Yes, people cruise by themselves for a number of reasons. Many widows and widowers set sail on their own, as do cruisers whose friends don't have the money or vacation time to tag along. Other travelers simply want some "me" time.
One key distinction that's important to make is the difference between solo cruises (vacations you take alone) and singles cruises (cruises you take with the hope of meeting a potential partner). For the purposes of this article, we'll be referring to the broader category of solo cruises, which can include singles cruises.
You won't be forced to share a room, but because standard cabins are designed for a minimum of two people, you will have to pay more to cruise by yourself to offset the cost of the unoccupied space. That means you'll likely end up shelling out what's known as a single supplement, which could be as much as 100 percent of the cruise fare you're already paying. In other words, you'd pay double the rate of a passenger who is sharing a cabin.
However, as the number of solo travelers increases, so does the cry for accommodations that address the single supplement plight. The good news is that cruise lines have been listening, and many newer ships, and some retro-fitted older ships, have cabins specifically designed for one person.
These include select ships in the Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Costa, P&O Cruises, Fred. Olsen, Celebrity and Holland America fleets. They all come with no supplement for solo cruisers, and they sometimes incorporate access to special solo lounges with activities for anyone occupying a solo cabin.
If you'd rather share a cabin with someone (or your ship does not offer solo rooms), certain travel companies (such as SinglesCruise.com) and cruise lines (such as Quark Expeditions) offer roommate-matching services, which can pair you up with other solo cruisers of the same gender, so you can share accommodation costs.
Keep in mind, too, that cruise lines have age restrictions that prevent young travelers from staying in cabins alone. Most mainstream cruise lines dictate that passengers must be at least 21 years old to book their own rooms. So, if you're between the ages of 18 and 20, check your cruise line's age policy before making any solo cruising plans.
Yes. Certain cruise lines -- particularly river lines like Uniworld -- and travel agents offer deals for solo cruisers in the way of reduced single supplements or discounts on solo cabins. A knowledgeable travel agent can help you find affordable solo cruises.
Full charters for solo cruisers are virtually nonexistent, but there are travel agents who specialize in bookings for those traveling alone. They can match you up with a potential roommate, book you in your own cabin to travel with a group of others who are cruising solo and even assist in setting up shore excursions with others who are sailing without travel companions.
Yes, you can either book a sailing on your own with the hope of meeting your future soulmate, or you can book with a travel agent who specializes in group cruises for singles. You'll probably have more luck with the latter method, as you'll definitely be sailing with others who are also single. If you choose to join a group, you'll also have access to social activities and shore tours organized by the travel agent, which will alleviate any worries you might have about mingling.
As with most cruising, it depends on your preferences. River cruise lines and luxury lines like Silversea and Seabourn offer reduced singles supplements frequently and the small sizes of the ships lend themselves well to singles hoping to socialize with the same group of people throughout the cruise. They are also more likely to offer dance hosts onboard to act as dance partners for singles.
Larger mainstream ships have more single cabins that eliminate the supplement and are large enough to satisfy solos looking to get lost in the crowd of cruisers.
Many lines organize meetups specifically for solo cruisers on the first or second day of each sailing. Check your daily program for details or ask at the guest services desk.
Additionally, you'll want to gravitate toward activities where you and your fellow cruisers can cut loose, act silly and use teamwork to form bonds; anything that requires you to participate is key. Try trivia and karaoke at the bar, gameshows and dance lessons in the theater, and hairy legs/chest contests by the pool. Shore excursions are also a great way to meet people with similar interests.
Finally, solo cruisers have their very own forum on the Cruise Critic message boards, where they can chat with other solo cruisers. Cruise Critic's Roll Calls are also a great way to meet others who will be on your specific sailing. Through the Roll Calls, you can chat with others before you embark and make plans to share shore excursions or gather face to face during an onboard meetup of Cruise Critic members.
If you'd prefer not to dine alone, make sure to select traditional set-seating dining on your sailing, which will give you a specific dining time in the main dining room each night and assign you the same tablemates daily. Depending on how many other solo cruisers are on your sailing, it's quite possible your maitre d' will automatically seat you with others who are onboard alone. If you find that your tablemates are repeatedly no-shows, alert the maitre d', who can make other arrangements for you.
If you'd rather show up for dinner whenever you'd like, choose the flexible dining option but request to be seated at large tables with other people, so you can meet more of your fellow cruisers.
You'll only be as lonely as you allow yourself to be. While many people cruise in couples or groups, cruisers also love to make friends with their shipmates and hang out with folks not in their travel party. In addition to the activities mentioned above, you're always welcome to strike up a conversation with the person on the next deck chair or in line at guest services. The more you make the effort, the more fun you'll have interacting with people.
And remember, being alone does not have to be lonely. Enjoy the solace of a private balcony, eat a meal lost in your own thoughts, and explore in port on your own terms. You don't have to interact with your shipmates to have a great time on a cruise.
The What to Expect on a Cruise series, written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, is a resource guide, where we answer the most common questions about cruise ship life -- including cruise food, cabins, drinks and onboard fun -- as well as money matters before and during your cruise and visiting ports of call on your cruise.