Singles: Celebrate Christmas Early

No one wants to be alone at Christmas, so many singles think the way to avoid the holiday blues is to book a cruise during that time. This is usually a bad choice, because more families are ho-ho-ho-ing at sea, thanks to the big discounts cruise lines are offering for large groups booking blocks of cabins.

Shipboard family reunions are becoming an annual event for many inter-generational groups, especially over the festive season, when cruise lines offer special holiday entertainment and lavish decorations. Besides, a cruise eliminates the need for anyone to host their own gathering, and to cook a huge meal. So over the holidays, ships are crowded with grandparents, parents, and kids -- lots of kids. The result is that solo travelers find themselves feeling more alone than ever. One hapless single told me she wound up having Christmas dinner at a table by herself, because she was the only person onboard traveling alone; she felt like an intruder on the ship.

So what is a single to do if they want to experience Christmas joy? Do what I did last year: Cruise the week before the holiday. Rates are very reasonable because bookings are usually way down just before the holidays. The decorations are all in place, and so is special holiday entertaining, making it seem like Christmas.

I sailed on a cruise sponsored by Vacations To Go with nearly 140 singles on Costa's Mediterranea from Fort Lauderdale. From the moment I stepped onboard I was surrounded by Christmas trees, sparkling lights and holiday music. It might as well have been seven nights of Christmas Eve and seven days of Christmas.

Before dinner on the day we sailed, the singles cruise coordinator, Romeo (no, that's not his real name, but it suits the occasion), did a fantastic job of hosting a welcome-aboard cocktail party, leading the fun and games to get everyone acquainted. The singles were in a ratio of 50/50 men to women, and were mostly in their late 30s to early 50s. I was impressed by the instant camaraderie; by the second day, I saw couples pairing off romantically and groups joining together in new friendships. As I observed the group for the rest of the week, I was impressed, and found it to be one of the most successful organized singles cruises I have experienced.

I had noticed more and more singles cruises being booked on Costa's Mediterranea, and I had heard good things about the ship from those who were not part of an organized group. I believe the reason is the attitude of the crew. Everyone seemed to go out of their way to accommodate those passengers traveling alone. For instance, Maitre D' Ciro Onorato is known for cooperating in seating singles together for dinner, and Shore Excursion Manager Adelaide Germano is said to be very helpful in directing singles to excursions booked by other singles. There is also a singles party the first night of every cruise, and every night after that singles are encouraged to enjoy the disco for adults only after 11:30 p.m.

Everyone I spoke with in the singles group was glad they had discovered how a pre-Christmas cruise could lift their spirits and truly get them in the holiday mood. Many would be in touch on Christmas Day, either by phone or e-mail. As one young woman described the experience, "We just had Christmas early, and it's going to last through New Year's."

Many of the singles told me they intended to "have Christmas early" again this year, and, realizing the need, has another scheduled for December 15, 2006, this time on Crystal Cruises' luxurious Serenity from Miami, with prices starting at $2,223 per person, double occupancy.

Joining what could be a popular new trend in singles cruises, two other agencies are hosting pre-Christmas cruises:, with a seven-night eastern Caribbean sailing December 16 from Fort Lauderdale on Holland America's Zuiderdam, priced from $599; and, with a six-night western Caribbean departure on December 17 from Fort Lauderdale on Carnival's Liberty, from $591 per person.

Make reservations ASAP. These special cruises will sell out.

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