on the voyage with a group. You can also be a single solo -- or a solo single. (O.K., now I'm just confusing myself.) Any way you look at it, people choose to cruise alone for a variety of reasons. One woman I met onboard had just broken up with her boyfriend the night before and chose to take the trip anyway. (Kudos to her!) Another fellow passenger said he simply woke up one morning and decided to book a trip, but none of his friends could afford to join him.

7. Onboard clubs are solo meccas.

If you want to find the after-hours party, follow the thumping music. I stupidly refused to look at a map, so one hour and two excessively sore feet later, I stumbled into the top-of-ship lounge, which had been converted to a dance club. There were tons of people and great music, and I discovered it was a nice place to sit and have a drink and chat with complete strangers. I even danced with a delightful 70-something gentleman named Maurice ("pronounced 'Morris,'" he told me) who, despite his age, put me to shame with his moves.

8. Onshore clubs are crewmember meccas.

If you're overnighting in a port while cruising by yourself and you plan to use the local club scene to meet others, keep in mind that a lot of crewmembers will have the same idea. So, unless you want to bump and grind with your dining room waiter (which, by the way, is strictly prohibited and could cost him/her a job), head out in port with a group, or stick to the discos onboard.

9. It pays to put yourself out there.

Embarrassment is a great icebreaker. I'm not saying you should go streaking across the pool deck, but entering the belly-flop contest won't hurt your chances of being recognized by fellow passengers throughout your sailing -- especially if you make a big enough splash. Do something you've never done before, particularly if you're shy. Sing karaoke. Join a dance class. Try a surf simulator. Volunteer onstage. Remember: Nobody onboard knows you, and you likely won't see any of your shipmates again (unless you'd like to), so cut loose and have fun.

10. Roll Call forums are awesome.

I may work for Cruise Critic, but I'll be the first to admit that I never used the Roll Calls until I was scheduled to embark on a voyage by myself. I'm a bit shy, so I was worried that my sailing would be oh-so-awkward until a fellow editor suggested checking in with others who would be onboard. On embarkation day, I met some lovely folks in one of the lounges during a meet-up we had planned on the boards. I didn't spend much time with them throughout the cruise, but I did run into them a couple of times in various locations, and I found it nice to see faces I recognized.

Find a Cruise

Popular on Cruise Critic

Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. Fall foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas water sports-lovers (and families) much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
Onboard Credit: How to Get It, Where to Spend It
Free. Money. Are there two more beautiful words in the English language? While money doesn't grow on trees, increasingly it can be found somewhere else -- on the high seas. Call it an incentive, call it a bonus; whatever you want to call it, onboard credit lets you spend more freely with less guilt. You've paid your cruise fare, and now you can splurge on those enticing extras -- Swedish massage, specialty restaurant, an excursion to snorkel among shipwrecks -- without busting your budget. Not many need convincing as to why onboard credit -- money automatically deposited into your onboard account-- rocks, but finding out exactly how to get it and where you can spend it is a bit trickier. We found eight ways to hit the OBC jackpot and offer even more suggestions on how to burn through it, although you probably have your own ideas already.
Cruise Packing 101
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who didn't feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a good idea. Besides incurring the wrath of her male traveling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny closets and bureaus. The now savvy seafarer follows her own packing 101 rule: Thou shalt put into one's suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated storage space without hogging every available nook and cranny for thyself. Following that advice is getting easier these days because, for the most part, cruising has become a much more casual vacation -- even on luxury and traditional lines. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags and imposing extra fees for overweight luggage), it's just plain economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you’re going to wear on a cruise so you don't pack your entire closet. If you're wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you'll need to pack.