Whether it’s a family taking a year off to sail around the world, or a digital nomad working remotely from an island off the Cambodian coastline, people are exploring the world more than ever in 2024.
Solo travel in particular is experiencing significant growth: a report by Infinity Business Insights found that the global solo travel service market is expected to grow by nearly 10% within the next few years. It’s no wonder: travelling alone gives us independence and freedom, the chance to learn about ourselves and allows us to fully immerse ourselves into a local culture.
Despite this, many would-be solo travellers can feel daunted by the prospect of going it alone to a foreign country. Luckily, there is a middle ground that’s gaining in popularity: the river cruise. According to Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, 2023 saw a 31% increase in solo travellers compared to 2019, with a 61% increase in female travellers over the same time period. So, why are river cruises becoming so popular among this group?
One of the biggest hesitations for people travelling on their own is their personal safety – especially for female travellers. With a river cruise, you’ve got a crew and fellow passengers with you on your trip, yet you can still explore the various destinations on your own or with organised excursions if you prefer.
Knowing you’re being taken care of by the river cruise crew can be a huge source of comfort, making you more relaxed so you can get the most out of your travel experience.
It’s easy to meet people
There may be times when you’re travelling alone that you want companionship, but it can be hard to meet people if you’re staying alone at a hotel, especially in a country with a foreign language. Because river cruises have a much lower passenger count than ocean cruise liners, it’s far less intimidating to meet others, plus on-board group activities such as themed nights create a close-knit community.
And while solo travel can be exhilarating, experiences like drinking in a beautiful sunset or enjoying an unforgettable meal at a local restaurant can be somewhat anti-climactic if you’re on your own. With a river cruise, you can enjoy these excursions with your fellow passengers, creating shared memories with like-minded people that can feel far more meaningful.
The best of both
With solo travelling you have the freedom to choose where you go, how long you stay in one place and what you do while you’re there. With a river cruise, you have a set itinerary but within that there’s freedom in how you experience your different destinations: you can choose to participate in the group excursions, or you can skip them altogether and explore the town or village on your own.
By being able to choose what you do during the day while still having the stability of a set itinerary and the same accommodation each night, you get both freedom and comfort.
Better control of your expenses
Because a river cruise includes your travel and accommodation costs – and usually covers things like airport transfer and daily excursions too – you’ve got fewer unexpected costs such as expensive cab fares or having to find alternative accommodation if your hotel isn’t up to scratch.
In addition, river cruise companies such as Uniworld are recognising the popularity of their trips among solo travellers and are eliminating the single supplement on some of their most popular 2024 European itineraries. This means you no longer have to pay an extra amount because you’re travelling on your own, which makes things even easier on your wallet.
You don’t have to spend hours planning
One of the downsides of travelling on your own is that you have to do everything yourself, from booking your hotel, to paying for your transport, to organising visits to local tourist attractions. With a river cruise, these details are all taken care of, leaving you free to relax and enjoy the ride – literally.
With a river cruise, there are also often fewer logistics involved in getting into the town or city you’re visiting: because the ship usually moors right in the city centre, you don’t need to spend hours getting to the main attractions.
American author Neal Donald Walsch said: ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ There are many benefits of solo travel, and exploring a destination on your own out of your comfort zone can be life changing in terms of the perspective you gain.
A river cruise can be just the right amount of security and stability you need to embark on a solo adventure of a lifetime that will change your view of the world – and yourself – for the better.