Expedition cruising is a particularly good option for solo travellers, offering a safe and sociable way of exploring the world's most exciting destinations on board an intimate small ship. This is your chance to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip you've always dreamed of, whether it's tracking polar bears in the Arctic, wandering with penguins in Antarctica, or island-hoping around the Galapagos.
The idea of travelling solo to such remote and rugged destinations can seem daunting, but you have nothing to fear! I've travelled solo on expedition cruises to Antarctica, Borneo and Alaska, and I've put together some top tips to help you get the most out of this fantastic way to travel...
1. Go all-inclusive
All expedition cruises include your meals and sightseeing, so it may seem extravagant, and perhaps even frivolous, to consider one that includes drinks as well. After all, it's about the destination, not the nightlife, right? Well, the joy of a ship with an open bar is the friendly and communal atmosphere it creates, with guests recounting the day's stories over their favourite tipple. It also makes it easy as a solo traveller to join others without the awkwardness of how to settle the bill.
2. Fly Business Class
Expedition cruises often require a lot of travelling to get to the ship, sailing from ports that lie well off the normal tourist trail. Flying Business Class offers a lot more comfort, and the larger, often flatbed seats are more private, with no risk of being stuck between two strangers. You can avoid the scrum of the main terminal and relax with plenty of space in the airport lounge, where you can enjoy complimentary food and beverages, and where you don't need to keep such a close eye on your bag. Even for short haul flights to destinations such as the Arctic, it's reassuring to board first safe in the knowledge that there will be plenty of space overhead to keep your hand luggage close.
3. Talk to the team on board
The expedition team will be very accessible, usually joining guests at larger tables for meals and helping you to spot wildlife on deck or in the observation lounge, as well as hosting lectures and leading excursions. They are there to help you get the most out of your trip, and are fantastic conversationalists. On one expedition cruise I was even lucky enough to enjoy dinner with Biruté Galdikas, an expert in the study and conservation of orangutans, after visiting the sanctuary she set up in Borneo.
4. Get to know your group
All of our expedition partners include sightseeing and shore landings during your voyage. Depending on where you're travelling, you'll be allocated a group for excursions so that the ship can operate landings as efficiently as possible. This makes it easy to get to know your fellow travellers and strike up conversation when you're back on board.
5. Take a selfie stick
If you're not familiar with a selfie stick, it's a ridiculous-looking device which is more commonly used by tourists a lot younger than I am! A metre or so long, it holds your phone and allows you to take a picture of yourself. You'll feel silly to begin with, but I found it invaluable when travelling solo in Antarctica.
6. Make sure you have binoculars
Many expedition ships provide you with binoculars, but if they don't then make sure you take some of your own. I spent hours in Patagonia watching the coastline, looking out for whales and enjoying just watching the world go by. Head up on deck and everyone will want to know if you've seen anything interesting, giving you the perfect icebreaker.
7. Choose the right ship
You won't often hear us say this at Mundy, but sometimes the ship can be too small. Choosing a ship that's around 100 guests is ideal, and expedition ships usually start at around this size. This gives the best balance of facilities, a larger number of guides, and a greater mix of other travellers.
8. Let us look after the details
Travelling can be stressful, and when I'm travelling alone I feel more comfortable if I know that I don't have to find a taxi rank, or worry about explaining where I need to go to someone who doesn't speak English as their first language. Talk to us about arranging pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, overseas transfers, or even a home pick-up in the UK. We can do it all, so you don't need to worry about a thing. That's what we're here for!
9. Finally, talk to me!
Making the right choice for your holiday is usually a complicated decision, weighing up the right cruise line (see our favourites for solo travellers here) and the right itinerary, selecting the best room category, then adding on various extras. I'm here to listen to what you want and advise the best way of getting it just right. We're a small team here at Mundy, and I (or one of my colleagues) will be your point of contact from the first time you call until the day you return home, to ensure that your once-in-a-lifetime trip is perfect.