In recent years, like many older people, I have become a big fan of cruise holidays. This applies especially since my partner Jayne passed away.
Cruises are great for solo travellers, as every day there are different places to see. There are also games and activities on the ship, so you never need be short of something to do.
And most cruise lines make a particular effort to support solo travellers and bring them together, so they have company (if they want it) and don’t feel left out.
Based on my experiences, here are my ten top tips for anyone, single or otherwise, who is considering booking a cruise for the first time…
- Pack at least one smart suit or dress. Most cruises include one or more ‘formal’ nights, and you don’t want to miss out.
- Plan in advance what excursions you would like to take. This information will generally be available online so you can assess trips carefully and decide which would appeal. You can book on the ship as well, but personally I think it’s better to do this in advance when you can peruse all the information carefully and take the time to make up your mind.
- Think carefully about cruising if you think you may be prone to sea-sickness. Once you are on a ship at sea there is no easy way of getting off, and being stuck in your cabin with acute nausea is no fun at all. Cruises on the Med are unlikely to cause this, but cruises on the Atlantic or Pacific (where the sea can be rougher) might. If you’re unsure, start with a short ‘taster’ cruise offered by many of the cruise companies.
- Once you are on board, look out for the daily newsletter. This will be put under your door every night and set out everything you need to know about the ship’s itinerary the next day and all the many entertainments on offer.
- One thing you will have to do early in the cruise is the lifeboat drill. This involves putting on a life-jacket and assembling at your designated muster point. The drills are a necessary evil, so just do as you are told and ask for advice from the crew if you’re unsure. Remember that as soon as all the passengers are assembled and accounted for the drill is over and you can get on with enjoying the cruise, so try not to be the person who holds things up for everybody else!
- One big attraction of cruising (for me) is the range of food on offer, and I especially enjoy the themed buffets. Use common-sense, however, and be wary of eating things such as cheese or seafood that have been left out for a long time.
- You will probably be given a special card to show when you get off and on the ship at its various ports of call. Guard this with your life, as without it you could in theory be denied re-entry to the ship on your return.
- Be wary of all-inclusive cruises where passengers can drink as much as they like. Some people inevitably overdo it and I saw some VERY drunk (stupefied) people on the one such cruise that I went on. The smell of beery breath in the theatre in the evenings was quite unpleasant as well. Obviously if you enjoy drinking heavily you may disregard this, but one such cruise was more than enough for me. And I would think long and hard before taking children or grandchildren on one either.
- Remember that the sun’s rays are reflected off the sea, and in warmer latitudes especially it is very easy to burn. Put on a high-factor sunscreen every day, therefore, and don’t spend too long in direct sunlight. Drink plenty of fluids (non-alcoholic!) as well, to avoid dehydrating.
- Throw yourself into the cruise experience. Keep an open mind and be prepared to try new things such as deck quoits and carpet bowls. These can be a lot of fun, and however bad you are at them, chances are someone else will be even worse! A few people approach these games very seriously and try to win as many as they can, but most just do them for the fun of it. It can also be a great way to meet fellow passengers and make friends.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any comments or queries, as always, do post them below. And likewise, if you have any tips for first-time cruisers of your own, please do share them.