I was still laughing and giggling when the next dapper gentleman reached for my hand to lead me in what I learned was a slow waltz. A lithe woman crooned classic songs on stage, and other couples glided like swans on the Palm Court dance floor.
I, on the other hand, kept stepping on my dance host’s feet, laughing in embarrassment but enjoying every second of it. These were my friends now - fellow solo cruisers and on-board ambassadors with whom I had shared most meals, and toasted delicate wines with, and who danced with me every night on board my first solo cruise.
Although I travel for a living and have taken cruises around the world, this week-long Caribbean cruise from Miami to Puerto Rico on the newly refurbished luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity was my first cruise to take alone.
It was also my first cruise through the Caribbean. I’m no stranger to solo travel, but I was wary. Would I be lonely? Would I be charged an a solo supplement rate because I was by myself? Would I enjoy this ship, which is known for its high-class yet approachable luxury, as much as other ships I had been on?
By the end of the first day aboard Crystal Serenity, those doubts fled in a flurry of welcoming greetings from the crew members and officers, the considerate attention from my own personal butler and the eager passengers who all seemed delighted to be sailing, taking shore excursions and meeting old and new friends.
An Ocean View Guest Room Of My Own
I was booked on a pre-Christmas cruise in the Caribbean, sailing from Miami to Puerto Rico. Along the way, we stopped on islands I had only heard of, like Nassau, Tortola, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
Thanks to the new solo cruiser package offered by Crystal, I stayed in the Single Guest Room with an Ocean View. This 216-square-foot cozy bedroom was redesigned beautifully in 2023 and came with a sumptuous queen bed, a pretty room living area with a sofa, a walk-in shower with the best water pressure I’d ever had on a ship, and a slew of other amenities like a pillow menu offering a wide selection of pillow types.
Every morning, the Reflections newsletter was delivered to my room, and a quick call to my personal butler (all accommodations have one) brought fresh coffee or light bites any time I needed it. Crystal’s Zero Single Supplement allows solo guests to enjoy all the luxury amenities at double occupancy rates without the supplemental fee typically charged to solo travelers.
Unlike some of the large “floating city” cruise ships that ferry thousands of guests, I never felt crowded or pressured while onboard. The ship hosts a maximum of 740 guests, so while there’s always someone to talk to, there’s also plenty of space. But, I’m normally a social person, so I got my “crowd” fix in the public spaces like the intimate and cozy Avenue Saloon, the cigar and cognac bar Connoisseur Club, the centrally-located Crystal Cove bar area, onboard shopping, and even a library and computer lab for the less technologically able!
Because I was traveling solo, I never felt the need to constantly entertain or do whatever a travel companion wanted to do. For once, I could just relax and be quiet while soaking in the pool on the sundeck, waking whenever I wanted to visit the fitness center, or indulging in an hour-and-a-half facial and massage at Aurora, Crystal’s spa concept.
Dining at its finest
“Would you like to sit at the solo table,” the Maître D asked the first night at Waterside Restaurant.
“Uh, sure,” I replied. I was seated with a couple from Tokyo and another solo traveler, Scarlett, who was taking her first luxury cruise as research for her next novel. I also met our “ambassadors” - the dapper gentlemen who dined and danced with us – who became some of my closest friends as I chose the solo table each night. I met people who are now friends outside of the cruise - the elegant widow Crystal, fun Lisa from Nashville, sweet elderly Jane, the hilariously smart Ann, and the ballroom-dancing Debra … to say you make instant friends is an understatement.
It’s easy to be happy with the exquisite cuisine onboard at Osteria D’Ovidio and UMI UMA by Master Chef Nobuyuki (Nobu) Matsuhisa. Both restaurants require reservations, but when folks tell you to try the black cod at UMI UMA, do it. It’s so good, you’ll fall over with pleasure.
Other dining options like the Vintage Room’s wine pairing dinners, The Trident Grill, the buffet-style Marketplace, Scoops Ice Cream Bar, and the Tastes Kitchen & Bar ensured I was always satisfied.
The crew members were among the best I’ve seen on a cruise ship. I honestly believe every staff member was thrilled to be there. There is a reason why more than 80 percent of the original crew returned post-pandemic and when Crystal relaunched in summer 2023.
With ballroom dancing every night, spectacular Broadway-style performances and entertainment, engaging enrichment speakers, an onboard movie theater, and a nightclub, I never found myself lacking in excitement.
Destination Experiences to Remember
The excursions were well planned, too. I could choose from off-road adventures or tours in Tortola, a farm-to-table cooking class or rum distillery tour on Marigot, catamaran sailing and snorkeling in St. Kitts, or relaxing beach days.
“This is my first cruise ever,” my new friend Ann told me. “I’ll probably be a Crystal cruiser for life. I can’t imagine any other cruise topping this.”
Me too, new friend, me too.
For my first solo cruise in the Caribbean, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.