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6 things that surprised me about going on my first solo cruise, from paying extra to travel by myself to how easy it was to meet people

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6 things that surprised me about going on my first solo cruise, from paying extra to travel by myself to how easy it was to meet people
  • I took my first cruise solo on the largest cruise ship ever, Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas.
  • My trip was full of surprises, from the price of the room to the best way to meet people.
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A few months ago, I took my first cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world and I traveled by myself. I experienced a few surprises along the way.

A few months ago, I took my first cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world and I traveled by myself. I experienced a few surprises along the way.
The author on the top deck of the world's largest cruise ship.Joey Hadden/Insider

As a frequent traveler, I've traveled long distances solo by plane and train — and now cruise ship, too.

In April 2022, I went on my first cruise to the Caribbean for a reporting trip by myself. During my seven-night solo voyage onboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas, my ship sailed to Roatán, Honduras; Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico; as well as Royal Caribbean's own private island in the Bahamas.

As a long-time solo traveler and first-time cruiser, a few things surprised me about cruising alone. From booking the trip to setting sail, here's what I didn't expect.

When booking my cruise, I was surprised to find that the room rate was higher for just one person than it would have been for two.

When booking my cruise, I was surprised to find that the room rate was higher for just one person than it would have been for two.
The author in her stateroom.Joey Hadden/Insider

Because most cruise ship staterooms are meant to hold at least two people, booking a room by yourself often means you still have to pay higher prices that are equivalent to two people. According to Cruise Critic, this is because most cruise ships don't have solo cabins that are meant for just one person. Some do, but it's not common. For example, mine didn't.

The listed rates for my ship were per person, not per room when I booked my cruise. But when switching between one and two guests in my search, the cost per person doubled when I had just one person selected. This is known as paying a "single supplement," as it helps the cruise line make up for the lost revenue that would have come from having a second person on board, according to the LA Times.

For $2,000, I got an ocean-view stateroom to myself. It would have cost about half the price per person if I had brought someone with me.

Insider paid for the room, per the company's reporting standards.

Read more: I spent 7 nights in a 179-square-foot room on the world's largest cruise ship. Take a look inside my cabin.

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It was easier to meet people on the ship than I expected it would be as a solo traveler.

It was easier to meet people on the ship than I expected it would be as a solo traveler.
People wander the top deck of the world's largest cruise ship.Joey Hadden/Insider

As someone who is typically shy around new people, I was surprised by how easy it was to talk to other travelers on the ship.

Couples, families, and other solo cruisers seemed open to chatting and sharing their experiences with me around the pool decks and at various eateries and common spaces. After all, we had at least one thing in common — being on this epic vacation.

Read more: 8 things seasoned cruisers say you should know before stepping foot aboard your first cruise

I thought I'd have a hard time navigating the ports to find my excursion groups, but since I booked through the cruise line, there were so many signs and directions that made it easy.

I thought I'd have a hard time navigating the ports to find my excursion groups, but since I booked through the cruise line, there were so many signs and directions that made it easy.
A tour guide holds up an excursion sign.Joey Hadden/Insider

At each cruise port, passengers may disembark to spend their time as they wish. They might sightsee independently, take a taxi to a beach, link up with a local tour guide, or join an official cruise-line excursion.

I joined a cruise-line excursion at every port and was nervous about finding my group due to the large crowds at each port. However, I was given clear directions of where to meet my group each time, and there were so many posted signs that it ended up being easy.

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I figured that since I was a solo traveler, I'd experience the ports alone, but I found that many people on excursions were looking to meet new people. It made making friends easy.

I figured that since I was a solo traveler, I'd experience the ports alone, but I found that many people on excursions were looking to meet new people. It made making friends easy.
The author hikes with a group during an excursion in Roatán, Honduras.Joey Hadden/Insider

I found that excursions were the easiest way to meet people on the ship. With group activities like hiking and plenty of downtime on bus rides to and from the tour locations, I spent most of the time socializing during these trips. On a guided hike in Roatán, Honduras, I met couples, families, and one other solo traveler.

Read more: I went to the Caribbean for the first time on the world's largest cruise ship and wish I had more time in these 2 ports

But I was shocked that I was mistaken for a child every time I entered or exited the ship.

But I was shocked that I was mistaken for a child every time I entered or exited the ship.
The author, 26, stands in front of the ship.Joey Hadden/Insider

"Where are your parents?" was a question I had to answer nearly every day of my cruise.

Cruise-line workers were quick to assume that I was a lost child rather than a solo cruiser each time I entered and exited the ship. This could be because I look young (in my opinion), but it also made me think that solo cruising must be less common at my age, 26.

Cruisers who answered this forum about the average age of solo cruisers on Cruise Critic in 2020 were between 30 and 80 years old.

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Even as a single person on the world's largest cruise ship, it can be hard to find a chair on the pool deck after noon.

Even as a single person on the world's largest cruise ship, it can be hard to find a chair on the pool deck after noon.
People fill up pool chairs on the deck.Joey Hadden/Insider

Since I was on the largest cruise ship in the world, I thought that it would be pretty easy to find a single pool chair on the ship at any time.

But by mid-day, most of the chairs were taken up by people or saved by towels. While saving chairs with towels wasn't allowed on my ship, I didn't see the rule enforced and I had to arrive early to ensure I had a good spot.

While I thought my first cruise was still enjoyable alone, if I were to take another one, I'd prefer to bring a buddy.

While I thought my first cruise was still enjoyable alone, if I were to take another one, I'd prefer to bring a buddy.
The author at a port in front of the world's largest cruise ship.Joey Hadden/Insider

While there were many social activities and friendly cruisers who loved to chat with random strangers like me, I still found myself feeling lonely on the ship. I longed to have a conversation with someone who knew me or to be able to share my experiences in new places with a loved one. Being surrounded by so many families and groups of friends made me wish I could be with mine.

If I cruise again, I'll definitely bring my own crew.

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