Solo Travel a Breeze on River Cruises
Posted by Katie Morell - freelance writer for Tauck
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: River Cruise, Solo Travel, Europe
River cruising is an incredibly popular way to see the world, especially if you are into solo travel. Trips consist of small groups (usually less than 130 people) and promote an intimate, sociable atmosphere among guests. Each ship is completely self-contained, making the experience seamless for a solo traveler and ensuring safety while traveling from port to port.
Janice Waugh took a European river cruise from Germany to Austria in November 2012 and says she loved the experience because of the beauty of the landscape, the people she met on board and the flexibility and safety the river cruise afforded her.
This wasn't Waugh's first time traveling alone. In fact, she's made a living out of solo travel. "My husband and I used to travel all over the world together," she says, adding that her husband passed away a few years ago.
"After he died, I still wanted to travel but came up short when looking for solo travel resources, so I decided to create a resource myself."
Waugh's frustration led her to launch Solo Traveler, a blog that offers advice to others who want to hit the road by themselves. Here, she offers a few pieces of advice for solo travelers aboard European river cruises.
Skip the single supplement
Cruise ship cabins are designed for two or more people, bringing in two or more fares for a single trip. Solo travelers (who'd rather not share a room with a stranger) are usually asked to pay a 'single supplement,' i.e., a charge that ensures the solo traveler will have a cabin all to himself or herself.
"Single supplements can get very pricey," says Waugh. "They can range from 20 percent more than the per person price to 100 percent more." While this may discourage solo travelers from going on a cruise altogether, there are ways around the single supplement. Some cruise ships will allocate a few cabins to go without a single supplement, allowing a solo traveler to pay the same amount as those traveling in pairs or in families.
The key is to book early and call your travel agent or tour company to ask about specific boats. As part of her blog, Waugh sends out a monthly newsletter detailing cruises with single supplement discounts.
By contrast, Tauck is a great place to look for river cruises without a single supplement. The company dropped its single supplement on all category 1 river cruise cabins in 2013 and will do the same in 2014. For next year's cruises, this means a savings of up to $600 per person.
Make an Effort to Socialize
Unlike large cruises that traditionally assign passengers to specific dinner tables, most European river cruises allow solo travelers to mix and mingle during every meal. Take advantage of this freedom and hop from table to table, recommends Waugh. Start circulating the minute you start the trip.
"You don't want to go into the dining room and have the first few meals with the same group only to later learn that you find those people boring," she says. "Be upfront with your dinner mates and tell them that you will be moving around during the cruise. It will give you permission to do so and make solo travel more comfortable for you."
Deborah Forrest is another solo traveler that believes in socializing. She went on her first solo European river cruise over Christmas 2012 down the Danube River and loved it so much that she's going again this holiday season.
"It is so much fun to go solo on these cruises, but you really need to get out and talk to people to make it worthwhile," she says. "I made an effort to mingle, which made the experience even more enjoyable. I also found that my cruise director made an effort to include me in activities, which is common for solo travelers of river cruises. You never feel lonely."
Consider your safety
European river cruises are known to be very safe ways to participate in solo travel, but there still are a few considerations that travelers should take into account. First, make sure to alert your tour guide or cruise director every time you disembark. Second, bring a piece of paper that details the boat's location, written in the native language of the destination.
"It can be easy to get turned around in a European city that you aren't familiar with," says Waugh. "Write down where your boat is so that you can give that piece of paper to a taxi driver and say, 'Take me there.'"
Alcohol consumption can be another safety factor for those that partake in solo travel. Waugh says it is important to "keep your wits about you" when in social situations. "It's not that river cruises are dangerous, but going light on alcohol is always a good idea when traveling alone," she notes, adding that she highly recommends traveling solo to anyone.
"Traveling by yourself allows you to mingle with people you may not have otherwise. It doesn't pigeonhole you to a partner. It opens you up to see and experience so much more."