Organized singles cruises have long had a reputation as wild, party-hearty, good times for solo travelers. I've seen everything from girls' thongs mischievously raised on the ship's flagpole to guys who were brought back from Cozumel's infamous Carlos & Charlie's Bar in a wheelchair after an afternoon of competitive drinking.
After cruise lines began offering multi-cabin discounts that attract families and large groups, singles often found themselves all alone with no one to hang out with, so singles cruises grew in popularity. Agencies added more sailings, sometimes even scheduling two Halloween cruises to meet the demand. But along with the growth came a new group of singles who were not interested in boozin'-and-floozin' cruises. They wanted more sophistication and interesting itineraries, including foreign ports of call.
Vacations To Go Among the first to answer the call was Vacations To Go. Based in Texas, the company had been in the travel business since 1984, and wisely recognized the growing demand from solo travelers. It organized and hosted its first singles cruise in January 2005. Since then, Vacations To Go has become one of the most popular and successful singles cruise agencies, partly because it saw the increasing demand for more sophisticated fun.
Recently I joined Vacations To Go for what I believe to be the first-ever singles cruise in the U.S. on a luxury ship, Crystal's Serenity. In just 16 years, Crystal has won an unprecedented number of prestigious awards and ranks among the top luxury lines in the world.
Special Dining Program Vacations to Go is proud of the success of its "Single Mingle Dining." The group only has assigned seating the first night. For the rest of the cruise, there are tables in pre-arranged locations, and singles can sit next to anyone, anywhere, any time, as long as they stay within VTG's designated area. This insures that table partners are mixed and re-mixed, and singles can keep meeting new people all cruise long.
After dining as a group, everyone went on to the Welcome Aboard Show, winding down the evening with dancing in Serenity's beautiful Palm Court, where Crystal's Ambassador Dance Hosts kept the ladies on the floor. By then I saw that a few people had already paired off into couples.
Every morning the group met for the "Breakfast Club" in the Lido Café, a country-club style restaurant located at the bow of the ship with a breath-taking ocean view. Also, early each morning, Dixie made herself available for at least half an hour at a Hospitality/Information desk. I do not know when this vibrant and personable young woman slept, because she was quite visible throughout the seven-night cruise, making sure everyone was enjoying themselves.
Shoreside Fun Our first port was Key West, where Dixie and the group met at the famous Sloppy Joe's for drinks and a taste of the local delicacy, conch fritters. Our next day was at sea, and the singles' schedule seemed non-stop with private dance lessons and a hilarious game called "Two Truths and a Lie!" -- a fun way to meet other people from the group. Later there was a Tropical Beach Party in the colorful Pulse Disco, with everyone decked out in their favorite tropical attire -- and, of course, lots of Jimmy Buffet and the Beach Boys.
In Grand Cayman, Dixie led those interested on a "Swim with the Stingrays" excursion. Afterwards, we all joined in for the Singles Line Dance Class, followed in the evening by the "50's Hip and Happening'" cocktail party.
In popular Cozumel, shopaholic Dixie took everyone to the best souvenir shops before group members gathered at infamous Carlos & Charlie's. This fun and lively bar does get a little rowdy, but no one in our group needed a wheelchair to get back ot the ship!
The entire not-wild-and-crazy week was non-stop fun, not only with the busy singles group schedule, but also Crystal's Serenity's activities for all passengers. In addition to the usual lavish shows presented on most ships, Crystal offers the Creative Learning Institute, which on this cruise included classes in Computer University @ Sea, Berlitz Conversational Spanish, Odyssey Art @ Sea, TaylorMadeTM Golf, a Walk On Water Program, Dance, Bridge, and the Yamaha Music School of Instruction.
Vacations To Go sends out survey forms after each cruise in an effort to make sure everyone had a good time, and to learn where improvements could be made. Judging from just the positive postings on Cruisemates' Singles Message Board, they continue to be successful.
To see this group's "group picture" click here
No Guarantees As for meeting that special someone, Dixie said there had been a few marriages between couples who met onboard. But she explained that when someone calls and asks what their chances are of finding romance, "We tell them we are not a dating service."
On larger cruises of 150 to 300 singles, Dixie has help, as two or three additional hosts are sent. Some of the singles I spoke with about Vacations To Go praised the personal attention they received, and said they felt the onboard activities were more varied and better organized than on other singles cruises they had taken. They also mentioned being pleased that VTG did not charge a processing fee when they booked, and that if they had to cancel, they were not charged anything more than the cruise line's penalty.
Crystal Serenity, in my opinion, is ideal for a quiet, relaxing singles cruise. With a guest capacity of 1,080, the ship is cozy, intimate, and convenient for "meet and mingle" everywhere.
Vacations To Go currently has hosted singles cruises scheduled on Cruisemates' Singles Calendar through the end of October 2007, but will be adding to that schedule during the year. Dixie emphasized that the two very popular Halloween cruises always sell out, and those interested should book as soon as possible. For more information, call 1-800-338-4962 or visit www.vacationstogo.com