Having completed my first solo cruise, I gained some insight on the experience I wanted to share for those of you who may be considering it. I sailed on the Norwegian Breakaway on a Baltic Sea cruise (follow-up blog posts to come!), and tried out one of the “studio” cabins available for booking only to solo cruisers. Norwegian is making an effort to cater to solo travelers, and it shows. The cabin itself was the first sign that I was in for a contradictory cruising experience. On the one hand, the cabin was very small and cramped compared to other Norwegian cruise ship cabins I’ve stayed in, and only interior studio cabins are available. On the other hand, the cabin and hallways were spruced up to give the impression that the studio cabin cruisers were being spoiled with special treatment. It almost felt like a posh, elite nightclub navigating the halls. The hallway to my cabin was behind a locked door (think: velvet rope!) which required a studio room key to pass. Once in the hallway, I was greeted to trendy neon lights. The leather accents in the cabin were a very nice touch, and the room felt luxurious, albeit small.
To further delight studio guests, a studio lounge was available on board, accessible only through the locked door aforementioned. Within were a TV monitor, ample seating, a bar, and (best of all) a coffee station with a machine serving premium coffees (think cappuccino, latte, mocha, etc.) for free. Given the fact that the coffee shop on Norwegian ships charge for specialty coffees, which are also NOT included in their unlimited beverage package, and the fact that I’m quite the coffee addict, this was a huge boon. It was a decent alternative to cafe specialty coffee, and light worlds better than the default complimentary coffee served on board, which I am convinced is intentionally bad to nudge you to pay for premium!
Along with the studio cabin and studio lounge, you also have access to a solo travelers “concierge” who plans meet ups for any solo travelers who are interested. This includes getting into shows, arranging to dine with others in the group in the main dining rooms, and social gatherings in the studio lounge and elsewhere. I felt this feature was highly overrated – but I can see the benefit for certain people. Between the fact that I’m an introvert and the fact that I tend to keep myself extremely busy on cruise ships (leaving the ship at every port, thermal suite passes, lots of shows and concerts, deck time, etc.) the meet ups were not really conducive to my preferred shipboard “lifestyle.” However, I can definitely imagine an extroverted person who likes to relax and socialize more would enjoy this tremendously. One downside that I think would be a negative to anyone, if it is common, was that the ratio of women to men was very lopsided, at least on my particular sailing, at the initial meeting to get acquainted. One man showed up, and the rest were women. I would have felt more comfortable in a more balanced group (the man seemed to be quite thrilled with the discrepancy, though!)
The solo cruising experience is contradictory in other ways. On the one hand, it feels very comfortable to be alone on the cruise because there are so many distractions from your “alone-ness.” Going to shows and concerts, going on excursions, and doing things around the ship it is very easy to keep busy and not even notice you’re alone. And some things can be very much enjoyed alone – like the peacefulness and rejuvenation of lounging out on a quiet deck reflecting on your travel experiences or just resting. Cruise ship passengers, I have found, also seem to be some of the friendliest people around, so if you want interaction it’s not hard to find. At the bars, in the lounges, on deck, and on the excursions people are usually eager to chat it up with fellow passengers, if you are so inclined.
On the other hand, there are times when traveling alone on a cruise can be very awkward. For instance… dinner time. Being seated at a table alone can be challenging to feel comfortable with. Even as an introvert, I found myself going for a more casual dining venue than the fancier dining atmosphere in the main dining rooms. It felt more natural and less forced. I can’t help but think about the Steve Martin movie where he walks into a restaurant, tells the hostess he’s dining alone, and suddenly a huge spotlight shines on him and the whole room turns around to stare! Of course the ultimate in avoiding this problem is either to order room service, go to the buffet where things are REALLY casual, or bring a buffet plate back to the cabin. Or, avoid the whole conundrum by participating in the solo traveler meet ups. I was more comfortable doing my own thing on my own time.
If you’re debating whether to go on a solo cruise, I advise go for it! The pros highly outweigh the cons, and frankly it’s the funnest way to “spend time with yourself” that I can think of! While I enjoy sharing the experience with someone special more than I do going it alone, I would definitely not hesitate to book a solo cruise again, and I was impressed with the way Norwegian provided for and pampered solo passengers.