This isn’t your typical cruise.
At this moment, I’m cruising solo onboard Holland America’s Koningsdam in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean en route to Europe. I have a lot of time to observe and reflect. Six consecutive sea days, four ports and three seas day in between can lead to a lot of alone time.
I’m figuring out various ways to fill all this alone-time. I don’t mean loneliness but time spent alone, whether it’s dining, an upcoming shore excursion, a show in the main theater or at the high-energy B.B. King’s Blues Club.
The longer the consecutive sea days, the less chance to meet people.
Face it; it’s a couples’ world, especially on the high seas. Those of us cruising solo see this all the time. On long crossings, people seem to cocoon a bit and stay within their comfort zones. Except for idle or polite elevator greetings, people seem content within the confines of their stateroom-mates or group of friends.
Here are my observations on cruising solo with lots of sea days
This is important if you want to have a chance to meet and get to know people, for other than polite elevator greetings.
There are two important points to remember. One is to confirm your fixed seating dining time early. Keep in mind that these long, 14-day cruises are popular with the over-55 crowd. This is the target market that is used to traditional main dining room with a fixed dining time.
Second point, early seating, usually 5:00pm or 6pm, fills up first. This is usually requested by the oldest demographic, on these longer cruises. If you’d like to meet a more late-night crowd, choose second seating. But reserve as soon as possible.
I was late to book my reservation, so now I’m stuck with open seating. Yes, I spoke with the maître d’ but still no luck for a fixed dinner table at second seating.
There is also the option to “float” tables. Many guests like the idea of new tablemates every night. That also means a new waiter who doesn’t know that you’d like extra veggies or a glass of water without ice. Sounds silly but it’s the little touches that make for a memorable cruise.
Now, I have a standing reservation at a table for one at 7:45pm in the main dining room. Depending upon where it’s located, I might be able to chat with another couple if their table for two is close enough to mine.
Yes, I have specialty restaurant reservations, too. But there’s an even slimmer chance to meet others.
A horrifying experience created an interesting exception. A few years ago, I was at my own table, quietly having dinner at the Todd English restaurant aboard Queen Mary 2. Because of a woman choking to death across the room and the man next to me rushing to perform the Heimlich maneuver and save her life, I wouldn’t have become great friends with Elizabeth and Walter. There are odd circumstances, but usually, at a table for one, you won’t meet anyone.
Go to Trivia
This is a sure-fire way to meet people. You’re generally in teams of six people and it’s common for solo guests to walk around and ask, “May I join you?” to an already small group. Sometimes the cruise director will also help to place you on a team.
With trivia happening at least once a day and in the same location, if you want to meet people, test your knowledge and have a chat, this is where to go.
The Scoop on Shore Excursions
In the past, this is one area in which I’ve met my fellow travelers and remained friends through the rest of the cruise.
Long bus rides to distant landmarks, historic cities or ancient ruins help to bridge the gap. Shore excursions that include a meal also help build camaraderie. It’s almost impossible not to strike up a conversation while you’re rolling along to your destination.
Loyalty programs or suite-only lounge access
Holland America has their Concierge Lounge for only suite passengers. While many cruising solo cannot afford to pay double for a suite, if it is possible, this somewhat quiet lounge is a great place to meet others.
Royal Caribbean and Celebrity probably have the best loyalty programs for their upper tier repeat guests. There’s a happy hour every day from 5-8pm plus a much less well-known continental breakfast buffet. With so many Diamond and Diamond Plus members these days, if you’re lucky enough to find a seat in the lounge, you’ll inevitably begin talking to whoever is crowded in next to you.
Norwegian has their Studio Staterooms for solos only. These are awesome little 100-square foot rooms, as compact as you can imagine. The benefit is that there is a beautiful comtemporary lounge only for studio passengers (though I was told that any solo guest can visit). It’s open 24/7, has a daily Happy Hour ($), group shore excursion options and group events in the lounge. I’m not much of a joiner, but I did stop by on occasion just to check it out.
Solo and single traveler meet ups
This is not among my favorite things to do. But for the sake of accurate reporting, I’ve been known to pop in once per cruise. People are quite sociable and warm…but it’s not my thing. If I happen to make an acquaintance, he or she usually attends all the events on any given day, from mid-morning coffee (Cunard) to afternoon lunch (Holland America) and solos-only dinner (Crystal).
Cruising solo doesn’t have to be a time of loneliness. I enjoy my alone time…it gives me a chance to think about time, reflect on being out here in the middle of nowhere and plan future stories and workflow.
There are socializing opportunities onboard, if I know where they are and want to participate. Whether it’s crossing the Atlantic or Pacific, extended days at sea are special. Make the most of them, no matter what you choose to do.
And with hundreds or thousands of other passengers, you are never alone.