Q: I want to go on a cruise because I like the idea of seeing several places but unpacking only once. I am hesitating because I will be traveling alone. Will I feel like the odd one out?
A: If you choose wisely, you should fit right in. According to Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of CruiseCritic.com, "Cruise travel traditionally has been a haven for people who travel alone because the very nature of this niche -- with its dining traditions and activities, from bar scenes (sedate or otherwise) to shore excursions -- encourage a community rapport." Brown has seen a twist on the tradition with a new trend: cruise lines "courting a younger, hipper single traveler. Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic is the first to offer not just single cabins but also a bar and lounge just for its residents. The vibe, though, is definitely young, so it's important that solo travelers research their trips very carefully."
Brown offers these tips:
Look for ships with well under 2,000 passengers. "They're more conducive to meeting others than are big ships."
Go with a cruise line that is geared to singles. "Gentleman hosts are staples on lines such as Crystal, Holland America and Cunard." These guests of the cruise line are on hand to dance with single ladies. "Try a line [such as the above three] that offers set-seating options at dinner -- which means you're assigned a table and tablemates. It's an easy icebreaker."
Participate in activities that help you meet others. Take ship-sponsored shore excursions. Brown says there's often a "meet and mingle" party for the group.
"Theme cruises are another great way to travel alone without feeling alone," according to Brown, "It gives you a common interest with others onboard." You can also opt for "a destination-intense, enrichment-focused voyage; lines like Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery do a great job here." These cruises are usually geared to the region in which you're cruising and focus on subjects such as ornithology, gardening or wine and food. "You're essentially 'in school' learning when you're not on shore exploring, and that's a great bonding experience."