Actually, I’m not too concerned about where the cruises go; it’s the cruises themselves and the people I meet on them that make them so enjoyable for me. I always look for a good price when choosing a cruise – and this cruise was a particularly good bargain price. Amazingly the price including flights from UK was about £900 CHEAPER than the price of the cruise only from Barbados! Just didn’t make sense! Yes MSC charter a couple of planes from Virgin Atlantic to do this and they need to fill the planes, but even so!! And what is more, the price included tips and a premium drinks package that would have cost £770 if bought separately as an extra! So taking into account what the cost of flights would have been and the drinks package, we were getting the cruise itself for a very good price.
I booked the cruise through Passion for Cruises, which is a travel agent based in South Wales that specialise in cruises and holidays for solo travellers. They have excellent Facebook pages that allow their clients to make contact with each other and I got to know of about 16 others who would be doing this cruise. Even before the cruise, we had made arrangements to meet up on board. Sure enough, I even met a few of them at Heathrow airport and found several others on the flight as we got to Barbados airport. This was made easy by virtue of blue wristbands we wore to identify us as PFC solo travellers.
I’ll not give a day by day account of this cruise (the photos will give you some indication of the places we visited), but suffice it to say that what made the cruise for me was the companionship of the solo group and the friendships that were formed. Without that, the cruise might have been a bit disappointing as MSC is not my favourite cruise line, the food could have been a bit better and there was not that much planned to do on sea days (compared with P&O for example). MSC is an Italian cruise line and the Seaview ship is huge (about the same size as the P&O Iona that I was on last year). It can take up to 5,200 passengers but it was only about 25% capacity for our cruise. I doubt it would be much fun at full capacity (it would be near impossible to get a sun-lounger on the sun deck!), but on the other hand, several things were closed because of the low capacity (such as half the restaurants and buffets, the zip lines, etc.). Sometimes we outnumbered the bar staff in a few of the quieter bars!
The evenings were the best. A group of eight of us arranged to dine together for the first sitting each evening. We did meet the other solo cruisers from time to time during the cruise but they mostly formed into smaller groups of two’s and three’s. Most solo travellers are female and in our group there was just one male, Bill, who took on the role as our leader. With a female following (his ‘harem’!), he had a great time!
Following dinner, we would generally go for drinks in one of the bars before going to a show in the theatre. After that, we usually ended up in the Haven Lounge where a couple of bands performed each evening and the ships’ entertainment team would often put on a quiz, karaoke or some other fun entertainment. One of the bands was a trio from Dominica and I got quite friendly with the female lead singer, Rosa. We could dance to the bands and we made full use of our drinks package to well into the early hours of next morning (Gloria and I on champagne!).
I formed a particularly good friendship with Gloria and whilst on this cruise we booked another MSC cruise together for next October/November. Although not particularly impressed with MSC, the cruise we booked (to the Indian Ocean) was an exceptionally good price and by booking it on the present cruise, we got a further very favourable discount.
It was Gloria’s birthday on the first day of the cruise and partly because of that, she did manage to get an upgrade on the flight to Barbados. “Because it was her birthday” became a bit of a standing joke throughout the cruise. During dinner on several days of the cruise, we would hear a group of the waiters bang drums and present someone with a birthday cake but Gloria never got this when it was her birthday on the first day. So I arranged a surprise for Gloria and got the waiters to give her the birthday ritual on the last night of the cruise.
It was a good end to a most enjoyable cruise. Our little group of solo cruisers had bonded extremely well and we remain in touch via a WhatsApp group. There is even talk of us all getting together again for another cruise one day! Certainly, Gloria and I will be doing another cruise together later in the year. But before anyone says anything, we are just good friends, nothing more!
Click on an image below to see lots more photos of the cruise