When the River is Your Highway – tips on cruising
The river cruise I took last month was a great surprise.
It was as luxurious as a fine hotel but far more friendly. A hotel has people coming and going all the time. It’s not an environment for meeting people the way a river cruise is. On the River Countess, I met people and could hang out with them or, if I wanted, go my own way.
It was hassle-free. Cruising the Danube river, we arrived in a new location every day without the annoyance of having to pack and unpack.
And the food and wine were exceptional. I was quite content to eat there for every meal as the chef offered a local specialty on the menu each evening. With only 88 passengers, it was truly a fine dining experience.
Finally, as someone who experiences sea sickness easily, I had absolutely no problem with it whatsoever.
7 Tips on Cruising
My conclusion: river cruising is great for solo travelers. Based on my experience I’d like to share a few tips on cruising.
Tip #1 Don’t Pay a Single Supplement
Many river cruises don’t charge a single supplement for solo travelers. If the cruise you’re considering has one, look around to find the cruise that suits your interests and doesn’t have one. You might also want to sign up for the Solo Traveler Newsletter – doing so you’ll also receive the Solo Traveler Advisory which features many single-supplement-free deals on the third Monday of every month. I went with the support of Premier River Cruises, a travel agency that specializes in river cruise vacations for solo travelers, and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. They offer many cruises without supplements.
Tip #2 Table-Hop.
There were many interesting people on the cruise and I found them by having dinner with different people every night. I made sure that I arrived after the restaurant had been open for about 20 minutes. When I did arrive, people were already settled at their tables and I had many choices of where to sit and with whom. It was great fun and by the time the third day came around many people were already expecting me to drop by.
Tip #3 Leave a bread crumb trail.
One of the solo traveler’s on the ship went out on their own after the city tour but got lost coming back. To make things worse, she had problems walking and so really stretched her physical capacity when finding her way back. She was over an hour late but, thankfully, the ship is very careful about monitoring who is on board and who isn’t. They were aware that she was not back, alerted the police and had a contingency plan in place had she have not arrived. My tip, be sure you know, and let the ship’s staff know, where you’re going in case this happens to you.
Tip #4 Take off when the mood strikes
Despite the cautionary note above, do take off when the mood strikes. On a walking tour in Vienna, we were passing the Spanish Riding School just as the horses were being brought from the stables to the performance hall. I slipped away from the tour and managed to get a last-minute ticket. Other passengers had bought their tickets months in advance for a lot more money. If your instinct says “this is an opportunity not to be missed”, go for it.
Tip #5 Find the other solo travelers
There were two other solo travelers on board. We didn’t spend all our time together but we did cross paths a lot. It was great to get to know them and it made us feel part of our own unique group.
Tip #6 Pack layers
There were a few days that were very cold during my cruise. Couples and groups can share extra clothes if necessary but as a solo traveler, this isn’t possible. An extra layer such as a camisole can make a big difference to your comfort so, even if you won’t need it for an outfit, throw this tiny item in your bag for warmth.
Tip #7 Don’t overpack
The room amenities of ocean cruises can be minimal. Don’t assume that your river cruise is the same. The rooms are very well equipped with alarm clocks, blow dryers and quality toiletries – basically everything you’d expect in a fine hotel. Even turn-down service with a chocolate on your pillow. Confirm what your stateroom has before packing such items.