Passengers on certain Cunard Line voyages can star gaze and learn about constellations with the Royal Astronomical Society, while guests on Seabourn can attend talks by diplomats, art scholars and maritime historians.
Another suggestion if you’re going solo and looking to meet or volunteer with the locals: think small. River cruise companies are appealing to solo travelers who want a lot of interaction on board with the crew and with the people they meet at the smaller ports and towns the ships visit.
Grand Circle Cruise Line, which has ships that carry 50 to 164 passengers, says that about 25 percent of the people who book its cruises are solo travelers. Most are baby boomers. The ships’ small groups allow for activities everyone can join in on. For example, Priscilla O’Reilly, a spokeswoman for Grand Circle, said that in India, passengers have the opportunity to meet and sing songs with teachers and students in the rural area of Ramsinghpura. “On all of our trips, travelers share meals or snacks in the homes of local families and get to find out what life is like in a community,” she said in an email message.
And don’t forget theme cruises, which are yet another way for solo travelers to immerse themselves in a favorite subject and meet like-minded passengers.
The major cruise lines post their upcoming themes on their websites, but sites like Themecruisefinder.com list a number of options, be it cruises for conservatives or the Marilyn Monroe tribute cruise.
REST & RELAXATION
Some of us require little more than sunshine and a deck chair to unwind. But if your desires go beyond a tan and a disco nap, be sure to pick a ship with a good spa.
Canyon Ranch SpaClubs are some of the most luxurious at sea. You’ll find them on Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. This last’s SpaClub is some 20,000 square feet, with a coed relaxation lounge, fitness center and salon.
The “ship features finder” on the Cruise Lines International Association’s website enables visitors to search a variety of ships for different spa and wellness amenities like saunas, steam rooms and Pilates classes. The cost depends on the cruise line, the ship and the treatment. A 50-minute Swedish massage on Disney Cruise Line’s Fantasy is $118; the 100-minute Absolute Spa Ritual (which includes a facial and a full body Swedish massage) is $249.
A more affordable path to tranquility is an adults-only sun deck or lounge.
Many Carnival Cruise Lines ships have a Serenity Adult Retreat, an area for passengers ages 21 and older with whirlpools, bar service and “mellow music.”
Disney ships have a Quiet Cove Pool for ages 18 and older with whirlpool spas or a hot tub (though this being Disney, there are games even at the grown-up pool).
Princess Cruises has one of the most deluxe adults-only respites: the Sanctuary. Here, while you’re sprawled on a cushy chaise lounge, “serenity stewards” will bring you chilled face towels, Evian water atomizers, food, drinks, even an MP3 player with noise-canceling headphones. Not hungry? On some ships you can order an al fresco massage instead. And at the end of the day, you can take a sunset yoga class.
This particular brand of serenity, however, will cost you. Entry to the Sanctuary is $10 a person for an approximately four-to-five-hour period. Massages cost, as one might imagine, significantly more. Thus you might find yourself alone, lying under a cold, damp towel, pondering an existential question: what price Zen?