Grooving with the Group

Since becoming Singles Editor for CruiseMates, I have been asked many times: What is a Singles Cruise like? I had been on nearly 30 cruises, but never as part of an organized group. So to learn what it's like to be an official Singles Cruiser, I joined Discount Travel Club's January 21 seven-day sailing on Carnival's Paradise from Miami to Nassau, San Juan, and St. Thomas.

The fun began about two weeks prior to our sailing date, when Cruise Coordinator Ann Rotman e-mailed everyone in the group to say "Welcome," attaching each individual's addresses. From then on, the e-mails flew back and forth as everyone introduced themselves, sharing their enthusiasm for the upcoming adventure. Some who were flying into Miami a day early made arrangements to meet Saturday night for dinner, and by the time we boarded the ship on Sunday, many friendships had already begun.

There were about sixty people in our singles group, with a roughly equal split between men and women, and a range of ages averaging in the early to mid-40s.

After settling into our cabins and finding our way around, we all gathered at the Pool/Patio Bar on Lido Deck for a "Bon Voyage" party that lasted until it was time for the lifeboat drill. Then, before dinner, Ann hosted a private cocktail party in the lovely Leonardo Lounge. We played get-to-know-you games and won door prizes, while Ann stayed busy making sure everyone got acquainted. The ship sailed several hours late because of passengers delayed in flight to Miami, but by then our group was happily enjoying the second seating in the Destiny Dining Room.

The next day--Monday--we arrived in Nassau. For those who didn't want to take any of the official shore excursions, Ann arranged for shared cab fares to Paradise Island and anywhere else our group wanted to go. Tuesday we had a leisurely day at sea, arriving in San Juan on Wednesday. Again, Ann had plenty of options available for a fun day in the beautiful old city. Every night during dinner, she table-hopped to ask us what we wanted to do in port, then made the appropriate arrangements. When we arrived in St. Thomas on Thursday, she led an entourage of shared cabs to the famed "Top of The Mountain" for the world's best banana daiquiris and an awesome view of the entire island.

I must pause here and say kudos to Ann Rotman. She did such a fantastic job that I wonder when she found time to sleep. Every day she kept a Singles Hospitality Desk going in the Atrium, with updates on all activities and events; then she showed up to host every one of them. Every morning, I found that a printed daily schedule had been slipped beneath my door. At every meal, she made it a point to speak to everyone in the group to ask if they were having a good time, if they needed anything, and if she could do anything to make their cruise more enjoyable. And when the waiters did their Flaming Babaloo dance, Ann was right there in the conga line.

According to Debbie Popick, the owner of Discount Travel Club, "Ann is the only person I know who loses weight on a cruise. She does far more than could be expected of a cruise coordinator."

Many of us met each night before dinner in the United States Bar for drinks and conversation. Some went in a group to the shows, and there was really no reason for anyone to be alone unless they wanted to be. Those still up (and many were) at 1 a.m. gathered at the 24-hour Pizzeria. (And what you have heard is true. Carnival does have terrific pizza. Especially the Goat Cheese.)

And, yes, there was plenty of romance among the group members--lots of handholding, slow dancing (Wardog, you made a lot of ladies happy on that dance floor!), exchanging of addresses and phone numbers, and plans to meet again in the future. Alas, one woman in our group apparently had not read my article on "Romancing the Crew." She abandoned us for an officer, only to learn that all too often when the cruise ends, so does an onboard romance with a crewmember.

Pat with Johnny OlaCLICK FOR PIC
But even those who didn't find amoré on this Italian Love Boat had a terrific time. There were private parties in cabins; lively, impromptu gatherings at the pizzeria; and lots of funfests by the pool. And then there was that great bunch of guys from New York, led by the happy fellow who calls himself Johnny Ola (of Godfather fame), who raised a few eyebrows on deck when they spontaneously decided to moon me and Ann as we stood at a railing above. All in good fun, of course.

As for the Paradise, I really liked this ship. Itinerary, food, service, cleanliness, entertainment--all made for a most enjoyable week. For non-smokers, it's an additional treat.

So now I can answer from personal experience the question, What is a singles cruise like? A heck of a lot of fun, that's what. I enjoyed being part of an organized group, and from the comments I overheard at Ann's farewell cocktail party on Saturday night, it would seem everyone else felt the same.

I heartily recommend that anyone contemplating a Singles Cruise should go for it. Just remember: Have your mind set that you are going to have fun regardless of whether you meet the person of your dreams, because you will disembark with new friendships and fond memories to last a lifetime.

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