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11 Cruise Hacks for Solo Women

Time-tested tips and tricks for cruising alone.

U.S. News & World Report

11 Cruise Hacks for Solo Women

Woman looking out to sea on a cruise ship

Signing up for onboard activities, packing strategically and investing in travel insurance are just a few ways to stay savvy on the high seas.(Getty Images)

Let's face it: Women cruising on their own face different challenges than their fellow male passengers. As any woman who's ever traveled alone can attest, no one has your back except yourself, making staying alert when in port and being aware of your surroundings a necessity. But in spite of this drawback, there are plenty of advantages to cruising on your own thanks to single-friendly cabins and amenities available from many cruise companies today. With that in mind, here are top strategies for soloists to know before hitting the high seas.

Know When to Return to Your Ship or Hotel

If you're staying in a hotel before your cruise, be sure to get a card with the hotel's name, address and phone number before you head out to explore on your own. Whether you're staying in Boston or Barcelona, it's good to have this information on hand.

And as you exit the ship at port, take a photo on your smartphone of the sign that indicates what time to return to the ship – don't leave it to memory. Also, carry an emergency phone number to reach your ship such as the phone number for the port agent or the reception desk.  If you're planning to step off the ship in a foreign country, also make sure to write down the name of the port in the language of the country you are visiting.  

Pack Light

Cruising from a port in Europe? Most likely, you'll want to arrive a few days before your cruise to extend your trip, so remember: you'll have to manage all of your bags on your own. Beyond stuffing your suitcase into an overhead bin on an airplane, you'll need to be prepared to handle steps, curbs, cobblestones and even train platforms. Expect elevators and escalators to be broken at small train stations and be prepared to haul your luggage up and down staircases. This is especially true if your go for a vacation rental, which may require you to haul bags up and down the stairs in shifts if you have too many suitcases. If you can, invest in the lightest weight, four-wheel spinner bag that you can afford to maximize comfort.

Take Safety Precautions Onboard and Ashore

Purchase a small, wedge-shaped door alarm for your stateroom and place it a tiny bit away from the bottom of the door. That way, if someone tries to enter your room, this little device will give off a sonic blast. Just don't forget to move it before you leave your room, so you don't accidentally set off the alarm. 

And while exploring on land, always make sure to carry pepper spray with you. If you're planning to party to the wee hours in Cozumel or Nassau in the Bahamas, don't walk alone back to your ship.  When you see a group of fellow cruisers heading back to your ship, tag along.  Remember: There is safety in numbers.

Make Friends With Your Ship's Front Desk Staff

Since it's impossible to predict when and if something goes awry with your stateroom, it's important to connect with the front desk reception staff.  After all, the front desk staff is your front line for getting messages and reaching local hotel managers ashore. Show your appreciation by being courteous and polite. And consider surprising the staff with a box of chocolates from the gift shop or stopping at a bakery at your first port of call to bring back a sweet treat. A little kindness goes a long way. Also, keep in mind that the best times to get to know the reception desk staff are during the early dinner seating time and during show times; the worst time is after lunch on a sea day, when reception is typically busy.

Take an Onboard Class

These days, cruise lines offer classes and activities geared to a variety of traveler interests, from dance lessons and stargazing to whiskey tastings and watercolor painting. It's always easy to meet your fellow passengers when the event is a common interest, so make sure to sign up for some classes and lecture series after you board.

Don't Fret Over Dining Alone

Enjoying meals on your own can be a top concern for many women cruising on their own. Plan ahead by bringing something to keep you entertained at meal times. If you're not feeling social or just need a little time to reflect on your day yet don't want to aimlessly stare at fellow diners, bring a book, a crossword puzzle or your smartphone and headset to watch a movie that was downloaded before leaving home. Another good way to ease into dining alone is to simply take a seat in the lobby or atrium and watch the parade of people. Learning to sit alone among a crowd will help when it comes time for dining.

Befriend a Bartender

Before your ship sets sail, walk around and find an inviting bar. Whether a sports bar, martini bar or atrium watering hole, it's nice to have a place to return to for a pre-dinner cocktail and mix and mingle with fellow passengers after a day ashore or to pass a sea day with your computer close at hand. It's a good idea to offer an especially gracious bartender a $10 or $20 tip. That way, you'll be remembered throughout the cruise and may even get a free drink or two.

Alert the American Embassy Ahead of Your Trip

If you plan to explore countries outside the U.S., it's a smart idea to let the U.S. Embassy know when you will be in that country to maximize safety and stay up to date with the latest advisories. Plus, it's easy and can be done online. Also, make sure to register with the U.S. State Department's free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive notifications about safety conditions, emergency conditions and travel alerts.

Listen to Yourself

Always listen to your inner voice of reason. If you have a nagging feeling or a suspicion about a certain area or tour company ashore, avoid it. Don't feel awkward if you feel the need to abruptly leave an area. Your safety is more important.

Pretend to Be Married

To avoid unwanted attention, buy a cheap gold ring that could pass as a wedding band. Doing so is especially helpful if you're planning ride local transportation or sit at a café on shore and don't want to be bothered.

Buy Travel Insurance

Make sure your insurance policy allows you to cancel your trip for any reason. Yes, you'll pay a little bit more for higher coverage, but it's better than losing your entire investment should you need to cancel any portion of your trip.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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