While Royal Caribbean’s (RCL) – Get Free Report commercials show a mix of families and couples having fun, visiting exotic ports, and enjoying each other’s company, some people actually cruise by themselves. Perhaps showing me eating dinner by myself, having a drink at a lively bar alone, or footage of me walking around in a port by myself doesn’t present the right image for a commercial, but solo cruising is a popular thing.
Cruises attract all different types of solo cruisers, but many of the people I have met who are traveling alone are somewhat like me. They’re often married to someone who either does not like to cruise or can only accompany their partner on some cruises. There are, of course, some single solo cruisers, but the ones I have met tend to be older folks who have lost a partner, rather than younger people traveling alone.
In my case, my wife has no interest in cruising and, even if she did, does not have the flexibility to work from ships in the way that I do. So, with her support, I generally take a 6-7 day cruise every couple of months, sometimes adding a shorter one over a weekend when our schedules make that possible.
Solo cruising does not have to mean cruising alone. Your trip can be as solitary or as social as you choose to make it.
Image source: Daniel Kline/TheStreet
1. How to Make Friends on a Solo Cruise
On most trips where I’m not sailing with friends I’ve made on previous cruises, I generally do want to make some friends — at least casual ones. I’m a very outgoing person, but you don’t have to be as long as you’re willing to put yourself out there a little bit.
Making friends on a ship works a bit like making friends on land, except people are friendlier at sea. If you pick an activity you like, the other people doing whatever that is probably have some things in common with you. That could be attending trivia, taking a cupcake-making class, going to a wine tasting, or many other things.
I’ve made friends all over various Royal Caribbean ships. but most of them have come from meeting people at the pub, which most nights features an acoustic guitarist. On most sailings, the pub (or the piano bar) attracts a small group of regulars who end up becoming social, if not actual friends.
Usually, these smaller venues are fairly intimate with the performer interacting with the crowd, taking requests, and generally creating a welcoming atmosphere.
2. You Don’t Have to Be Social
While I tend to like making new friends (or syncing trips with people I met on other cruises), it’s also okay to just spend a few days with yourself. If you want alone time, it’s easy to keep to yourself. You can now opt for a solo table at the main dining room (MDR) and all specialty restaurants aside from Izumi Hibachi offer tables where you can sit by yourself.
Making friends actually takes effort, so if you want to be by yourself at shows, the pool, or pretty much anywhere else, all you have to do is keep to yourself.
3. Consider Joining a Pre-Cruise Group
Both the Cruise Critic website and Facebook have “roll calls” for most sailings. If you join one, you can meet other solo travelers or find out about gatherings that will happen onboard. Many sailings, for example, have a sailaway gathering where people meet at a bar (usually a pool bar).
On a number of sailings I’ve met people in the Facebook group, attended a sailaway gathering with them, and found a friend or a group for the cruise. One sailaway group I met from a cruise in Sept. 2021 (one of the first ones back) even led to a group of us becoming long-term friends.
You can also learn about slot pulls, bar crawls, and people looking for companionship during a port stop. That might mean sharing a cab to a beach or it could lead to finding new friends. Cruise roll calls are also places to find people who play the same card games as you or to look for people who share other interests.
4. Be Prepared to Pay More (But Also Less)
Cruise ship cabins are sold based on double occupancy. That means that as a solo traveler you will still pay for two people. What you won’t pay, however, is taxes and port fees for two, and any extras you add — drink packages, specialty dining, internet — are sold per person so you won’t pay double.
Royal Caribbean does not offer single cabins on most of its ships and it very rarely offers deals that allow a solo cruiser to sail without paying the full price for double occupancy. On the plus side, while the room cost is double on a per-person basis, you do get double points for sailing solo. That’s a pretty major perk that helps you earn loyalty status faster.