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Top 10 Tips for Cruising Single

Fred Olsen Cruise LinesAll Fred Olsen ships offer 40 to 64 solo cabins, perfect for those cruising single

The prospect of sailing the high seas sounds a siren call for the solo traveler – offering an ocean of opportunity to mingle with like-minded travelers in the same boat as you (quite literally!), as well as ample activities and experiences both onboard and in port catered to your specific tastes. While being the captain of your own vacation is enticing indeed, booking a cruise as a single traveler presents plenty of obstacles – like having to pony up for a single supplement or alternatively find a roommate, not to mention figuring out how to make friends on a massive ocean liner. Let these 10 tips for cruising single serve as a compass for finding the best ways to maximize your solo status in the oft coupled-up cruise world. Get started planning your next solo trip with our Tips for Cruising Single slideshow.

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals. Then visit our Cruise News blog for the latest cruise deals, industry news, ship reviews, and advice on finding the perfect voyage to suit your personality.

Book a Ship with Single Cabins

Avoid the dreaded double occupancy demands made by most cruise lines and seek out instead the small smattering of companies that actually cater to travelers who are cruising single. Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) sleek new Norwegian Epic made waves last year with their 128 “Epic Studios,” designed specifically for single occupancy – the line has announced that the cabins proved such a hit that they’ll be more to come on NCL’s next two ship debuts. Royal Caribbean recently joined ranks, with its revamped Radiance of the Seas having just rolled out in June with the line’s first single cabins, though far less impressive than NCL’s attempt, counting only three in number, and windowless at that.

Several smaller cruise lines offer solo cabins, as well, like a duo of U.K.-based cruise lines: P&O Cruises’ Azura launched in 2010 with 18 cabins allotted to solo cruisers, while all of Fred Olsen’s ships have generous offerings for singles, with no less than 40 to 64 dedicated singles cabins and suites per ship. If a single cabin proves too elusive, opt instead for an inside cabin, which regularly offer the cheapest rates on the ship industry-wide, making it a financially viable option even if you do have to begrudgingly fork over 150 to 200 percent of the double occupancy rate to claim it as your own. 

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Elissa Richard

 

Watch for Waivers and Sales on Single Supplements

For solo cruisers, few hurdles feel as discriminatory as the single supplement, a fee many cruise lines impose to recoup the costs of putting just one person in a cabin built for two. The charge can ultimately double the vacation’s price for a solo traveler, turning an otherwise affordable trip into a serious wallet denter. Even worse, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises slap solo passengers more on certain fees, like port charges. Happily, some smaller cruise lines have wizened up, and shrewd travelers can now snap up sans-supplement fares if they’re vigilant and have somewhat flexible schedules.

Across the board, Crystal Cruises is known industry-wide for its easygoing supplements, which start at just 25 percent more (though the highest room categories cost 100 percent more), as is Hurtigruten, a small Norway-based line with the same low supplements of 25 percent more. In 2011, three small cruise lines friendly towards those cruising single discounted or waived the fee entirely. Avalon Waterways, a small-ship cruiser operating in Europe, Asia, Egypt, and the Galapagos, eliminated the fee in 2011 on select European and Black Sea cruises. Silversea, a posh line that provides a butler for each passenger, is charging just 10 to 25 percent more for single supplements on select itineraries through 2011. Uniworld, a boutique river cruise company that sails in Europe, Asia, and Egypt, eliminated the fee on 18 of its itineraries through the end of the year. As with all cruise sales, pay attention to low- and shoulder-season cruises for the best rates.

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Molly Fergus

Use a Roommate Matching Service

Although the relatively small population of solo cruisers has put this practice on the wane, a handful of cruise lines still offer roommate matching services, which pair single travelers looking  to skirt that pesky and often hefty single supplement. The catch, of course, is that you have no idea who you’ll end up bunking with for the duration of the trip. Holland America’s Single Partners program guarantees to match same-sex cabin-mates based on smoking preference only (though smoking cabins will be phased out altogether come January 2012); and Princess Cruises pairs solo travelers on its hosted singles cruises for passengers who book at least 70 days in advance.

Although only a few cruise lines offer this cruising single-friendly service, many specialty agencies are also on hand – with generous guarantees, to boot: Both Singles Travel International (www.singlestravelintl.com) and VacationsToGo.com promise to find you a roommate on hosted singles cruises, or they’ll dole out the cost of the single supplement. If roommate anonymity is too reminiscent of college dorm days, peruse the message boards on CruiseMates.com, which has forums dedicated to finding cabin-mates. Singles Travel International also hosts a closed message board community, open only to cruisers who have booked with the agency. Both options allow passengers to connect before the sail date, save some cash, and still be a tad selective about who they’ll share that tiny porthole with.

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Molly Fergus

Consider a Singles Sailing

A handful of cruising single specialists have stepped in to streamline the process of booking a cruise as a solo traveler. Singles Travel International (www.singlestravelintl.com) offers a variety of group vacations – weekend getaways, adventure trips, weeklong tours – but it also harbors a sizeable cruise section, which organizes bookings of groups of singles on major cruise lines’ already-scheduled trips. Onboard, travelers get access to exclusive perks, such as happy hours, singles-only dinner seatings, and a farewell party. SinglesCruise.com specializes in more traditional, comprehensive singles sailings (cue the Love Boat jokes) on most major cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian are on the 2011–2012 roster) and supplies all the ingredients for a successful sail: pre-boarding meet-and-greets, a 50-50 male-to-female ratio, roommate matching services, onboard singles events, and coordinated shore excursions for the entire group. Even VacationsToGo.com, known for its discounted cruise fares, provides a number of hosted singles cruises aboard larger ships (like the Norwegian Epic, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, and Carnival Splendor) complete with arranged onboard events and a roommate-matching guarantee.

If you’d rather book directly with a cruise line, Princess offers its own in-house version of hosted singles trips – dubbed, naturally, “Love Boat” (after all, it was a Princess ship that starred in the original sitcom). Book a singles package on select voyages (2011 sails include Caribbean, Alaskan, and Panama Canal itineraries), and you’ll enjoy singles dining, organized hosted activities, and private, onboard cocktail parties.

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Molly Fergus

Sign Up for a Themed Cruise

Mingling is made easier with themed cruises. Picture yourself on a cruise ship surrounded by people that have at least one thing in common with you, whether it’s ballroom dancing, cooking, or jazz. You’ll still be privy to all the activities available aboard a regular cruise (like spa treatments, gourmet dinners, and gambling), but additional pursuits related to your theme or special interest will also be available. It’s a win-win.

Some of our favorite themed cruises, departing this year and next, include the fifth annual Capital Jazz SuperCruise on Carnival Valor (October 23–30; sold out; www.capitaljazz.com/supercruise), where a bevy of jazz musicians will rock the boat as it makes its way from Miami to Jamaica, Belize, and Cozumel in Mexico. Silversea’s Culinary Arts Voyage (August 31–September 7; from $4,678; www.silversea.com) sails from Hamburg, Germany, to Southampton, London, and features celebrated Relais & Chateaux chefs, cooking demonstrations, trips to international markets, food and wine pairings, and more. And with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War this year, it’s only fitting that Civil War enthusiasts will be able to visit battle sites and monuments via the Mississippi on American Cruise Lines’ new 140-passenger sternwheeler, the Queen of the Mississippi, when it debuts in 2012. Onboard, passengers will experience era-inspired cuisine and participate in lectures led by Civil War historians (select dates in 2012; from $3,995; www.americancruiselines.com).

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Stephanie Johnnidis

Avoid Getting Lost in the Big-Ship Crowd

You might think that the larger the cruise ship, the more potential there will be to meet other travelers. However, with as many as 5,000-plus passengers, it’s all too easy for travelers to get lost in the mega-ship crowd. On a smaller ship, you’re more likely to run into the same faces again and again, making it easier to find a regular crowd with whom to share activities and meals. Seabourn, for example, has three ships (Pride, Spirit, and Legend) that carry just 208 passengers each. The line’s officers, staff, and entertainers are quick to invite solo cruisers to dinner, but travelers will tell you it doesn’t take long for the other passengers to make singles feel welcome. Similarly, five out of six Silversea ships accommodate fewer than 400 passengers (and three book fewer than 300); the line is known for top-rate service – with a crew-to-cruiser ratio close to one to one – as well as social, sophisticated passengers. Just be warned: Smaller ships and such personalized service often mean bigger price tags.

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Liz Webber

Connect with Other Cruisers Before the Sail Date

Even if you don’t plan to share your cabin with a fellow solo passenger, it’s possible to reach out to other cruisers before you ship out. Start by checking your cruise line’s Facebook page – Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, and others have extensive discussion boards on their respective pages with many travelers adding posts for their ship and departure date (and some include tips for cruising single, too!).

Some cruise-specific travel sites also encourage readers to interact before their sail dates. Readers of CruiseMates.com often post their itineraries in advance to the site’s forums, which also include FAQs for first-time and single cruisers. Cruise Critic’s (www.cruisecritic.com) “Roll Calls” allow passengers to add posts for specific ships and sailings on all the major cruise lines to plan excursions, cocktail events, or meals together. The site even organizes onboard events for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity passengers booked on itineraries of seven nights or longer; sign up ahead of time (and “meet” other confirmed guests) through the Cruise Critic forum, and once you arrive at the ship, the two cruise lines will provide a private room with free snacks and drinks for all confirmed Cruise Critic guests. Obviously, use caution when interacting with people you meet online and don’t give away too many personal details, but you might just come away with a new friend or two to share in your cruise experience!

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Liz Webber

Break Bread with Fellow Cruisers

Although the practice has been dwindling in favor of more flexible dining options, many cruises still require/allow passengers to choose an assigned dinner seating, where you’ll eat with the same people at the same time each night. Most cruises will have two assigned dinner times; opt for the later seating to avoid families with young children if that’s your preference. An assigned seating at a large table can be a great way to meet people, since you’ll see the same faces on a regular basis. However, if you’re not feeling a friendly vibe from your assigned dinner mates on the first night, don’t be afraid to request a table change. You may also want to ask to sit with other solo travelers. Some cruise lines will do this anyway: Carnival, for example, tries to seat single cruisers together for those who opt to eat in the main dining room. On certain evenings on Crystal Cruises’ sailings, the line organizes a “Table for 8” program so that solo travelers can dine together at the ships’ specialty restaurants. Most nights on Seabourn cruises, officers and entertainers ask passengers to dine at their table at dinner, with singles receiving first dibs on invites.

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Liz Webber

Get Involved Onboard

Don’t miss onboard social opportunities like hosted singles cocktail parties (Norwegian Epic even has a dedicated lounge for single travelers) or sing-alongs at the ship’s piano bar, or activities that will hook you up with shipmates who have similar interests and hobbies, like culinary classes or group games (bridge is one popular option). Be sure to advise the cruise director of your solo travel status and they’ll likely offer to help with introductions.

Beyoncé’s single ladies, meanwhile, would be wise to follow this tip for enjoying a cruise solo: The Working Vacation Company (www.theworkingvacation.com) supplies its “gentlemanly host” program to all Fred Olsen cruises, as well as on longer Silversea and Holland America sailings, as a way to let women, single or married, enjoy a dance or two and for solo guests to get acquainted at dinnertime through their hosts. Crystal Cruises offers its own program, with a small group of four to six cultured gentlemen aboard each ship that serve as dancing, dining, and social partners who can entertain single women and (with the consent of their husbands, ideally!) married ones, as well; Cunard provides a similar service on every voyage.

Or, simply opt to embrace your party-of-one status with diversions well-suited to lone travelers: Top options include spa treatments, the gym, trying your luck at the casino, attending a lecture, catching a show, and much more.

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Khiara Ortiz

 

Set Out on Social Shore Excursions

Organized shore excursions offer exciting activities and sightseeing opportunities that are bound to spark a natural camaraderie between cruisers. Cut down on alone time by taking advantage of excursions that are likely to encourage teamwork, from the adventurous (think four-wheeling through the desert in Dubai and then transferring to a camel before a picnic lunch, a Royal Caribbean offering) to the downright unique (like Princess’s wheeled dogsled ride in Jamaica). Let your social, team-spirited nature shine through, and you and your new friends are bound to want to relive the highlights of your outing once you’re back on the ship! If you’d rather not leave your company to chance, consider posting to the onboard message boards that most cruise lines provide and invite fellow passengers with similar interests to join in a private shore excursion with you ahead of time. 

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on cruises, flights, hotels, and more travel deals.

                                                                             — Hannah Warren

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