Toying with the idea of setting sail on your own? Consider your age, your budget and — perhaps most important — your goal. Are you looking for romance? Enrichment? Rest and relaxation? Take your pick, then dive in alone.
If you have any illusions that cruising solo is likely to result in a steamy Kate Winslet-Leonardo DiCaprio smooch-fest in the bowels of the ship, let me disabuse you of that fantasy. (Besides, that affair didn’t end well.) I’m not saying it never happens, so please: if you met the love of your life at the buffet, spare me the hate mail.
Here’s why you’re unlikely to find a soul mate on the sun deck: nearly 80 percent of people who take a cruise are married, according to a Cruise Lines International Association market profile. “Virtually no one travels alone,” the study said.
But can you tip the odds in your favor? Yes. If you sign up for a singles cruise.
Still reading? Good. Now let’s manage expectations: joining a singles cruise does not mean the entire ship will be akin to a floating bar rife with prospects. Rather, companies like Singlescruise.com, Vacationstogo.com, Singlestravelintl.com and Singlesatsea.com organize groups of single travelers — often by demographic (like 20s and 30s, and 50s and older) or theme — and then escort them on larger cruises. Tour operators reserve rooms for participants and help match them with roommates if they request one.
The price of a singles cruise usually includes the cruise, a cabin, meals and exclusive group activities that range from the refined (cooking lessons and wine tastings) to the “never-post-photos-of-this-on-Facebook” variety (Jacuzzi parties and 1970s theme dances). If you want a good turnout, try traveling during Halloween. Singlescruise.com says its Halloween Spectacular cruise is its largest (last year more than 600 people attended; this year it’s a weeklong Caribbean cruise on Carnival Liberty, departing from Miami on Oct. 26 with private cabins starting from $1,402.27 and shared cabins from $783.27). But take heed: masks, capes and fangs can make evaluating potential lovers tricky.
The kinds of singles you’ll meet on board will depend in part on the cruise theme: Singles Cruise’s 20s and 30s cruise from Port Canaveral to the Caribbean is likely to have a different atmosphere than Singles Travel International’s Alaska Cruise Adventure earlier this month. So it’s best to call the travel company to ask questions — especially about the projected number of attendees and the male-to-female ratio. After all, while Singlescruise.com tells visitors to “forget online dating,” it’s far harder to jump ship on a ship.
If your goal is not to meet Mr. or Ms. Right but rather to learn Japanese, the piano or how to design a website, you’re in luck.
Crystal Cruises offers free courses on its ships with experts from companies and organizations like Berlitz, the Tai Chi Cultural Center and the Cleveland Clinic. Spanish classes are available on most cruises, and many include language lessons befitting the trip, like Italian on the Amalfi Coast or French on the Riviera. The Society of Wine Educators offers tasting instruction. And a program called Computer University@Sea enables passengers to learn everything from rudimentary computer skills to getting the most out of their iPads to digital photo finishing to website design.