It’s one of the most enduring attractions of taking a cruise, especially for solo travellers. Meeting new people who become life long friends has always been a huge bonus of any holiday on the water.
But the global pandemic and new health protocols are threatening the social life of cruising, causing some to question whether solo cruising will ever be as good again.
Just over 10 per cent of the world’s travellers are singles, so in Australian cruising’s case that could be as many as 130,000 people.
Cruise Passenger reader Mae Mulheran describes herself as an “avid cruiser” who thinks travelling alone is more enjoyable than in company.
She asked: “I have read a number of reports – and seen in your latest copy of Cruise Passenger – a range of health protocols that are being developed by the different cruise lines.
“The two that concern me most as a single traveller are the restrictions on visiting ports (ie by vetted shore excursion only) and a mention I found elsewhere of persons who have booked staying in their “social groups” for dining and movement about the ship.
“I am an avid cruiser who has found that travelling on my own is more enjoyable than with a friend. Part of my enjoyment is mixing with new people and sharing experiences and views with them about what’s on board and what I have seen. It sounds as though this may be quite limited in the future, at least until we get some semblance of control over COVID-19.”
She added that she is now considering cancelling her next cruise with Cunard in December.
“If I have to eat on my own and cannot wander around Hobart (despite there being no impediment to me doing so if I fly there today), the cruise experience would be most depressing. Any advice you can provide would be most welcome.”
Sadly, there is little doubt solo cruising will look very different, given that so much of the experience is based around activities that require close human contact.
From shared rooms to exclusive meet and greets, pre-boarding parties, onshore excursions, ‘social groups’ for dining, sharing meals and experiences, every aspect of what attracts people to solo and single cruising appears to contract COVID safe distancing.
We contacted Cunard, who told us:” Solo travellers are a significant and very welcome part of our guests and we have made provision for their onboard needs to ensure an exceptional cruise experience.
“It would be premature to outline specific arrangements that might apply for solo travellers in a new cruising environment other than to say that their needs will be addressed in terms of the onboard environment within the protocols and procedures that will emerge from the industry’s discussions with government.”
Several other lines we spoke to confirmed that, at this stage at least, they had so many pressing problems singles cruising was yet to be considered.
One enterprising Sydney travel agent has come up with his own solution.
David Lyons, solo and single travel specialist from Horizons Cruise & Travel confirms that solo and single cruising will continue to be offered – but what this will look like, what cabins will be on offer and how many, what activities and the meal arrangements will be still had to be worked out.
While cruises are still on offer to his clients, given the state of the world and the travel industry as a whole, demand for his cruise bookings, including solo and single cruising, has reduced in recent times.
But recognising an opportunity, Mr Lyons is offering activities that achieve the same outcome for solos using his Mirabela Travel Club. The club offers the opportunity to travel locally with like minded singles and couples.