Large ships and long voyages have their own challenges.
If you’re an easily bored solo cruiser, extended sea days without any ports may not be for you.
On the other hand, if your brain needs some forced downtime, gazing at a seemingly endless ocean might be the remedy. Nothing compares to a week or more of sea days when it comes to getting off the grid.
Of course, if you can entertain yourself, like to meet new people and are a joiner, a longer cruise with lots of sea days can be perfect.
Passing the time on those endless sea days
Aboard the Koningsdam on a 14-day crossing to Rome from Fort Lauderdale, we had a total of nine sea days to Rome. That’s a lot of time for a solo cruiser.
I mentioned, “forced downtime.” And it can really be exactly that…forced. Internet at sea has been a thorn in the side for those of us who can’t exactly be entirely off-grid. This crossing, like other cruises in the middle of nowhere, has been no exception.
Internet packages have been a cash cow for cruise lines for a long time. Though prices have been dropping over the last couple of years, unless you’re lucky enough to be on a ship where either the wifi is included (Crystal) or you can purchase an unlimited package (Royal Caribbean), it’s going to cost you.
For example, aboard Holland America’s Koningsdam, a 250-minute package is $100. For 500 minutes, you’ll pay $175. There’s a 1,000 minutes package at $250. Some people might be able to write this off for business, but most of us can’t do it.
Food, dining and being solo
With nowhere to go except up and down stairs, laps around a promenade deck and visits to the gym, it’s a good idea to pace your food consumption at mealtimes and in-between.
Food is plentiful and culinary choices seem astronomical. From burgers and brews to fine dining and premium wines, it’s a daily and truly moveable feast. My food budgeting and calorie-saving comes in the form of cutting back on white potatoes, rice and all that wonderful freshly baked bread. I’ve even gone so far as to ask the waited to remove the aromatic breadbasket, perfunctorily placed on every dining table.
Sea days can make the buffet on any ship a challenge to one’s patience. Holland America turns the serving utensils backwards. Not allowing germy passengers to pass along their colds and worse, is a brilliant effort to avoid norovirus and any crud that could spread. I applaud Holland America for this policy.
Be sure and check the open and close times for dining venues. Depending on your chosen cruise line, when the set mealtime is over, buffets quickly close. Luckily, on my late-to-lunch days, there’s a salad bar, burger bar, pizza and Italian pasta available.
Koningsdam offers 24/7 room service. The only fee you’ll pay is if you order from the specialty restaurants, which is a pretty cool option for in-room dining.
As a solo with no built-in camaraderie, it’s possible to go an entire two weeks with your only conversation being with wait staff, your room attendant and elevator chit-chat. After about 4 days, I start to get a little stir-crazy and venture out to meet people.
There’s Team Trivia (offered here on the Koningsdam three-times a day) where, if you can’t find a group to join, the cruise director will find a team for you.
Line dance classes can be silly fun as well as any tastings, though the latter will usually have a cost to participate. Cooking demonstrations are fun to attend but I’ve not found them to be socially-oriented.
Other activities like lectures, movies, bingo are either couples or solitary events without the chance to meet others. These activities are simply not conducive for socializing with strangers.
These have always been my best way of meeting fellow passengers, especially when the excursion involves a long motor coach ride. The problem is when you’re on a long cruise on a large ship that begins with six to eight sea days before reaching land. Without a port call in the beginning, it’ll be near the end of your cruise before you have the chance for an excursion.
On many transpacific crossings, it’s five or six days at sea until you reach Hawai’i. Cruises to Hawai’i tend to be very convivial and, as a solo, it has been easy to make new friends. If your transatlantic crossing includes a stop in Bermuda, you’re in luck. With nearly a dozen shore excursions from which to choose, there’s bound to be an opportunity to meet and chat with others.
As a solo cruiser on a long voyage with many consecutive sea days, be prepared for a stretch of alone time. So far, by sheer chance, I’ve met two couples that befriended me early on.
One is a young couple that hopped onto this transatlantic at the last minute to begin their six-month European adventure. Up at the Crow’s Nest for sailaway, we started talking simply because she asked if the Bloody Mary is was drinking was good. It was. We became fast friends and have kept in contact almost daily on Instagram.
At the Pinnacle Grill, I met another couple seated nearby and conversation just started…probably about wine. Later we realized we lived only a couple of miles from each other.
Read Next: 43 lessons I’ve learned from traveling solo
There were a few random people for small talk but other than those I mentioned, I’m on my own. I’ve signed up for the horseback riding shore excursion in Malaga, but it looks like it will once again be canceled due to lack of participation. Just like last year.
My best advice when going solo on a long cruise without many port calls is; be prepared. Download to any device whatever you think you might or even might not get to watch or read. It’s impossible to download a movie or a book while at sea or even in port at a wifi café.
Plan on having to entertain yourself. If necessary, force yourself to go to lectures and participatory music events, like Billboard Onboard (here on Koningsdam) with its always-packed sing-along piano bar.
I’ve gone out of my comfort zone several times on this crossing. I’ve tried line dancing once, a happy hour cocktail and repeated visits to trivia where I sit with and get to know the same five people at least one time a day.
After two or three days at sea, you’ll find that you somehow have gotten into the magical rhythm of the ocean and its beauty. Sometimes quiet, other times tempestuous, the ocean breathes its own life at its own pace. I feel privileged to experience being alone out here. Yet at the same time, feeling as small as a cork, bobbing along to my destination at the mercy of nature.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com and self-appointed “expert” on cruises, trains and solo travel. By sharing news and reviews plus my cruise and travel experiences, I hope to entertain, inform and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Be sure to enjoy a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.