Editors note: This is a transcription of Episode 98: Solo Cruising
Intro: Broadcasting from the Cruise Radio studio’s in Jacksonville, Florida – this is Cruise Radio.
Host: Hey Im Matt Basford, and Im Doug Parker, follow us on Facebook and Twitter at Cruise Radio dot net. On this show we’ll talk to travel writer Sherry Lasken and Paul Motter from Cruise Mates dot com, we’ll talk to them both about solo cruising. Before we get to Stewart, quick note, our own Doug Parker was quoted in the Florida Times Union, again, a recent article about Carnivals itineraries out of Jacksonville. You can read the whole article at Cruise Radio dot net.
Now, Stewart Chiron the Cruise Guy is here, hello Stewart!
Stewart: Hey Matt, Hi Doug
Host: Getting right to it!
Stewart: As we always do.
Host: The Celebrity Silhouette, you were just on it, how was it?
Stewart: Well I’ll tell ya, the other three Celebrity Solstice-class ships were amazing and Celebrity Silhouette made some incredible improvements which really just sets the ship off into the stratosphere. The main difference that it had was it removed the glass blowing shop that was on top of the ship, right off the lawn club and they put in a Lawn Club Grill. Now we’re not talking about a grill that you have in your backyard, but, there are grills. Essentially you have this really nice dining area that is open air and you have a person(s) from your table go and make flat bread pizza, put whatever you want on it and then your chicken, fish, and steaks, your kabobs would be done on the grill and you would cook it along with one of their chefs.
So you get to put on the apron, have an opportunity to go out to the grill and do it in a four or five star experience.
Host: I really like that idea because I like cooking my own food on the grill. Now afterwards, do you get to put on a cabin steward outfit, clean up your own room and make your own towel animals?
Stewart: (laugh) No, but it really was an incredible evening. The views are incredible and it’s going to make the space so much more used by the passengers. You know, at night time when there was nobody there (other venues), this place was packed. They’ll be able to get another 200-250 people for dinner so it really adds a nice ambiance and what it also does is creates this camaraderie where tables of people who don’t really know each other are interacting and getting to know each other and really having a good time.
Host: Glad we can be there with you on that one, Stewart (sarcasm).
Two Carnival ships bumped in Key West, what ships were they and was there any damage?
Stewart: The Fantasy got too close to the Imagination in Key West. The ships themselves allegedly didn’t bump but the awnings struck each other. The Imagination was docked, the Fantasy was pulling and got a little too close. Just out of regulation the Coast Guard was involved to find out why the ships got so close. That’s all we really know at this point.
Host: You know Stewart, It’s never good when my Imagination gets too close to my Fantasy.
Stewart: There ya go!
Host: So Stewart, this is a hot topic lately. What’s going on in Greece and is this something that cruisers should take note of?
Stewart: It really is a good question because a lot of people are really wondering just what is going on. The only cruise line that has gone back to lets say, Egypt is Princess. No other cruise lines have followed suit and a lot of people think it’s way to early to be going back there considering they still have no form of government, stability, and issues being left unresolved.
In Greece they’re having all kind of problems, they have their debt issues, but right now it’s crazy taxi cab drivers who are block aiding the pier. For a country that is so dependant and desperate for money that they would have the audacity to block the tourists that are supposed to be coming in and spending millions of dollars to help support them is just mind boggling. What a lot of people don’t know guys, and this is one of the many reasons you’ll want to continue to listening to Cruise Radio, and that’s people think it’s just relegated to Athens. Last week it was more than just Athens that cruise ships were diverted away from other Greek ports including the island of Crete. So there are other islands within the Greek isles that are having problems. They are striking near the cruise ships and the cruise lines are very strongly looking at the situations and if they can not ensure the cruise ship passengers safety, they are going to divert and go elsewhere.
Host: Just to put the rumors to rest and tuck away any fears, do cruisers need to stay away from the Mediterranean?
Host: We always like to get listener questions. You can reach us by contacting us [email protected] . This one from Bob Kenyon in Boston, Massachusetts.
Bob writes, “I would like to know the difference between the Eastern Caribbean and the Western Caribbean. Having never been to either of them and other than reading on cruise critic, and the other sites I’ve found, I have no real answers other than price of the cruise, different ports they visit, and what ship I’d be on. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.”
Stewart: Well that’s an interesting question. The eastern and western Caribbean are just directions of the Caribbean. The eastern Caribbean now tends to be a more expensive itinerary and western Caribbean tends to offer some additional savings.What islands the ship visits depends on what ship is calling where. You’re not going to go wrong with either one.
Host: When it comes to safety, is one safer than the other?
Stewart: The Caribbean is a very safe destination to go and perfect for a first timer. You’re not going to go wrong with either of these itineraries. It maybe best to stick to the cruise line tours (instead of doing it on your own). Both of these are terrific. Ships departing out of South Florida will be able to get you to the eastern and western. It’s a good place to go for your first cruise.
Host: Very good, Stewart. It’s always a pleasure to have you.
Stewart: Always a pleasure and next week I’ll be calling you from Mexico.
Host: What a fancy world traveler you are.
Stewart: Well you know, we gotta be out there and kick the tires for the listeners.
COMMERCIAL BREAK (60 seconds)
Host: Every week we like to give you Porthole Cruise Magazines ‘Pick of the week.’
When you think cruising, do you think beer? If so, you might want to consider booking acruise that calls on Key West this Labor Day weekend. The highlight on tap from September 1-5? — The Key West BrewFest.
Over the weekend, you can taste more than 100 beers from around the world like Monk in the Trunk, Magic Hat, Purple Haze, Woodchuck Draft Cider, and of course, local favorites like Key West Sunset Ale. Besides the main tasting festival, other events include parties, dinners, and beer brunches.
Presented by the Southernmost Hotel Collection and Southernmost Beach Café, the weekend event benefits the Key West Sunrise Rotary Club of the Conch Republic.
Host: We’ve talked to him before, you’ve heard him before, from Cruise Mates dot com, Mr. Paul Motter. Welcome back to Cruise Radio, Paul.
Guest: Thank you, Matt, it’s really great to be here.
Host: So you just sailed on one of our favorite ships, Norwegian Epic, I love that ship. We got to see, we didn’t stay in it but we got to see the studio cabins. Those are really really slick, I would love to stay in one of those. We really want to talk to you about what it’s like to cruise solo and specifically cover your experience in that solo cabin but first of all, was that your first time on Norwegian Epic?
Paul: Actually that was my first time on Epic, in fact, that was the first cruise of Norwegian Epic. It was the transatlantic cruise. Right after the inaugural cruise. They had a couple of short media cruises like two days that was the first full seven-day cruise of the ship.
Host: Very cool, and you did get to stay in the solo cabins?
Paul: You’re right. I did get to stay in the solo cabins. Cool is a good word for it. They have different light settings like red, blue, violet, green, and the lights will cycle to different colors and you can set them for different moods and things like that, it’s a very cool cabin.
Host: You know what and I’d like to include myself in this where you think of a small single cabin could maybe seem claustrophobic to some people is the perception. As we were touring the studio cabins you just didn’t feel small, it was so cozy like you said with the lighting in the technology in there, you really felt like you had a very comfortable space.
Paul: Right. It is comfortable and very utile. I wouldn’t want to put two people in there as they originally planned to do, they were wise to change them to solo cabins. They made those cabins just about as small as you can possibly make them and still have them habitable. I found myself moving some of the furniture around but other than that they are very comfortable.
Host: Are there any negatives about the cabin or cruising solo in that regard?
Paul: The only possible negative is that there really isn’t much drawer space all you have is closet space and it’s abbreviated it’s only about six to eight inches deep, I can’t remember exactly, so you have to remember that almost all the clothes you bring will have to be on hangers or else folded up and sitting kind of out in the open. The good thing about the cabin as you can actually have a guest in the room and there small. You can actually use the bathroom in the shower unlike the larger cabins where they’re kind of famous for having not so private bathroom facilities.
Host: How does dining work when traveling solo?
Paul: Well, the nice thing about Norwegian Epic and the solo cabins and the solo concept on Norwegian Epic is that they have a place called the living room for the studio staterooms, which are the solo cabins. The living room is a room that’s only given access to the solo cruisers in the studio state rooms and inside the living room they have not only food, big-screen tvs and a bar with the bartender but they generally have an activities director on duty most of the time in their rganizing singles to get together for meals every night and other activities throughout the cruise. So really to me that’s a one-of-a-kind solo cruise experience unless you go with the singles group on a regular cruise ship. That’s the only cruise ship I know that does that on every single cruise.
Host: And they’ll round up a group for any of the speciality restaurants too or is that just the main dining room?
Paul: They go with the flow depending on what people what to do, what they have is a bulletin board that they’ll post at the know say me know if you’re interested in going in out to the Brazilian venue tonight please sign up here. They’ll have a group that’s going at the same time and then they’ll make the reservation and go.
Host: When your traveling solo are any itineraries better than the other?
Paul: I think itineraries are an individual choice, if i were traveling solo i would probably want to go to a place where i really want to see the destinations and i don’t mind being alone. I don’t enjoy being alone in places where i’m generally bored.
Host: What advice do you have for booking excursions when you’re cruising solo?
Paul: Well I will tell you one trick that i have found when i used to cruise somewhat solo. Excursion’s, especially in a regular cruise is a great way to get to know somebody might have your eye on. If you find somebody who you know is single and you think you’re cute and you happen to hear them going on a certain excursion get yourself on that same excursion, it’s a good way to meet somebody and especially on the bus if you see them sitting alone which is a good chance they will be because most couples together are taking up both seats.
Host: What is the cost comparison to cruising solo? I guess the question is, is it really worth it?
Paul: I find that there are people who will cruise solo and don’t mind being in a cabin alone and they don’t mind paying that double occupancy fare which can be expensive but there’s really no choice if you want to go solo on most mainstream cruise lines. Some ships charge of the price of two people some people don’t mind paying that.
Host: He’s always got great advice when it comes to cruise information. Mr. Paul Motter from Cruise Mates dot com, thanks for being on Cruise Radio.
Paul: Thanks so much!
Host: She’s with us once again and we always love having her, travel writer Sherry Lasken. Hello Sherry!
Sherry: Hi Matt. How are you doing today?
Host: Doug’s here too.
Sherry: Hi Doug!
Host: So you just went on a solo cruise.
Sherry: I did, this one was only 50 days, I’m sorry to say. Less than last year.
Host: Only 50 days?! That’s long!
Sherry: Well it is but you’re constantly on the move. If you don’t fly and are taking ships everywhere or trains, there’s never a dull moment.
Host: Tell us a little bit about that?
Sherry: Well, I was lucky enough to find a ship right here in Port Canaveral so i literally left my house and headed to the ship, and about thirteen days later i left the ship early in Amsterdam, headed for Brussels to board a river boat for what turned out to be twenty seven days.
Host: What’s one of the first things you would advise people to do?
Sherry: To make that step and don’t be afraid to go out and cruise on your own, it’s a wonderful way to travel you meet so many people that you wouldn’t meet if you’re stuck with people you know. It’s a great way to travel and you’ll come back really proud of yourself that you did it.
Host: First thing I like to do when I head to the ship is go straight to the bar.
Sherry: I’m just a few steps behind you, believe me on that one. I do have a little trick, make friends with your bartender. It’s so important that you have a safety zone and a place that you can work without being hassled and people stepping into your space. Give him a tip up front. He will watch out for you, he’ll keep your glass filled, and it really helps you have a place to go. It’s like my Cheers.
Host: Well you had a little experience with spaghetti Eddie (last cruise) didn’t you?
Sherry: (laugh’s) Spaghetti Eddie was a character. I haven’t really developed this idea with a bartender and a place to call home, so I sat down and ordered a Cosmo because those were in back then. Before i knew it i turned around this little guy comes over with a flowing white hair, scarf, white shoes a white button down suit and they called them Spaghetti Eddie and he proceeded to hound me for a couple of days until my wonderful bartender said ‘leave her alone.’
Host: Nice. As I’m reading the article I’m seeing a recurring theme here, that is to make friends with you well at least the important people on the ship including the front desk that you mention, the bartenders, with this includes the front desk staff is well.
Sherry: It’s really important, they take the brunt of everything. For them to see a smiling face really brightens their day. If you need anything done for your room, repairs at two o’clock in the morning for something, a light bulb changed, or something not getting done. If you have friends of the front that you always wave to say hi, they will take care of you. It goes both ways, if you’re nice to someone, they’re nice to you.
Host: You know I took a solo cruise on Monarch of the Seas last year, what kind of solo travelers advice do you have for dining? For me, it was a pain in the ass.
Sherry: (laugh’s) Dining can be a bit of a daunting experience. You do not want to be a table for four, that can be catastrophic and don’t want to be in anything really smaller than a table for six. Make sure you check with the matire de as soon as you board, he can look on the computer, make sure that the table you’re sitting at isn’t all couples. You don’t want to be the ninth wheel or the eleventh wheel at a table for ten, it just doesn’t work well. They can move you before your first seating so you’re with solo travelers.
Host: When reading your article, i loved this part of it, when you’re traveling solo you have an entire cabin to yourself..
Sherry: You sure do, you become rather stingy with your space i think once you’ve been traveling solo and you don’t have to divide it up with anybody. You could have your shelves, your drawers or closets your counter space, floor space for your shoes, it is just a nice way to travel.
Host: You can also have as many men in and out of your cabin that you want, isn’t that right, Sherry?
Sherry: (laugh) As long as they take numbers and it’s consecutive you know?
Host: (laugh) Speaking of, cruising solo isn’t really this big singles get together anymore, right?
Sherry: Great segue. It’s not. I mean it certainly can be if you go on a singles party cruise. Even the daily planners where it used to say singles get together now says solo traveler meeting. If really gives a different spin. You’re still there to meet people and be social with. In my article I said I used to hide behind a potted plant or send someone else in to scout it out for me. I didn’t want to go in there and once i got in there I was mortified as to what I’d be doing. I find that with the laptop, notebook and pen I have a little security blanket. Last time I got on Cunard and walked into the solo traveler cocktail party and it was a really nice experience.
Host: You also mentioned something good as well, having built in companionship.
Sherry: This is a different situation altogether you are traveling solo but you find a group, there called affinity group that you may travel with people from a local wine bar. You’re all going separately but yet you still have your get together it could be any group whatsoever has these functions now at sea and it’s really you get the experience and you can build up your confidence in traveling solo.You have a built-in safety net with people that you get together with the dinner you might even have on board activities together you may be able to have a shore excursion. For example going on the culinary or wine cruise you may be going in your own little group to a winery or to a restaurant and watch the chef I’m sure prepare your luncheon entree. Finding an affinity group (and they’re all over the internet) you can look there perhaps you know a religious affiliation has something going on but you get your sea legs for traveling solo.
Host: Sherry, it’s so good talking to you.
Sherry: Thanks again for having me on the show, you guys are a hoot and a blast to work with.
Host: Thank everybody who has joined our Facebook family. Please won’t you like us on Facebook?! Congrats to Kaylee Lay who was our 1000th friend.