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Cruising Solo: The Benefits of Single-Passenger Polar Travel

by Oceanwide Expeditions Blog

Traveling to the polar regions, and indeed traveling in general, is often seen as something you do in the company of family, friends, and romantic partners. Not so often is attention given to the benefits of going it alone.

Regions: Antarctica, Arctic

Why going on an Arctic or Antarctic cruise alone might give you the purest polar experience

Traveling is something one often does in the company of family, friends, or romantic partners. But as rewarding as this may be, we feel more attention should be given to the benefits of going it alone - especially when it comes to polar travel.

After all, the Arctic and Antarctica aren’t traditional holiday destinations. They’re not really cultural trips and definitely aren’t party vacations, despite what the polar bears might say. Rather, polar travel is about exploring stunning landscapes, spotting beautiful wildlife, and taking part in exciting outdoor activities. And sometimes the meditative aspect of these pursuits is best experienced in solitude.

Here we’ll explore a few benefits of visiting the Arctic and Antarctica as a single traveler, ending with a quick FAQ in case you’re considering such a voyage.

First of all, you’re not really alone on a polar cruise

Anywhere from 35 to 40 percent of our passengers visit the polar regions by themselves. So what do these savvy folks know that other travelers might not?

Well, for starters you’re really not traveling by yourself when you travel by yourself to the Arctic and Antarctica, at least not on a standard polar cruise: Most vessels that make the trip carry about 100 passengers, not including the crew and expedition guides.

Added to which, you always make Zodiac cruises with around eight people per boat, and you make shore landings in groups that are usually much larger.

The Arctic and Antarctica are great places for silent reflection

You can find peace in a Tibetan monastery, the forests of the American west, or on the rolling blue waves of the Mediterranean. But when you go to the polar regions, silence finds you whether you look for it or not. The natural stillness of these remote regions just seems to lend itself to quiet reflection on nature and our place within it.

Not having to keep up conversation with travel companions will allow you to sink into the experience without putting words to it. And if that’s not a concern, traveling solo means not having to worry about whether your companions are enjoying their trip as much as you are. And if that’s not a problem either, you surely won’t have to divide your attention as much when traveling alone.

This may all sound rather anti-social, but sometimes alone time is alright if it leads to having a superior experience in a place most people are never fortunate enough to visit.

Polar cruises provide a fine venue in which to make new friends

We know what you’re thinking: “If I’m taking a polar cruise to enjoy some much-needed alone time, why would I want to make friends on board?” The answer is, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. After all, it’s your vacation.

But there are some upsides to making acquaintances on polar cruises. For one, the friendship has a definite beginning and end that generally coincides with the length of the cruise. Some people keep in touch with those they meet on cruises, because the trips do create a high sense of camaraderie, but obviously this is not required.

Also, the people you meet on a polar cruise provide a fascinating survey of the world. Our passengers come from all over the planet, so there’s really no telling with whom you could share a room (unless you reserve your own cabin, of course): It could be a teacher from Germany, a journalist from Argentina, or a wine producer from China – if you’re lucky.

Lastly, the kind of people you encounter on Arctic and Antarctic trips are typically independent, adventure-minded individuals. With people like that around you, you’ll have plenty to talk about.

And even if you’re not much of a conversationalist, this type of person will probably understand. They’ll know it’s easy to talk away the magic of a place like the polar regions. And anyway, like Shakespeare said, “Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.”

When you travel as a single passenger, you choose your own adventure

Expedition cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica always run by a fairly tight schedule of intended landings, typically altered only in the event of unusual or potentially dangerous weather, ice conditions, or wildlife sightings.

But while this means you can’t control all aspects of what you do and when, traveling alone will allow you to decide entirely for yourself which activities you want to partake in.

For example, our polar voyages have twice-daily shore landings often divided into walking groups ranging from leisurely to moderate to more ambitious. You might be obliged to go where your companions go when you travel in a group, but not so when you travel alone. Also, some cruises offer supplemental activities like kayaking, mountaineering, or camping, just to name a few.

A single traveler can book these activities based solely on her or his own interests and abilities, while group travelers tend to stick together. Obviously, this is not true for all groups. Some companions are either all interested in the same things or are happy to divide and regroup as desired.

The point is, there’s a lot of freedom that goes with single-passenger travel that does not exist (or is harder to negotiate) when you travel with other people. Given the kind of experience most travelers seek in the polar regions, it can therefor be advantageous to consider flying (cruising) solo.

Arctic and Antarctic single-passenger travel FAQ

If you’re considering an Arctic or Antarctic cruise but are still undecided, read the answers to these frequently-asked-questions. It may make your decision a little easier.

  • Is it possible to have a cabin all to myself?

Yes, it is possible for all but quad and triple cabins. The rate to have a cabin to yourself is 1.7x the price of a single berth.

  • Who will I share a cabin with?

If you don’t book a cabin to yourself, you’ll share it with whoever happened to book the other berth. We always pair cabin mates with the same gender, however, keeping males and females together.

  • Can I choose who I share a cabin with?

Not unless you have specifically booked together.

  • When assigning cabin mates, do you keep in mind age and nationality?

No, we only consider gender when assigning cabin mates.

  • If I book a berth in a shared cabin and there is no roommate, do I have to pay the single supplement fee?

No, you only pay for the berth you use.

  • Is it likely that I’ll have a cabin to myself?

Sometimes, but it’s not particularly likely. If we’re not able to give you a cabin to yourself, we’ll ask if you mind sharing a cabin. 

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