The company was purchased early this year by mega-travel agency Carlson Wagonlit, so I decided to see what, if anything, had changed since the buy-out.
The site's Halloween cruise was the most popular, but it had become so huge – attracting nearly 600 singles in 2004 -- that it was split into two Halloween sailings this year. I chose the one on Carnival's Glory from Port Canaveral to the eastern Caribbean, and I found myself wondering how Singlescruise.com had managed with a larger crowd than the 200+ who gathered at the Welcome Aboard cocktail party on sailing day.
Group Coordinator Tracie Mosley, a former Carnival Social Host, said she recognized at least 70 percent of the single passengers. "The same ones keep coming back," she said. "It's like a high school or college reunion."
But what about the hook-ups that don't last? As one woman said with a shrug: "One night stands? They happen. You move on."
There are some who count so much on finding romance that they are willing to pay the price of a single-occupancy cabin. "I can't take the chance of meeting someone and then not having a place to take her," explained a man who was on his fifth singles cruise. "It wouldn't be fair for me to ask my cabin mate to move out, and I wouldn't want to sleep in a deck chair for him, either. So I save up until I can have my own cabin."
Ms. Mosley explained that the agency waits as late as possible to pair people up, and always takes age differences into consideration. When cruise documents are mailed, the name and address of the cabin mate is included. While that gives people a chance to settle possible issues before sailing, how many times would a person even think to ask whether someone likes to walk around the cabin au naturale? And always take ear plugs, regardless
Ms. Mosley, with assistance from co-coordinator Darren Brood, a former production singer with Carnival (who also happens to be her fiance), quickly got things rolling at the get-acquainted party by handing out keys to the guys and little padlocks to the women. The purpose, of course, was to pair off people as they sought out a match; when a key fit, the couple received a ticket for a raffle to win various ship souvenirs.
Several other games took place at social gatherings throughout the cruise to help people connect, like the popular one-and-a-half minute chat before switching in order to meet as many people as possible in a short time.
An Early Start
But there was no reason for anyone to feel left out if they made the effort to join in. The seven-day cruise was packed with a schedule of events for the singles more parties at poolside, breakfast and lunch gatherings, shore excursions; and every night the singles ate in a certain section of the dining room, switching seats most of the time. There was also a daily staffed hospitality desk to handle any inquiries or problems.
At the farewell cocktail party, where Karaoke was featured, there was a surprise dedication song for a couple who became engaged that week after having been on earlier singles cruises together.
Carnival also hosted some singles activities during the week, like a 35+ singles and companions get-together nightly at a wine bar, and a meeting place for before-the-show gatherings of singles. It was at one of these that a woman traveling with the singles cruise met someone not connected with the group; the two were making plans to visit each other in the future to keep their romance aglow.
Ms. Mosley's schedule for 2006 has her working as coordinator on 23 cruises, and three of those will be in Europe. She pointed out that Singlescruise.com endeavors to send a coordinator for every 50 passengers and is currently seeking 10-12 people as part-time and reserve staffers.
There were some wild moments that raised a few eyebrows like the organized "streak" around the top deck of the ship. Some singles cruisers complained about part of their group stripping down at the beach in St. Maarten. Perhaps the most raucous night was the last, when some revelers leaped up on their tables in the dining room when rock music came over the speakers. Agitated Maitre d's were tugging at ankles, urging people to get down, but the dancing continued until the music ended, and I was surprised some of the tables did not collapse.
While the age range mostly was in the mid to late-30s and early 40s, there were some older, a few even in their 60s. Overall, I would recommend Singlescruise.com for the former range. The "more mature" participants seemed a bit bored, and I heard a few say that for their next cruise they would look for a group more in their age range.
The Group Option
As CruiseMates' Singles Editor, I receive a lot of inquiries from solo travelers asking which is best an organized singles cruise, or a cruise on their own. There was a time when I would respond by saying that if a person was outgoing, they should have no problem traveling alone. However, my opinion has changed as cruises now attract more families, partly due to discounts offered to large groups. As a result, I see fewer and fewer singles. So I now recommend an organized singles cruise for anyone traveling alone (unless, of course, that's what you want to be alone).
As for finding romance on a singles cruise or any cruise for that matter -- it is possible…but not probable. After all, there is distance involved between hometowns. Which one is going to change jobs and move to be with the other one? And, sadly, so many times when the cruise ends, so does the fantasy.
But one thing is certain the majority of the 217 singles on Carnival's Glory for Halloween took home happy memories that will last a lifetime…or at least until their next singles cruise, which most seemed to be planning already.