It might take a little time, but we're confident that, once the cruise lines put in place their protocols to mitigate the risk of coronavirus, we'll see a full recovery and a return to less socially distanced times.
As part of this recovery, several of our cruise line partners have introduced improved offers for solo travellers to attract those guests that travel alone, as well as friends who travel together but prefer to have their own space and take separate rooms. I've experienced both of these scenarios, so I wanted to share my top tips for cruising solo...
1. Choose a small ship
There are lots of different cruise lines to choose from, each differing in style and atmosphere. It's a very personal choice as to which one you'll prefer, but I recommend choosing a smaller ship - one that caters to a few hundred guests, rather than a few thousand. Fewer passengers usually means a higher crew-to-guest ratio, so you'll soon be recognised and your preferences remembered, creating a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. There's also a great camaraderie that grows during a small ship voyage as you start to see familiar faces around the ship, making it easy to meet people.
2. Go all-inclusive
Choosing an all-inclusive ship makes it easy to join others for a drink, without the awkwardness of working out what to do with the bill. If you've arranged to meet people there's no need to sit with an empty glass while you're waiting for them, or to feel aggrieved that you can't take your time enjoying the glass you've just paid for. And sometimes it's just nice to indulge with a glass of Champagne on deck for sailaway.
3. Fly business class
Extra space, flatbed seats, better food - there are lots of advantages to flying business class. Importantly, seats are more private and there's no risk of being stuck in the dreaded middle seat. You can avoid the scrum of the main terminal and relax with plenty of space in the airport lounge, where you can enjoy complimentary food and beverages without the need to keep such a close eye on your bag. Even if you're flying short haul, the ease of boarding first and knowing there'll be plenty of space overhead to keep your hand luggage close is reassuring.
4. Talk to the team on board
Most cruise lines will arrange a cocktail reception for guests travelling solo at the start of the cruise, usually noted in the daily programme. It's worth asking the team at reception to keep you informed of anything else that might be arranged for solo guests. When dining, always take a moment to talk to the maître d'. They will do their best to ensure that you can join a lively table if you want to partake in spirited conversation, or find you a table by the window if you'd prefer some quiet relaxation.
5. Take a tour
All of our river cruise partners include sightseeing in their upfront price, as do a handful of our ocean cruise partners, but even if it's not included I recommend taking a couple of shore excursions. Not only is it an easy way to explore, it's a great way of meeting people too. Look out for smaller group sightseeing tours and 'go local' experiences, which are becoming more common. Shopping at a local market with the ship's chef, then cooking a delicious dish with the ingredients, is a great way to bond with your fellow travellers.
6. Get involved
There is so much on offer on board a cruise ship: you can brush up on your cookery skills, try gin tasting, learn bridge, take a dance lesson, join a quiz and much more. Make sure you take advantage of the wealth of enrichment activities available on board - it's a great way of meeting people with similar interests.
7. Find your flow
Most ships have a guest flow, with certain bars and lounges being a popular meeting spot for a pre-dinner drink and others better suited to a to post-dinner digestif. Following the entertainment is a pretty good guide, since where there's music there is usually a crowd, but speak to me and my colleagues about our time on board and we can give you some insights.
8. Let us look after the details
Travelling can be stressful, and when I'm travelling alone I feel more comfortable if I know that I don't have to find a taxi rank, or worry about explaining where I need to go to someone who doesn't speak English as their first language. Talk to us about arranging private transfers so we can take some of that stress away, and even sending your suitcases direct to your ship with a luggage forwarding service. We can also arrange a home pick-up in the UK, so you don't need to worry about a thing. That's what we're here for!
9. Finally, talk to me!
Making the right choice for your holiday is usually a complicated decision, weighing up the right cruise line (see our favourites for solo travellers here) and the right itinerary, selecting the best room category, then adding on various extras. I'm here to listen to what you want and advise the best way of getting it just right. We're a small team here at Mundy, and I (or one of my colleagues) will be your point of contact from the first time you call until the day you return home from your cruise.