In more than six years as Singles Editor for Cruisemates, I have received a variety of questions relating to singles cruising, so I decided to compile a list of the ten most frequently asked, along with my responses:
Question: I am single and have never been on a cruise. Should I go by myself or on an organized singles cruise?
Answer For the first-time cruiser, I recommend an organized singles cruise. Not only can you be sure of having many other singles onboard, but there will be all sorts of activities for your group; a get-acquainted cocktail party the day of sailing; games designed to get people together, such as one-minute dating; group dining; hosted shore excursions; and, of course, coordinators to host all events and keep things running smoothly. Some singles cruises even have get-togethers in the debarkation city the night before, and sometimes special message boards are available so cruisers can get to know each other before sailing.
Question: If I can get a cheaper rate by booking directly with the cruise line instead of the singles cruise agency, wouldn't it be better to do that and save money? I would still be on the ship with all the singles in the group.
Answer The downside is that you will not be allowed to participate in the planned singles activities. Identification such as bracelets, necklaces, name tags, etc., is either included in pre-cruise document packages mailed by the sponsoring agency or distributed at their onboard registration desk. Security is stationed at the doors to all private events to check for ID, and without it, you won't get in. I have encountered singles who did book independently, then when they realized they were missing out on all the fun, tried to pay to get into the events. But that is not permitted, so they found themselves on the outside looking in and missing all the fun and the free drinks.
Question: I can't afford to pay the single occupancy rate, but the agency says they will find a cabin mate for me so I can get a cheaper cruise fare. I am leery of sharing a cabin with a total stranger. Should I take a chance to save money?
Answer It's always a gamble. I have seen instances where people who have never met prior to a cruise became good friends and planned future cruises together. I have also seen people whose cruise was ruined by an inconsiderate cabin mate. Since I once personally had a bad experience, I would never again take the chance, but you might be lucky. You just have to ask yourself if you are willing to take the risk. If not, save your money until you can afford your own cabin.
Question: If I decide to gamble and let the agency find a cabin mate for me, what criteria do they use to match people -- and will I get a chance to communicate with that person pre-cruise to set some ground rules?
Answer The criteria most agencies use for matching cabin mates are sex, smoking preferences, and age. Some are expanding to place people together from the same geographical area. A few go so far as to ask about sleep habits, such as whether you are an early or late riser. Some will give out email addresses in advance, but others do not want roomies to be in touch prior to the cruise (because if there is a problem, someone might cancel, and they don't want that). If I were being matched, I would insist on being able to contact that person, as it is important to set ground rules. A thorny issue I often hear about is whether either party is willing to give up the cabin for an evening if the other one meets someone special and wants privacy for a few hours. It's no fun returning to your cabin to find a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door and to have to bed down on a deck chair. And remember, it is a good idea to take earplugs in case your roomie snores (and those little "Breath-Ease" nose strips, in case you do).
Question: I'm going on a cruise by myself, but I am worried that I'll be seated at dinner with only couples, or a family with noisy children. What can I do about it?
Answer Your table assignment (unless you are on a cruise with freestyle dining) will either be left in your cabin or noted on your key card. The Maitre D´ is generally available during embarkation to discuss seating arrangements. Tell him you prefer a table with other singles. If you don't think you will be comfortable with the table you're assigned, request a change. If you are late boarding and don't have a chance to talk to the Maitre D´, and you go to dinner only to find you are unhappy with others at your table, politely endure the first meal, then see the Maitre D´ afterwards and request a change for the next night. This happens all the time, so don't hesitate or worry about it.
Also - in the last few years almost every cruise ship has instituted open dining. Pre-assigned dining has its advantages for singles - you really get to know people after several meals, but being able to move around also has advantages, so maybe start with a pre-assigned table and see how you like it, and if you don't switch to open seating.
Question: I don't want to go on an organized group singles cruise, but I would like to meet other singles. Which gives me the best chance of doing so, a short or long cruise? I worry that three or four days just isn't long enough to really meet people, but I don't have a lot of vacation time. Plus the shorter cruises are cheaper.
Answer Singles, especially younger singles (age 40 or below) tend to go on the shorter cruises, particularly when a holiday falls on a weekend, like Labor Day. More mature singles like sailings eight days plus, because many of them have either accumulated a lot of vacation time or are retired.
Question: What is the best ship for singles?
Answer If you can afford it, Crystal Cruise Lines is my pick. It's a luxury line, naturally more expensive, but well worth it. You will, however, find more mature singles. And for women, there are the Ambassador dance hosts, available as dancing and dining companions. In addition, Crystal is known for its learning-at-sea programs, which are always interesting. Another is Grand Circle which really specializes in cruises with lots of advantages for solo cruisers such as lower fares.
Question: I am a single parent with two children, ages 5 and 11. What would be the best cruise ship for me?
Answer These days you have several good options. The best cruise lines for families are Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line (in that order). However, all large cruise ships have programs to keep children of all ages happy and busy while parents pursue their own interests. And with so many single parents wanting to cruise with their kids these days, some agencies are responding with organized "single parent with kids" cruises, which are becoming quite popular. You will find several listed in the CruiseMates Singles Calendar. And don't forget that Disney Cruise Lines is always family favorite (especially for young children).
Question: I am not married and want to go on a cruise, but I don't see a date or departure port listed by the Singles Cruise companies that works for me; however, I do need a cabin mate to share expenses. How can I find one?
Answer Check the CruiseMates message board titled "Seeking Cruise Companion." Read the posts and you will see that a lot of people pick a ship and get prices, then ask if anyone wants to go with them to avoid paying the single supplement. Or you can mention a date and port of departure and work out the details after you find a cruising partner.
Question: What are the real chances of my finding a lasting romance on a cruise?
Answer This question is probably asked most often, and I have to be candid and say that the chances of meeting your true love on a cruise ship, are, unfortunately, slim to none. But it does happen. One agency tells me that eight couples who met on their singles cruises in the past year got married. That is still a small number when they probably had more than 2,000 singles for all their cruises.
The stage is certainly set for romance on a cruise, because what better place to fall in love? However, it is a fantasy world, and there are many factors involved if a couple gets serious. If they live far apart, who will make the move to where the other person resides? Which one is willing to change jobs? Leave their families? I have seen couples that heard wedding bells during the cruise, stayed in touch for weeks, sometimes months afterwards, only to eventually settle back into their own world and drift apart.
As cynical as it sounds, I always tell people that most of the time the only difference between a one-night stand and a seven-night cruise is six nights. But you never know, and it's usually worth taking a chance as long as you keep your perspective and remember that when the anchor drops, both of you are returning to reality.