During summer I set out on a river cruise along the Danube, sailing beneath a series of storied bridges linking Buda with Pest and passing alongside Austria's castle ruins and colorful villages. I toasted wine with new friends at a Vienna vineyard, soaked in the thermal waters of a Hungarian bathhouse, and hiked high above Passau, Germany, with the entire Baroque town spread out before me. Back onboard each evening, I joined others for post-dinner piano tunes in the lounge and ate quiet meals on the terrace when I wasn't socializing in the ship's main restaurant.
My favorite memories from the week? Exploring cobbled-filled towns and historic Benedictine abbeys—and the time spent alone on my stateroom balcony writing in my journal with the banks of Europe as my view. It was the perfect combination of interaction and alone time, freedom and security, and something that I may never have experienced if I hadn't been traveling solo. Considering cruising on your own? Here’s why you should.
You'll Never Be Lonely . . . Cruising alone almost feels like getting a free upgrade on an airplane: The crew goes especially out of their way to assure all your needs are met, and fellow passengers, often envious of your solo status, seem to gravitate toward you. Strangers aren't strangers for long, and invitations for dinner, high tea, or onboard trivia are often par for the course.
. . . But You Can Choose to Be Alone. As much as I enjoyed cavorting over dinner at communal tables, I was just as happy to slip back to my stateroom to read a book, take a nap, and simply be. If you begin feeling social, all you have to do is step into the lounge or head upstairs to the on-deck shuttle-board. Chances are there's someone looking to play a game or two.
You Can Change Plans on a Whim. I spent weeks pre-trip deliberating over the list of my ship's offered excursions, only to find once onboard that I was too tired for an all-day trip into the Czech Republic. But a few hours baking bread in the Austrian countryside sounded ideal. Thankfully, there just happened to be one opening left on that excursion. On an ocean cruise, I often slipped from dinner to catch the end of a cabaret performance, and I spent one magical night on the pool deck watching From Russia with Love while docked outside of St. Petersburg. Having the ability to come and go as I pleased went a long way toward my overall enjoyment of the trip.
There's Always Something to Do. As much as I enjoy spending time alone, I worried I might grow bored. But I never did. River cruises are often docked right next to town, so you can easily go out for an ice cream or to explore. On larger ships, days at sea come packed with options: everything from onboard lectures to culinary demos, happy hours, and fitness classes.
It's Safe. From thorough boarding procedures to your frequently refreshed stateroom, the crew is always looking out for you. On the off-chance that you miss the ship because you were too busy sampling chocolate in Bratislava, crew members will alert your emergency contact. Precautions are in place to know generally where you are (and where you're not) throughout the duration of the trip. For nervous solo travelers, cruising provides an extra layer of security.
It Pushes You Out of Your Comfort Zone. Sure, it can be a little awkward asking complete strangers if there's room at the dinner table for one more, but it's a great way to make new friends and get comfortable in your own skin. The best part? You can always do something else the next night. Dinner seats on some cruises are unassigned, and there's always a more casual dining option. I opted to dine al fresco one evening only to spend the next couple of hours engaged in a wonderful conversation with an Australian couple who also wanted a bit more peace and quiet.
It's becoming more and more affordable. The single supplement, in which solo travelers often have to pay the full or bulk price for a two-person stateroom meant, has long deterred those traveling alone. Thankfully, with the rise of single parties on cruise ships, many companies now offer single specials, reducing the fee or often removing it all together. Others will offer to pair up same-sex solo travelers to a stateroom, which eliminates the single supplement—so you end up with both a more affordable deal and a possible travel buddy (if that's something you want).
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