- Going on a cruise with family or friends can be a great experience, but there are also disadvantages.
- My first solo cruise could have been cheaper with someone to split the cost, but I could see why it was worth it for solo travelers.
- While the itinerary only lasted three nights, I felt I could have spent more time on board and still had fun.
One Friday morning in late May, I watched the sea from a balcony on MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina cruise ship on a chain of shores in the Bahamas.
It was peaceful – quiet in the cabin I had reserved for myself a week before.
I have traveled alone in the past, but this was my first time going on a cruise alone.
The ship was more crowded than any Royal Caribbean cruise I had sailed on in July – with just over 2,400 guests on board, just over half of maximum occupancy. The maximum is 4,345 passengers filling each sleeping space, Field Sutton, director of communications for MSC, told me.
The cruise line is starting to see more bookings, Rubén A. Rodríguez, president of MSC Cruises USA, told USA TODAY in an email.
“Demand is strong and we’ve had a few consecutive weeks of record bookings around the world,” Rodriguez said last Thursday. “In the Mediterranean, we have just added another ship for the summer season in response to demand for unique vacation experiences from MSC Cruises. We are seeing similar growth in demand for our ships serving US ports.”
Even with so many co-passengers boarding alongside me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I be alone? Uncomfortable? Bored?
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Internal matters aside, I boarded the Sophia Loren-inspired MSC ship on a Thursday afternoon in May with a required negative coronavirus antigen test, proof of vaccine, and my passport in hand. It was technically a work trip, so even though I felt lonely, there would be plenty to do, I told myself.
So, after three nights on board the ship, with stops in Nassau and Ocean Cay, the marine reserve owned by MSC Cruises, was it worth sailing alone?
In short: yes.
A solo cruise was a real escape
I have never spent time alone the way I have on MSC Divina.
Alone time in itself can be a luxury, but it can be even more of a gift on vacation.
I often forget how nice it is to do what you want, when you want, without worrying about someone else’s wishes.
One night, for example, I said to myself, “I should take advantage of everything the ship has to offer – catch a show, go to another bar, see what the casino might be like.
But I was exhausted.
If I had been with a travel partner I would have asked what they wanted to do and I would have agreed. Instead, I retired to my cabin (which was immaculate when I boarded, much to my delight) and its warm-toned decor and was lulled by the waves.
I woke up the next day well-rested – a feeling I hadn’t had in some time – surrounded by pillows on my cabin’s plush mattress and noticed my headboard in the large full-length mirror that extended across the entire width of the sleeping area.
I headed out to the balcony to watch the sunrise as we headed towards Nassau. The feeling of calm was almost surreal.
I didn’t think about my to-do list, my plans for the day, or what was going to happen over the weekend, let alone after the cruise was over.
In a totally new environment with no one in my life, I had a real escape, being almost untied from my home life – other than the fact that I was on a work trip.
Also, I was excited to try the food on board, which I had heard was outstanding (I thought it was ok – although I couldn’t try everything due to an allergy to gluten) and also to visit the cruise line’s marine reserve, Ocean Cay, which looked stunning in the photos I had seen online and on Instagram before embarking.
I met lots of people
In general, people are friendly. I’ve experienced this trip solo before, but after spending a long weekend on the same boat with hundreds of other people, the faces are starting to feel familiar.
On board MSC Divina, the crew members were friendly and chatty, as were the passengers.
I encountered quite a bachelor party on the ship from which I continued to see members for the remainder of the voyage. It was nice to see familiar faces and wave to them in the port of Nassau and also on the ship while sailing.
And, one evening, before going to dinner, I met a woman and offered to take her picture. She was alone too. After I finished taking some sunset shots, I joined her for a drink on one of the upper decks of the ship.
While chatting over mojitos, I learned that we had common ground and we agreed to meet again later. I spent part of the day at Ocean Cay with her and also had dinner with her on the last night of the cruise.
The others on board were also very talkative.
It was so nice to meet new people, especially after two years with more time at home than previous years.
Seeing new places alone can be exciting
One of the things about cruising that I like the most is that the ships often stop at several places. MSC Divina stopped in Nassau and Ocean Cay, MSC’s marine reserve in the Bahamas.
Both are beautiful. I had been to Nassau before and was excited to revisit the downtown area of the city and visit its local shops.
I had never visited Ocean Cay, so I was eager to experience its beaches and clear waters.
It was nice to get off the ship in the morning at Ocean Cay and explore the island and all it had to offer MSC passengers. I was in no rush, I had time to explore on my own.
There was enough to entertain me
While the itinerary only lasted three nights, I felt I could have spent more time on board and still had fun. I didn’t even have access to everything I would have liked to try while sailing, such as the waterslide and specialty restaurants (which have an additional cost).
I enjoyed several areas of the ship and explored the options in the main dining room as well as the buffet and another cafe on board for a snack. I also walked through all the entertainment venues and enjoyed a steel drum band in addition to other musicians who played on board.
But if I had been on the boat longer, I probably would have attended one of the onboard shows or an exercise class. And maybe, even though the services cost more, I might have signed up for a massage or a facial in the ship’s spa.
I think I would still have preferred to sail in company
Even after having had a great experience sailing alone, I still think I would have preferred to enjoy the cruise with a friend or family member.
That said, if I had the chance, I would do it again. I appreciated.