How to take a cruise alone. Photo / 123rf
Got no one to cruise with? Here’s how to have a fabulous cruise alone, writes Maggie Wicks
Cruising is a social affair and going on one by yourself – sitting at a bar, or requesting a table for one – can, in the beginning, feel a little intimidating, like arriving at a party by yourself.
But staring out to sea with a cocktail in hand has always seemed so damned romantic to me, so when the opportunity to cruise alone with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, I had to take it.
When I was younger, I travelled by myself always. I spent weeks and even months alone in Southeast Asia, South America, the Middle East and Europe – being alone meant being able to do exactly what I wanted when I wanted to do it. But at 43 years old, I realised I was out of practice. A relationship and having a family meant I hadn’t really been by myself for almost a decade.
As I quickly learned, cruising is a social affair. Guests tend to travel in couples, or family and friends groups – although you’ll certainly meet solo travellers as well. Having spent 12 nights cruising solo, here are my top tips on how to do it.
Arm yourself with the itinerary
On my first night, I woke up at 2am thanks to the killer jetlag. I poked my head out my door and found, posted to my door, the ship newsletter. This included information about the next day’s port, the weather and even a little New Zealand Today newspaper that had been pulled together just for me. But the most crucial information was a thorough rundown of the next day’s onboard itinerary. I was aboard the Seven Seas Splendor, which offers a packed schedule every day, and late into the night.
There was bridge, mah-jong and sports meet-ups (on the games deck, passengers could play paddle tennis, shuffleboard, practise their golf swing or try a bit of putting around the green), a wellness event (free mini facials in the spa), and a lecture on the history of amber (because we are arriving into Lithuania in a few days). In the evening the captain was hosting a welcoming reception at 6pm, followed by pre-dinner cocktails with a pianist accompanying at 7pm, and then dancing in one of the lounges at 7:30, a show at 9pm, and karaoke to finish. Literally something for everyone – or at least, everyone who wants to meet other people and get involved with onboard life.
Join the solo traveller meet ups
Each day there was an invitation for “solo and sociable travellers” to meet for an evening drink, with an option to continue on to dinner together. The first time I joined this group, I felt exceptionally nervous. But I soon discovered a lovely group from across the world – some travelling alone, and others looking to meet people outside of their own travelling companions – who were welcoming and interesting, and happy for me to come and go as I fancied. The meet-ups were hosted by the ship’s social hostess, Annabel (whose glamorous evening attire served as a reminder of the ship’s fancier dress code as the sun goes down).
As the trip went on, this daily optional meet-up became an important touchstone – the opportunity to have some company when I wanted it – whether it was someone to chat to at dinner, or a group to attend a show with – but also to slip away whenever I fancied.
Need some low-stakes company? Take a seat at the bar
The ship’s staff are truly international – I met people from Montenegro, Malaysia, the Philippines, the UK, the US and France – and fabulous. Everyone is up for a chat – but they’re also well-trained in reading the room if you’d rather bury your head in a book.
Use the shared spaces
There were so many great spots on the Splendor to enjoy my book or a drink, or just take in the view. Grab an armchair in the library, which is a naturally quiet space, or at one of the (many) bars. Sit by the pool, or find a window seat in one of the ship’s lounges. Or order a cocktail and settle in at the theatre. These spaces are yours to be used – and it’s easy to find a spot to be alone or to invite conversation.
Power up to be sociable, but be ready to say no
When you travel alone in such a social environment, you will be interesting to other people (and I found my New Zealand accent made me stand out). This is great if you’re looking for company, and less so if you do feel like spending some time alone. Kind strangers will invite you to join them, so I suggest getting ready for this. Like many sociable but introverted people (I believe “ambivert” is the new terminology), I love spending time with people, and then I need a little downtime to re-energise. Don’t be afraid to stay in your cabin for a bit. There are plenty of films and docos to watch, and the room service menu is fabulous. And if you do want to get out and about, but not with company, don’t be afraid to offer a gracious, ‘Thank you so much for the invitation but I’m happy dining alone tonight.’