Instil yourself with a sense of adventure as The Joy Club member Paula Simpson shares her experiences as a solo traveller aboard a cruise ship…
I decided to go on a solo cruise after my husband could not be persuaded and friends and family members were either unavailable, not interested or financially strapped.
I had been cruising before, but never on my own. The idea of solo cruising was scary, exciting and exhilarating – akin to starting a first job after leaving school. I was worried about sitting alone at dinner, going on excursions alone, having no one to talk to or share experience, adventure with. As it turned out, I need not have worried.
To begin the journey, I logged on to various websites to find a suitable cruise-line. I was not too keen on flying to another country to join the cruise ship, but to my delight I found “No Fly” cruising from the UK. The Ports that were on offer were namely Tilbury Docks, Southampton, Liverpool, Portsmouth and others.
I settled to embark from Southampton on MSC Virtuosa, a fairly large , modern ocean liner to Northern Europe, covering Lisbon, Lanzarote, Canaries, Vigo, Madeira etc. The package was for 13 nights, full board, including gratuities, a balcony and a drinks package – all at what I thought was a reasonable price. To travel you had to meet some mandatory requirements such as valid passport, travel insurance to include Covid cover, covid vaccinated with booster, plus negative lateral flow test 72 hours before travel.
On the day of the cruise, I left home (Yorkshire) at 5.15am for check-in between 10 and 11am. The weather was awful; heavy rain, dark and misty. Not a good sign for embarking on my holiday! Nevertheless, I arrived in Southampton at 9.45am, then the SatNav decided to avoid taking the route to the docks but instead took me on a scenic tour of Southampton. Two hours later, I was totally lost, having a panic attack and worried the ship would sail without me. I eventually boarded the ship at 2pm, very traumatised and harbouring hateful feelings against my SatNav. Lesson learned, travel down the night before to avoid such stress.
The ship was massive: over 6,000 passenger capacity. The MSC line caters for all groups, solo travellers, over 50’s, wheelchair-users, families, couples. Unknowingly to me, it was the half-term holidays, so this particular cruise hosted lots of families with children from toddlers in strollers to teens.
My cabin with the balcony was amazing, all mod-cons and an attentive, over efficient steward who kept my room spotless, a constant supply of fresh clean towels and bedding. It unnerved me. I felt under pressure to make a mess to give him something to clean! He was, however, very helpful in sorting out any settling issues such as acquiring plugs, information on operating the safe and other small but necessary information.
MSC caters for solo travellers; each evening they arrange for all solos to meet up and greet pre-dinner for drinks. I met some wonderful travellers from all walks of life – one person was on their 66th cruise! At dinner I was seated at a table in the restaurant with six other solo travellers. We all got on famously (my fear of sitting alone totally gone). As a group we planned off-shore excursions, went sightseeing, engaged in on-board activities such as attending the theatre, talks, shows.
My drinks package turned out to be 69 euros per day. A fellow traveller introduced me to the Champagne lounge, where we drank Champagne cocktails. Another passenger introduced me to an array of differing cocktails and wines. I was in alcohol heaven. At home, the most I drink in a week is a glass or two of red wine. On board I was consuming up to four glasses of champagne per day, plus 3-4 cocktails and 3-4 glasses of wine.
At the end of the evening, I found myself staggering around the ship, laughing and very merry, trying to locate my cabin (with difficulty).
I loved all the excursions, plus on board activities, gym, dance classes, theatre, swimming, jacuzzi, bowling and on board shopping, the wonderful people I met, not to mention all that delicious food (I did gain a lot of weight).
Would I sail solo again? Most definitely!
To read more about life on-board, check out the latest in Roger’s weekly cruise ship diaries!