For solo travelers, cruises can be tough. I think they offer exactly what I don’t want on a vacation from single supplements to being forced into a strict itinerary to not having the freedom to avoid people. The few times I’ve been on a cruise, I just felt myself getting irritated because I felt like my time was being wasted by the slowest member. Avoiding that is pretty much the point of solo travel so I felt very annoyed since that just isn’t the way I like to travel. However, I understand that cruises are a different way of life and that many swear by them and go on one year after year.
So, how do you take a cruise as a solo traveler? Know going in that options are limited and that the freedom enjoyed as a solo traveler may not be possible on a cruise. Also, know that cruises primarily cater to couples, so the cost is typically higher than doing something else.
Single vs. Solo Cruise
The first thing to understand is the lingo cruise ships use to differentiate their cruises. Singles cruises are for those who aren’t in a relationship but are hoping to find a romantic connection with someone while on a cruise. These cruises cater to that clientele of adults who want to go out of their normal routine and hopefully do something fun outside of frequenting bars in their hometown. That said, singles cruises are obviously meant to be fun and social so there are plenty of activities like speed dating, dancing lessons, and parties planned throughout the trip. This is great if you’re looking for a love connection and a great way to meet people. Now there isn’t a requirement to be looking for a romantic partner on a singles cruise but just know that’s what everyone else is there for.
A solo cruiser is someone who just enjoys traveling solo. This has nothing to do with romantic interests or if you’re even single or married. You can be married and just enjoy traveling solo. The solo cruiser is someone who is looking to enjoy the cruise without any intention of having a connection with anyone (not saying it can’t happen..it’s just isn’t the primary goal).
If you’ve always wanted to go on a cruise as a solo traveler but didn’t want to deal with all the hoopla that comes with a normal cruise, you should strongly consider a repositioning cruise. This is a cruise where the boat is just from Port A to Port B to start another trip. So, for example, a ship might leave Dubai and finish in Singapore 15 days later. These cruises are incredibly cheap because the only thing the cruise line is trying to do is recoup some of their expenses for the movement of the ship. Since most people don’t want to start a cruise at a different port than where they started, the appeal isn’t there. But for solo travelers, this could be a great idea and a fantastic way to get a dirt cheap price on a cruise.
You’ll have to search for repositioning cruises since there isn’t a set list. Remember, the cruise is just going to port to get ready for the next cruise so it’ll basically be a specific time frame when the cruise is occuring. However, it’ll still make port stops along the way and you can have some time to explore the ports at your own pace (until the scheduled time to leave).
Sadly, as with most cruises, a solo traveler is probably going to be paying a single supplement but you may want to check with the individual cruise line. On the less popular repositioning cruises, there may not be a single supplement and I’ve seen it advertised as a “free guests” type of thing.
All this said, if you wanted to find a way to keep overall costs down and you don’t mind being stuck on a boat for an extended period of time, this could be a great idea. If the average cruise price is $200/day, that isn’t too bad. Remember, that includes your transportation, lodging, food, and possibly other expenses like shore excursions or entertainment. If your sole purpose to go on a cruise is to get the cruising experience and go to another part of the world, this actually isn’t too bad of a way to go.
For me, having been on a few cruises, all of shorter lengths of just 1-3 nights, I would strongly recommend taking a shorter cruise. To be honest, I was going stir crazy being stuck on a boat for that long because I knew there were other things I could be doing but instead I was stuck on a boat with nothing to do. For a solo traveler like me who likes to wake up early and get a start on the day, waking up at a “normal” time and waiting for everyone to get ready was just a nightmare.
A few years ago, I remember I was taking just a one night cruise in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam because I wanted to visit it. Instead of just doing the day trip out to the bay, I decided to do the cruise instead. Sure I had to pay the single supplement but I thought it would be worth it since I’d be able to see more of the bay (or so I thought). And it’s true, sure, I saw more the bay than those who came just for the day but that’s about all I can say.
First, the main stops were the save as everyone else on other boats. So you’re basically fighting all these other tourists as they clamor to go to the beach, climb the hill, etc. Then, when we went kayaking around the bay, we couldn’t get started until a group of five ladies decided to make their way to the transfer boat. Everyone else was waiting and ready to go at the specified time but these ladies decided that they were somehow more important than everyone else and held everyone up. Then, throughout the evening, they were complaining that the chef didn’t have specific items. I specifically heard one ask for kimchi (which is a Korean dish) and she felt compelled to complain endlessly about how there wasn’t any kimchi on the boat (again, we’re in Vietnam!). Needless to say, there wasn’t anyone who was happy with them by the end of the trip and I was thankful I only had to deal with them for the night because they drove be bonkers.
Another thing about the cruise was that I felt trapped onboard. Since you’re limited to the activities that are available onboard, there was only so much you could do to keep yourself occupied before being exhausted by the boredom. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine during the day. But that night, there was nothing to really do. So after dinner, some of use mingled around and made small talk but pretty much called it a night around 9pm. All I could wonder was how I could be doing something else but I was stuck on that ship.
I think the beauty of solo travel is that we get to make our own itineraries, our own timeframes, and we get to be selfish in how we spend our time. The few cruises I’ve taken have been fun to a degree. But remember that you will be stuck on that cruise for the duration of the trip. You won’t have the freedom to spend more time at certain port (unless if you don’t mind missing the boat) and you may even be forced to mingle with people you may not other want to interact with, which is counterintuitive to solo travel. But, if you’re thinking about going on a cruise as a solo traveler, definitely keep in mind the duration and the type of cruise you’re willing to take.