Please meet Tracy, a teacher-turned writer, who is spending a year-long leave of absence writing and traveling as much as possible. You can read more about her travels on Suitcase Scholar, or about her career break on Existential Midlife Twitch.
“Why would you want to cruise solo?”
It was a question I was asked many times in the week before my spur-of-the-moment solo cruise to Bermuda last month. This was often followed by something to the effect of “Cruises are so romantic; I’d never go on a cruise by myself”. Having enjoyed a cruise for my own honeymoon-with my husband, of course-I had to disagree with this statement. And now, after experiencing solo cruising first hand, I’m convinced that a cruise is a fantastic option for the solo traveler-and even more sure that cruising is not, in fact, a romantic experience.
To me, the word romantic conjures up visions of couples cuddling fireside, walking hand-in-hand on an empty beach, or sharing a secluded candlelit dinner. I did not witness any of these things on the ship, mainly because it is not possible to do these things on a cruise ship-or, for that matter, in a cruise port when a ship is docked. It is my opinion that a cruise is, quite possibly, the least romantic vacation a person can take. But they are the most fun. Especially if you are solo.
Cruise ship rooms are not romantic
For starters, let’s take a look at your typical cruise ship stateroom. The average size of a standard non-suite cabin on board a commercial American cruise ship is 175 square feet. That’s a room a bit over 13 feet square, including the bathroom. I don’t care how much two people love each other, that’s a tight squeeze. And really, how romantic can you be when the toilet is six feet from the bed? Not very romantic, trust me. But a room of that size is just perfect for the solo traveler.
Cruise ship common areas are not romantic
Of course, no one spends all of their time on a cruise in their stateroom. Which brings me to the rest of the ship. Do you know what you will find on the ship? Lots of people. People everywhere. You will sit at the bars with people, play in the casino with people, and dine in crowded buffets and dining rooms that seat hundreds. Romantic? I think not. But definitely a great place to meet new people and have lively conversation, particularly if you are traveling solo.
Cruise ship ports are not romantic
Then, when the time comes to go ashore to explore the ports you are visiting, guess what you will find on land? More crowds. That’s right-when on a cruise, you bring a line with you everywhere you go. Remember that romantic vision of a couple walking hand-in-hand on an empty beach?
If you’re sailing during peak cruise season, that’s just not going to happen. But, if you are traveling solo, these crowds provide both safety and companionship. I dare you to spend time standing in a ferry line or wedged on a crowded bus without making at least one friend…or four.
Thus, the myth of the romantic cruise vacation is just that: a myth. The reality looks more like this…
A Honeymoon Cruise
After stopping briefly to hug each other during the pre-boarding photo opportunity, Jamie and Jessie board the ship. They cram their two suitcases full of clothing into the tiny closet, tripping over each other the entire time. They arrive at dinner and try to gaze into each other’s eyes over the rumble of 400 other diners. They are annoyed. Awaking the next morning, they disembark to find crowds of people everywhere they look. They stand in a long line awaiting transportation to an over-crowded beach. They are annoyed. Returning to the ship, one wants to go to bed and the other wants to go to the nightclub. Repeat for six more days.
A Solo Cruise
After breezing past the line for the pre-boarding photo opportunity, Tracy boards the ship. She drops her smallish bag in her stateroom and heads out to explore the ship. At a wine tasting that evening, she meets a group from Chicago. They invite her to join them for dinner. The next day, she disembarks to board a bus for her destination. She chats with a lovely retired couple from Pensacola all the way to the beach. Seeing the crowds, she decides to walk a trail to a more secluded cove and take photos. Returning to the ship, she enjoys a quiet meal alone in the main dining room, or a chat at the bar with two sisters she just met, or takes in a show. Repeat for six more days.
Now…which trip would you rather be on?
Having been on one cruise with my husband and one cruise by myself, I have to admit, I’ll pick the second option every time. Just don’t tell my husband I said that.