Thinking of getting on the “Love Boat”? Five things you need to know before getting onboard a singles cruise.
“There’s a reason some of these people are single. By midweek you’ll know it.”
My “cruise crush” tells me this as we are having breakfast on a deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean somewhere between Miami and St. Maarten. It’s day two at sea and I’m on the Norwegian Getaway with about 70 singles between the ages of 30 and 50 (and few above and below) for six days of sun and fun organized by singlescruise.com.
Two nights ago, about a third of us met at a mixer back at a hotel in Miami. I had no idea what to expect. The last time I travelled with a large group of singles was high school and my experience with sailing was limited to a two-hour party boat prom fundraiser on the Rideau Canal.
Still, I was somewhat prepared. For research, I watched the very first episode of the Love Boat and from this I knew that
- Dinners would be formal.
- Action would happen around the pool.
- There would be some sort of a misunderstanding.
- At some point Charo would make an appearance.
- A conga line (and hilarity) would ensue.
Turns out some of the above actually transpired. But I digress.
At the mixer, I meet men and women from all over North America and few Europeans. Among them are a handful of über confident types, an equal handful of socially awkward types, some loud boisterous types and majority falling somewhere in the middle. The women are friendly and the men not completely shit-faced despite some of them having been drinking since the afternoon.
By and large, they are polite, articulate and well groomed professionals. I’m impressed. I flirt with one of them and score a dinner date for later in the week. Although my prime motivation for the cruise was to escape the ice-encased Hell that is Toronto in the winter, suddenly things are looking much more interesting.
About half of the room are first-time cruisers like me and the other half experienced singlescruise.com cruisers. Over the next six days I become one of them. Here’s what I learn:
1. Friendliness goes a long way
One of the great things about group travel is that you meet people from all walks of life. Over the course of the week, I dine, dance and party with Republicans and Democrats; single parents on their first major trip and life-long world travellers; people in their 30s, 40s and 50s; and, a charming retiree who asks if my mother is single.
I also have great conversations with an engineer, a detective, a pilot, a surgeon, a statistician, a lawyer considering running for political office and someone whose work involves busting drug smugglers in the Caribbean (don’t worry dad, I didn’t tell him anything).
Some people I only see once. Others show up for every group activity. Still, I make it my mission to say hello to everyone in the group and it pays off. When I’m in other parts of the ship, or even off the boat exploring a Caribbean island, I inevitably have someone to make memories with.
2. Take downtime when you need it
With so many activities on the ship plus exclusive events organized by singlescruise.com – not to mention the nightclubbing, theme parties and bar hops involving copious amounts of fruity alcoholic beverages – it’s easy to have a blast, but it’s just as easy to burn out. For example, in a single day at sea, I:
- did an abs class with a trainer from the Biggest Loser
- attended a lecture in art history
- learned some country line dances
- slayed my opponents in Name that Tune
- saw a Broadway show
- performed in a Thriller flash mob
- danced my butt off at an outdoor nightclub
- and watched fireworks under the stars
And that’s not even mentioning the sex! Just kidding… the sex was the previous afternoon (wink!).
Two days later, however, I hit a wall and my energy crashed to pretty much the same level as the escargots they served as appetizers at dinner that night.
I dropped my plans and spent the rest of the day napping. Still bagged that evening, I barely made it to the ship’s biggest party and if it wasn’t for an incredibly reviving kiss from my “cruise crush” at said party I probably would have gone to bed early.
As several veteran cruisers said to me on the first day, “It’s a marathon not a race.” Don’t feel like partying? You don’t have to. During the day, you can have a spa treatment, read a book on a quiet deck or at an inside lounge, or take a class in the ship’s air conditioned interior. At night, you can always sit by a piano bar, watch a movie in your room, go solo to a magic show, or watch your money magically disappear at the casino.
Stop. Revive. Survive. Repeat as needed.
3. Be flexible with your plans
Given all the activity, what (and who) you want to do throughout the week will likely change. Although I was tempted to book all of my shore excursions and entertainment options before I left home. I’m glad I didn’t.
Once onboard, by speaking with others in the group I got a better sense of the options. For example, in St. Maarten, rather than take a group tour, I took a cab to Orient Beach for a fraction of the price the cruise line would have charged and spent the day with two great peeps that I might not have gotten to know any other way.
Similarly, plans with people may fall through. I never did have dinner with the guy from the pre-cruise mixer. He hit it off with another lovely woman early on and I saw no reason to block their burgeoning romance.
Likewise, I (temporarily) gave up on my “cruise crush” midweek when I (incorrectly) assumed that he was the object of affection of another woman I really liked hanging out with. (Chicks before dicks, yo!) Speaking of which…
4. A singles cruise is not about hooking up (except when it is)
Despite what your friends, family or work colleagues may think, most seasoned cruisers will tell you that singles cruises are not about getting laid or finding a partner for the week or even for life. I would agree. Everyone I met was there for a different reason – to escape the cold, get over a break up, go on adrenaline boosting adventures, relax around a pool, or make new friends and see old ones.
That said, I decided pretty much the first day at sea that I wanted to get laid… at least once. Bucket list check and check.
I wasn’t alone. I’d estimate about one-third of the other passengers also hooked up: some discretely, some overtly, and some repeatedly with different people.
It’s inevitable. Put a bunch of single men and single women together repeatedly in an enclosed environment and there will be attractions, a portion of which will be acted upon. Besides, where else can you practice your flirting skills with such frequency? Not at the office, let me tell you!
Still, as in real life, your chances will be greater if you go in with the attitude of if it happens, it happens, if not, no problem. As mentioned, there are lots of other ways to have fun (and exhaust yourself) on the ship without doing the horizontal mambo and no one likes a desperate douche with nothing else to offer.
If you do hook-up, the trick to avoiding any complications, is to:
- be discreet (especially, if you want to hook up with others)
- be upfront about what you want
If you want no-strings-attached-one-night-only-nookie, be clear that the person you are about to have it with is on the same page and emotionally capable of it.
Similarly, if you’re a monogamous-for-the-next-six-days type of person or a let’s-get-to-know-each-other-first-and-then-fly-to-each-other’s-cities-a-few-times-before-taking-it-any-further type, make sure you are clear about it with your partner.
Sometimes what happens on the ship stays on the ship and other times it doesn’t. It’s all good so long as you both want the same thing. (And if you don’t get what you want with who you want, I guarantee you will have a lot of great memories regardless.)
5. Some of your fellow passengers won’t stay single long
At the end of the week I couldn’t help but think back to what my “cruise crush” had said that second morning at sea. Yes, some people were clearly single for a reason: they couldn’t read social cues, talked too much, were boring, obnoxious or whatever. (They were, however, fabulously entertaining to watch.)
But others clearly chose to be single. During the cruise, I met numerous strong, independent and attractive men and women like me who are perfectly at ease with living life on their own terms and in no rush to settle down with anyone who might mess that up.
As someone who is finally finding her footing as a single person, it was inspiring. Still, I met others who I hope won’t be single long. And I say that in a good way because they will be such a catch for the right person.
One of my favourite afternoons was spent flirting at a nude beach with an American single dad who clearly had his priorities right and one of my favourite evenings was spent exploring the ship with a fellow Canadian who said he would love for his next cruise to be a romantic one with a girlfriend. Any woman looking for someone stable yet fun and adventurous would be lucky to have either of them.
So how accurate was my research?
Charo never made an appearance but there was some serious flirting poolside, we all looked swellegant at our formal dinners, I can count at least one misunderstanding, several conga lines broke out, the laughter was genuine and I was kissed on a deck under the stars. As far as the Love Boat went, I’d say it gave it a run for its money.
Would I do it again? Hell yah! But first, I need to check out Fantasy Island… I wonder if they have one for singles.
You can find out more about upcoming cruises at singlescruise.com. Several meet-ups also organize annual group excursions for singles as well as mixed groups. Search cruises or travel in your area at meetup.com.