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Sunday 14 July, 6:15pm
I have always fought against the idea of a cruise holiday. Too many people in one smallish space, too regimented, too much dressing up, just too organised for me.
But after 40 years in the travel business the time had come to face my fear and do it anyway.
On this trip I travelled with my husband, but I was very aware of many singletons on board. Some I spoke to had been on many cruises, for others it was their first time. But I observed how friendships were made and how the open seating plan at meal times gave everyone the opportunity to enjoy great conversation and not feel isolated.
Saga cruises offer a wide range of single cabins for passengers aged 50 and over, and make an extra effort to welcome everyone who is travelling alone. Their singles mingle welcome cocktail party is a great opportunity to meet up with fellow travellers.
I started conservatively with a one-week cruise from the UK to Norway and chose a compact ship, the Saga Pearl II. Saga Pearl looks like a ship should look, not a floating apartment block. She doesnt have a casino or nightclub, disco or numerous restaurants and swimming pools. What she does have is elegance and style, two beautiful restaurants and two perfectly adequate pools, a spa and gym, and for a small ship, plenty of space.
Just as my cruise loving friends predicted, I fell in love almost immediately with the whole concept. We had a lovely cabin with doors opening onto a private walkway, full bath and shower and very comfy beds. I enjoyed all the amazing food that was produced at every mealtime accompanied by a selection of wines, all included in the price. 24-hour room service was a bonus as well, especially for the early morning cup of tea so beloved by the English abroad.
During the day there was a variety of activities ranging from talks about the ports we were visiting, yoga lessons, quizzes and visits to the Bridge and Galley, all great opportunities for meeting like minded guests. But as the weather was kind I spent most of the time at sea lazing on a comfy sunbed on deck. It was so easy just to Âdo your own thing. Evening entertainment was professional and very enjoyable with resident pianist, band, and dance group.
I had slightly dreaded the formal night when dressy attire is recommended (but is not compulsory), as I am a very casual dresser. I had taken a long dress and my husband had his dinner suit so we threw ourselves into the moment and actually had a lovely evening.
Norway is a spectacular country and when you sail up into the deep fjords you realise the smaller the ship the better. The deep blue waters of the fjords contrasted with towering rock faces and distant mountains still covered with a layer of snow. The photo opportunities were endless. We stopped at some truly beautiful places, and were welcomed by the friendly Norwegian people. But it is an expensive country so to be able to eat and drink on board was a great bonus.
Shore excursions were varied you could opt for a leisurely bus tour or put on your hiking gear and walk into the mountains. Saga will help to introduce you to others who wish to go ashore independently if you don't fancy going it alone and would enjoy some company.
To sum up, if you get the chance give it a go. It is quite an expensive holiday but when you add up all that is included you may be pleasantly surprised. A cruise certainly is a most relaxing way to see some very different places and meet a whole spectrum of interesting people.
For more information see the Saga Holidays website at http://travel.saga.co.uk/
For more holiday ideas when travelling alone do read the recommendations from http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/
And remember, if you would like to go on a cruise or a different sort of holiday and would prefer to travel with a companion, togetherfriends offers the travel shoutout where members can 'shout out' for a travel buddy!