Photos by Judy Colbert
Among the choices one has to consider when taking a cruise—ship size, itinerary, cost, departure date, and length of cruise being the first that come to mind—another one is now included. Do you want to travel solo?
The answer is, increasingly, yes.
Okay, it sounds funny saying you’re alone when there may be a couple of thousand other passengers and crew members.
Just before school was out, I decided I wanted to take a cruise, now. Two ships regularly sail out of the nearby Port of Baltimore, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas (www.royalcaribbean.com) and Carnival’s Pride (www.carnival.com). They have slightly different summer itineraries, heading south to the Bahamas or Bermuda, each with about three at-sea days.
Carnival’s Pride won hands-down. Carnival has the decades-old reputation of being the “fun” ships. Seventy percent of their passengers are under 50. I am beyond that demographic. However, I could book a cabin without paying the single supplement even though I was sleeping single in a double (king) bed, and that sealed the deal. With an increase in solo traveling, more cruise lines are adding single cabins to their inventory.
Late seating was my dinner option (they have early, your time, and late). I can catch the early show and if I like it, I can watch it a second time because there are plenty of places to eat afterwards (including 24-hour room service). Also, most families with young children tend to eat at the early seating or at more casual dining options. The staff finds other solo travelers and are somewhere in your age group for your dinner companions.
As Cruise Director Josh Waitzman told us frequently, the average passenger puts on 1 ½ to 2 pounds a day! His advice is to walk the steps and shun the elevators. Carnival’s portions on served meals are sufficient, but minimal. Also, they offer vegetarian and healthy options. And, they have a “didja” option on the menu (as in, did you ever want to try) that might be cold cherry soup, escargot, frogs legs, or crocodile croquette. Following Josh’s directions, you can have the warm chocolate melting cake with two little scoops of ice cream, try the 24-hour pizza station, or enjoy the soft-serve ice cream and yogurt machines. Total gain, one pound. Yay.
Traveling solo means you’re responsible for your luggage. Yes, they have porters, but if you want to choose self-assist (handling your own luggage) or if you’re flying, you’ll want to remember to keep it light. Dress codes have been eased which means there might be an “elegant” night instead of a “formal” night. Some people still wear a Tuxedo or sequined gowns, but most don’t.
Booking as late as I did, I was surprised to see that less expensive, interior cabins were still available. Except, my “interior” cabin (4105 on the main deck) is an exterior, with a French door. Okay, it had an obstructed view (a lifeboat) and no balcony, but I could open that door and see and hear the world going by. If you’re bringing electronics (phone, CPAP breathing machine, camera, etc.), pack a power cord. For some reason, the cabins still only have one power outlet above the dresser.
Traveling solo brings thoughts ranging from you won’t know anyone to too many people.
A great memory for names and faces must be on the job description for anyone working on the ship who deals with the guests because by the first full day, the room steward and housekeeping staff in my area, the maitre d’ and wait staff, and some of the entertainment staff knew my name. Voila! You’re no longer among strangers. An amazing trait and certainly welcomed. “Did you have a good day, Ms. Colbert?” “What would you like to eat tonight, Ms. Colbert?” “Do you enjoy the show, Ms. Colbert?”
Yep, lots of strangers and always the cluster of teen girls who have become instant BFFs and who seem to move in unison like a school of fish. The little ones are being entertained with their own programs, and there’s always the Serenity deck where the minimum age is 19 and suddenly, you’re among like-minded people.
However, there are lots of quiet places. The library/reading room/computer center was empty almost every time I visited. The chapel next door is almost always empty. Little conversation seating areas dot the public decks and there are always open seats. With 11 bars, there’s always an empty stool or chair. When the showrooms don’t have shows and the doors are open, you can have an entire theater to yourself.
There won’t be anything to do by yourself. Ridiculous. A typical day starts with an 8 am yoga class (fee) and continues until the 11:45 pm adult comedy show (a family-friendly comedy show is earlier). In between there might be a steakhouse cooking or ice carving demonstration, karaoke, a GLBT or Friends of Bill W and Jimmy K gathering, trivia competitions, and the obligatory hairy-chest contest. Those are the organized activities. You can also play shuffleboard, ping pong, read, walk the Lido deck, catch a movie, or go to the fitness center.
Traveling solo means you can eat when and where you want. Sleep in or
greet the sunrise. Go to bed early or greet the sunrise. You don’t have
to hurry because someone’s waiting for you (other than shore
excursions) or waitbecause someone’s dawdling. Take a shore excursion or not. Talk with
someone new who may have insights about the ship or a destination that
you might not have learned if just you and a friend are talking.
So, cruise taken, mind and body are rested and personal batteries are recharged. Success at all levels.
One other advantage to cruising from a port nearby is you’re likely to meet people who live nearby, if you want to. Or, you can be constant shipboard buddies, taking shore excursions together, sharing other experiences and then, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, you can be “ships that pass in the night … only a look and a voice, then darkness again and silence.”