Cruising on your own, especially if you’re a first-timer, can be an intimidating idea. It really doesn’t need to be, though, especially on a river cruise.
Of course, some travellers are perfectly comfortable on their own and will treat their cruise as a peaceful retreat. Others, though, are looking for a safe, friendly and sociable holiday where they will meet like-minded people. Happily, a solo river cruise is one of the best possible environments for this.
For a start, compared to ocean-going ships, river ships are small; in Europe, they may take anything from 100 to 190 passengers, while on the Mekong, the Ganges and the Irrawaddy, they are generally even smaller, taking up to around 60. So you’ll never feel lost and you will quickly get to know people. You won’t be alone, either; plenty of travellers enjoy river cruising as singles.
On a singles river cruise, everybody generally eats at the same time and dining is open-seating, so you can choose your companions. There’s little chance of being stuck on a table for one. The more upmarket lines like Scenic and Uniworld include drinks in their prices, with generous amounts of wine offered with lunch and dinner, which generally makes for a jolly, friendly atmosphere and takes away any awkwardness about who buys a round.
The biggest bonus of solo river cruising is that most lines include all the excursions, so you are busy all the time ashore. It’s easy to get chatting to other passengers as you explore riverside towns along the Rhine, or exotic temples in Asia – and after a day ashore, everybody gathers in the lounge to swap stories and enjoy pre-dinner drinks. This doesn’t mean simply sitting on a coach, either.
AmaWaterways and Uniworld both carry bicycles, for example, and a long bike ride along the Danube or the Rhône with a guide can be a wonderful way to bond with fellow guests. Scenic’s bicycles are electric, so you can go further and cheat on the hills. Avalon Waterways offers a whole range of active excursions, among them cookery classes, painting, hiking, kayaking and wine-tasting. These ‘Active Discovery’ tours are available on the Rhine and Danube and from 2019, the Rhône, making Avalon a great choice for a younger cruiser.
In more exotic destinations, a river cruise provides a safe environment in which to explore places you might not otherwise visit alone, in the company of others and with a guide. You could explore India with Uniworld, or the Mekong with APT, or take one of Viking’s very detailed, inclusive tours of China.
While river cruise lines do not tend to have single cabins, several are particularly solo-friendly. Scenic, AmaWaterways, Uniworld, Tauck and Avalon Waterways all make solo travellers welcome and often have deals that reduce single supplements. Riviera Travel is especially good if you prefer something that’s aimed at British tastes – the company offers dedicated solo travel departures and even on the regular cruises, makes sure single travellers are included. Crystal Cruises, too, which has recently entered the river cruising market with five beautiful, highly luxurious ships, has crew members on hand to welcome single travellers and make sure nobody has to dine alone unless they want to. So take the plunge. You won’t regret it.