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5 Tips for Taking Solo Cruises

Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, MSC, and Virgin Voyages don't always make it easy, but you can take a cruise by yourself.

Whenever you see television ads for cruise lines you either get families having fun together or couples looking vaguely romantic. None of the companies ever show someone sitting by himself at dinner or really anyone doing anything by themselves.

To be fair, an image of me typing on a laptop at an outside table in Central Park on a Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Free Report Oasis-class ship or sipping coffee by myself at one of MSC's stellar coffee shops may not sell a lot of cruises.

Still, all the major cruise lines, including those two as well as Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) - Get Free Report and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Free Report, have many solo passengers onboard. In fact, even Virgin Voyages, an all-adult cruise line that does cater to couples, still attracts lots of people sailing by themselves.

Cruising alone will cost you extra most of the time. There are a few ships with rooms for one person, but in most cases, room prices are based on double occupancy, so a single person pays for two people, but will not pay double fees and port charges.

Once you get past the cost issue, there are some things you should consider as a solo traveler before you get on board. Of course, if you're looking for solitude, some of these tips may actually be things you don't want to do.

The pool deck of Wonder of the Seas. Royal Caribbean Lead

1. Join the Facebook or Cruise Critic Roll Call

Most, but not every sailing of ships from Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, MSC, and Virgin have a roll call either on Facebook or on the Cruise Critic website. Some groups are more active than others, but these are a good way to meet some passengers before you get on board.

In addition, people use these groups to create sailaway gatherings, pub crawls, and casino slot pulls. You can join one of these events and have an easy way to meet people before you sail. And some people will share that they are sailing solo in order to connect with other passengers in the same boat (so to speak).

2. Decide How Social You Want To Be

I'm a pretty outgoing guy and often either already know people on a cruise or make friends early on. That's great for hanging out at the pool or even going on an unplanned excursion with a group that adopts you for a few days. I generally draw the line at dinner and tend to plan meals by myself.

In the main dining room, that may not be an option as some cruise ships only have larger tables. Specialty restaurants, however, will accommodate a person dining alone and you won't be the only person doing that (you may see a mom or dad eating alone while the other parent takes the kids to the buffet or main dining room). 

Broadly, I want to meet people and make friends but some solo cruisers cherish their alone time and aren't seeking other people. You don't have to pick. I'm happy sitting alone in a pub on a Royal Caribbean ship watching the acoustic guitarist play and sometimes I'm eager to find a group to see the comedy shop or spend a day at the beach with. 

3. There Are Solo Cruise Deals

While they are rare, some cruise lines do run promotions where they offer solo cruise deals. This can mean waiving the "singles supplement," the added fee (basically a second fare minus the taxes and port charges) you pay for taking a solo cruise.

MSC has been quietly offering this deal on some of its cruises out of Florida. In other cases, calling the cruise line or having your travel agent ask can sometimes lead to a cruise line being willing to cut you a deal on the price of your solo cruise. 

4. Sign-up for Group Activities

A few months ago on a Virgin Voyages cruise, I did a pub crawl on the opening night. It cost $40 or so, came with four drinks, and served as a bit of a tour of the ship. There were about 35 people participating and a crew member made us interact and get to know each other before handing out our drink tickets.

That event made a number of people on the ship familiar faces while also introducing me to a few people who would become my group for the next few days. The same thing might have happened at cupcake-decorating class on Royal Caribbean, or a mixology demonstration on a Carnival ship (and, yes events that involve a drink or two do seem to make it easier to meet people). 

5. Get all the Perks of Cruising Solo

One of the biggest positives of traveling solo is that you can make every decision based on what you want. I can get a drink package and not have to factor in that most cruise lines require every adult in the same cabin to have the same drink package (which can make the math much harder in some cases).

I can also stay up late or get up early without having to consider whether I am waking someone up. These sound like small things, but in a room that's under 200 square feet, I can't exactly work on my laptop while my wife or son sleeps a few feet away.

Solo travel, for me, is an opportunity to recharge, reset, and maybe make a few friends. I have multiple cruises planned this year and next with groups I met while cruising alone and I have a few booked where some of the fun will be being by myself and directing my own adventure.