There are three types of solo travellers: singles who want to mingle, introverts who prefer to keep to themselves, and those who are a bit of both.
Cruising is ideal for each of these personalities, as a flexible style of travel that can be adapted to a person’s preferences, mood and energy levels. The program of activities is optional, but solos can meet other people at exercise or dance classes, wine-tasting, cooking demonstrations, trivia and much more. Specific solo events are often held to help connect single or widowed passengers.
To solve the dilemma of dining alone, restaurants range from a casual buffet to a main room, where the maître’d can assign you to a table of other solo travellers. Room service is another option. For socialising, ships have bars where people chat to strangers much more than they do on land, while bigger ships also have casinos, nightclubs and organised sports and games. For solitude, the library, spa or observation deck are lovely, quiet spaces.
River cruises and expeditions on small adventure vessels are largely suitable for sociable solo travellers because it’s easier for everyone to mingle. Dining tables are shared at mealtimes, everyone joins the same daily shore excursions and there’s usually only one bar, all of which combines to create a relaxed sense of camaraderie. Another great idea is to find a theme cruise – such as golf, wine, wellness, rock music, literature or photography – to meet likeminded people.
Best cruise lines for solo travellers:
For an ocean cruise, Cunard, Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line are among the best providers of solo events. Younger people should look into Virgin Voyages, which have wilder parties, entertainment and high-energy fitness classes. Luxury lines that cater to singles include Silversea and Seabourn.
Almost every river and expedition cruise will have other solo guests, particularly if a company reduces or waives the single supplement. Avalon Waterways, Uniworld, Travelmarvel, APT, Scenic, Tauck, Ponant, Aurora Expeditions and Coral Expeditions sometimes have special deals.
As a standard policy, Coral Expeditions offers solo pricing on select cabins on Coral Discoverer, and Avalon Waterways does not charge a supplement on some river cruises in Europe, the Mekong and the Ganges.
Cruise lines with solo cabins include Cunard, Virgin, Norwegian, Oceania and a few Royal Caribbean ships (Ovation, Quantum, Spectrum, Odyssey, Harmony and Symphony of the Seas).
Belle Goldie, owner of iTravel Penrith, is both a celebrated member of the cruise community and an avid solo cruiser.
As someone not afraid to get out and explore the world solo, Goldie feels like solo cruising is a breezier experience than other forms of solo travel.
“I think solo cruising is somewhat easier because you have the structure of having entertainment already included in your cruise fare, so once you get on board, there are lots of activities that centre around solos and singles. And cruising … even if there aren’t many solo travellers on board, the vibe of people generally is that they’re open and friendly.
“It’s not as hard to meet people and mingle with people as it would be say to travel to Fiji and stay in a resort.”
For Goldie the best thing about solo cruising is being able to curate your own days.
“Being solo on a ship means you don’t have to build your day around anyone else, you can be as free and easy as you want. The best thing about cruising solo is not having to run to an agenda, it’s go as you please and do as little or as much as you want.
“You can sit by yourself and enjoy a drink, or if you want to socialise, you can join bingo and trivia. Cruise lines are good at putting activities together that draw people together, meaning the singles and solos can easily interact with other big groups or families.”
Ms Goldie says that many cruise lines put in extra effort to make solo travellers at home.
“They do solo meet and greets on board, some cruise lines offer no single-supplement cruise fares, some cruises have solo cabins. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, has solo cabins, but then they take it one step further and they have solo lounges for people staying in the single studio cabins.”