Cruising for solos

Jane Archer / 30 August 2016

Singles holidays can be daunting, especially if you'll be cruising as a solo. Cruise writer Jane Archer dispels some of the myths surrounding solo cruising.

Going on holiday on your own can be daunting. How will you meet people? Will there be anyone else on their own to buddy up with over dinner or will you spend your meals in the company of a well-thumbed  book?

Well it’s time to stop asking questions and book a cruise.

Pick the right cruise line – and that means one with plenty of single cabins so you can be sure there will be other people travelling alone - and you’ll have the best holiday ever.

Indeed many spouses choose to cruise alone, either because their partner is nervous about taking a holiday at sea or has other interests, because they know they will have a wonderful time.

A cruise holiday holds many attractions. You’ll sail in comfort and style while being looked after by a hard-working and professional crew. Each morning you’ll wake in a new destination without the hassle of repacking suitcases or hanging around at airports.

Importantly for singletons, it is an easy way to meet people, either on group tours ashore, over a colourful cocktail in the bar or while lingering over delicious lunches and dinners.

In fact, it is not unusual for people travelling alone to make such firm friends on their cruise that they book the next one together.

Often there are singles parties so those travelling alone get to know each other; come evening, many cruise lines have gentleman hosts so solo travellers will have a partner if they want to dance the night away.

Saga leads the way

When it comes to cruise holidays for solo travellers, Saga stands head and shoulders ahead of the pack. It’s why they have been awarded the Best Large Singles Holiday Company at the respected British Travel Awards for three years in a row.

Around one-fifth of all the cabins on its two ocean-going cruise ships, Saga Sapphire and Saga Pearl II, are for singles, so there is a big choice of accommodation (top tip: book early as they are always snapped up fast!).

Related: Cruising solo with Saga.

There's so much included

These cabins were added during recent refits and are wonderfully spacious. For those who want a special treat, there are even a few single suites on each vessel.

Whichever category you choose you’ll enjoy all comforts of home, from flat-screen TVs and DVDs to mini-fridges and dressing tables, but a few extra treats as well. There is complimentary 24-hour room service, and a room steward to keep the room looking ship shape and perform a nightly turn-down service.

The hardware is just one part of the attraction, of course. Life on board is equally important and again Saga comes out tops. Sea days are packed with activities, from informative lectures and fun quizzes to dance classes and classical concerts.

Everyone is welcome to join in but if you prefer some me-time, there are plenty of comfy spots around the ships where you can read (books can be borrowed for free from the library), relax or tap into the internet and keep in touch with the family.

It won’t cost a penny as wifi is free on Saga ships. In fact so much is included in the cruise fare, you hardly have to put your hand in your pocket at all once you’re on holiday.

Chauffeur transfers from your home to the departure port (or car parking for those who prefer to drive), wine with lunch and dinner, gratuities, even travel insurance or visas if needed. All are included.

Related: Find out what’s included on a Saga cruise.

Activities for everyone

There are also plenty of activities especially for solo travellers. An ice-breaking Singles Mingle drinks party early on in the cruise is a great way for those travelling alone to get to know each other. There is also a special Singles Luncheon where soloists can mix and mingle over a delicious meal.

Not that you need a specially-organised dinner to make new friends on Saga’s ships. Both have an open-seating in the restaurant, which is a great way to meet different people every night.

Just turn up when you are ready and the maître d’ will seat you on an available table. Of course if you would like to sit with new friends, just ask and that can be easily arranged.

Saga is equally singles-friendly when it comes time to explore ashore. There are guided excursions at each port but if you prefer to do your own thing and would like some company, pop along to the singles meet-up and see if anyone wants to join you.

The best of the rest

Cruise lines including Norwegian Cruise Line, Cruise and Maritime Voyages and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines have all cottoned on that a holiday at sea is great for solo travellers

The good news is that these companies are now on sale through Cruise World, a special division of Saga, so even if you choose to cruise with a different line you can still enjoy Saga’s renowned service, great prices and all sorts of perks.

Related: Experience the perks of a Saga cruise while sailing with a different cruise line.

Just as when you book one of Saga’s own cruises, Cruise World prices include a chauffeur to take you from your home to the airport or departure port, as well as travel insurance and visas where necessary. Moreover, a Saga representative will be on the cruise with you to make sure all goes swimmingly.

If a big ship appeals, consider Norwegian Cruise Line. It operates some of the world’s most modern ships in exciting destinations such as the Caribbean, Baltic, Norwegian Fjords and even Asia.

Its ships are packed with numerous restaurants serving everything from French cuisine to Japanese Teppanyaki and succulent steaks. Many of these cost extra but Saga also offers special dining packages to help you budget.

Best of all for those travelling alone, four NCL ships (Norwegian Epic, Breakaway, Getaway and Escape) have Studio cabins for solo travellers that have no supplement. The rooms are en-suite and come with exclusive access to a lounge where you can hook up with others cruising on their own.

Don’t want to fly? 

Fred Olsen and CMV both offer British-style cruises from ports all around the UK.

Fred Olsen has a large selection of single cabins across its fleet of four ships, Black Watch, Balmoral, Boudicca and Braemar, all with a low supplement. Inside rooms with no window are kind on the budget, or splash out on one of the single balcony suites.

CMV ships don’t have single cabins but the company has set aside 150 twin rooms on Magellan exclusively for solo passengers that have a low 25% supplement. It will be offering the same deal when Columbus, a former P&O Cruises’ ship, joins its fleet in June 2017.

Life on the rivers

A river cruise is a wonderfully relaxing way to travel, meandering along Europe’s waterways, enjoying the views along the river bank, stopping every day to explore historical towns and cities, imbibe the local wine or taste the specialities of the region.

Vienna, Budapest, Paris, Amsterdam Strasbourg, Cologne, Moscow, St Petersburg. The list of places you can visit on a river cruise reads like a who’s who of the world’s most sought-after cities.

You can see world-class art collections in the Louvre and Hermitage, visit opulent palaces in Vienna, learn about the lives of Mozart and Beethoven on trips to Salzburg and Bonn, tour cities and towns that once were trapped behind the Iron Curtain, sail through picturesque gorges, past verdant vineyards and fairy-tale castles.

Small and friendly

With room for an average 100-150 passengers, river cruise vessels are small and friendly, and ideal for those travelling alone. There are guided tours ashore at all the places you visit, some of them included in the price, but of course you can always explore alone or join the locals people-watching in a traditional coffee shop. Vessels mostly tie up in the centre of town so it is very easy to do your own thing.

Saga is also top of the picks when it comes to river cruising, offering a host of exciting itineraries on the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Rhône and Elbe, a river that links the vibrant capitals of Berlin and Prague.

Related: Take a look at Saga’s extensive range of river cruises.

Exclusively for like-minded passengers

Several of Saga's Rhine and Danube cruises are on its exclusively-chartered vessels that are reserved for those aged 50 and over so you can always be sure of making like-minded friends.

Solo travellers are of course welcome on all its departures, but Saga has lately gone that extra mile for those who are alone and launched a selection of cruises exclusively for single passengers.

Choose one of these and you’ll get a twin room with no supplement to pay and be accompanied not only by an experienced Saga cruise director but also a solos host.

There are two singles-only Autumn Colours of the Rhine cruises departing in October 2016 and again in 2017, as well as voyages on the Rhine in March and June next year, and on the Douro in Northern Portugal in November 2017.

But you’ll need to book fast because word is out and they are selling like hot cakes!

Related: Find out more information about Saga's solo travel options.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.