Remember when Halloween was considered a holiday just for kids? No more. Halloween is now a major holiday for adults -- especially singles.
Halloween sailings are drawing more interest than ever this year, according to the professional singles cruise planners. Thousands of solo cruisers will take to the high seas this Hallow’s Eve, with a Halloween singles cruise to satisfy just about anyone; from the diversity of urban New York to the seventh annual LDS Singles Halloween Cruise for Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) from Utah.
One company, VacationsToGo Singles Sailings, has three different hosted Halloween cruises this year -- one in Europe sailing from Barcelona; one from New York sailing to Bermuda; and their largest one aboard the lovely Ruby Princess sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean. This is their most popular cruise at more than 250 people, up from about 50 guests apiece on the first two sailings. The Europeans are "just not into Halloween in the same way as Americans,” says cruise hostess Kari Lee. “The Brits just call it 'Dress Up Night'.”
Another popular singles cruise company, SinglesCruise.com, has the biggest singles cruise of the year sailing on the Carnival Valor with 420-plus singles booked already – 30 percent larger than last Halloween. The hosts are onboard to coordinate events and solve problems. Each cruise has at least two hosts; bigger groups have more.
What is it about Halloween for singles? Although these companies offer cruises throughout the year, Lee says Halloween and Mardi Gras have become the most popular holiday cruises. The reason for their popularity is, well, their popularity. After all, no one wants to go to a “dead party.” The girls want to be “where the boys are.”
As to the gender mix, Lee tells me singles cruises tend to average about 60 percent women and 40 percent men, although it varies. A cruise may start out at 65/35 but become closer to 55/45 by the time it sails. Why? “Women tend to book early and the men book late,” Lee told me. That implies men want to gauge their chance of romance before they commit, while women have loftier priorities. Lee noted that men do tend to book the Mardi Gras cruise more than the ladies, "probably because of a certain tradition concerning beads."
When I asked about the romantic expectations of solo cruisers, Lee replied: “I would say most people come to have fun, and if they happen to meet someone special it’s a bonus -- but it isn’t expected, and ‘hooking up’ is not the name of the game for most of these cruisers.” Considering the average age on her cruises is 45 to 50 that seems right to me. Many solo cruisers I have met say they do it mainly for the travel savings and companionship -- and they prefer the term "solo" over "single."
Vickie Meeuwsen of SinglesCruise.com says her cruises skew a little younger. “On our cruise of over 420 people we have 130 people in their 40s, 40 people in their 30s, and even a fair number in their 20s,” suggesting a similar average but a wider spread of ages. “We also have cruises specifically for 20- and 30-year-olds at other times of the year,” she added. The SinglesCruise.com ages could skew younger because they tend to favor Carnival Cruise Line ships, which already appeal to a younger demographic.
What Happens on a Halloween Cruise?
“I don’t want to give away all of our secrets!” Kari admits. “There is some competition in the field although many of our people become friends, stay in touch all year, and really look forward to catching up on our cruises. We call them our ‘serial cruisers.’”
Both companies plan to have big Halloween parties with a costume contest, plus two additional cocktail parties that include free drinks for an hour. Halloween is on a Wednesday this year, and the cruises will sail the preceding weekend, so many of the cruise events will be Halloween-related.
Meeuwsen of SinglesCruise says, “We never know what costumes we’ll see. This year we have rumors that people are working on themes -- the Flintstones and Austin Powers.” One thing is certain: These cruisers will be elaborately regaled. I am told the secret identities of many of these masquerading mariners require their own separate suitcases.
One SinglesCruise activity is the “chocolate and wine cabin crawl,” where cruisers offer unique pairing of those two treats for visitors to their staterooms. Other games include “Dirty Minds Trivia,” where the questions are more tantalizing than the answers, as in, “You fiddle with me when you’re bored and the best man always gets me first; what am I?” (Answer at bottom).
Lee's singles group will be learning the line dance from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and they have a version of speed dating called “Two Truths and a Lie.” Each person tells two truths and one lie and the opposite sex opponent has to guess which is which.
“We tell our gang it’s their singular ‘free pass’ to lie during the cruise.” As in most dating situations, people on singles cruises may be prone to embellishing their personal stories, but any ballyhoo is reported to the professional hosts. The singles groups always dine together, but seating is not strictly assigned. Activities are scheduled every day at sea beginning with breakfast, but nothing is mandatory. There are also optional activities in port.
Why Take a Singles Cruise?
As I explain in my blog “The Truth about Single Cruising,” real cruises are nothing like “The Love Boat.” Cruises are designed for families and couples, and staterooms are priced to be occupied by two people. A solo cruiser must pay twice the per-person fare if he wants to occupy an entire stateroom alone, but the singles save money by allowing the group cruise organizers to match them up with roommates. Of course, friends can always room together.
In truth, a solo cruiser on the vast majority of cruises will find it surprisingly difficult to meet people for anything more than casual conversation, so organized singles cruises also offer continuous companionship. Not everyone is there to “hook up,” although romance can and does happen -- sometimes even leading to marriage. As with all dating, it is best to keep your hopes high but your expectations in check.
Alternative Singles Cruises
One of the more interesting Halloween cruises is the second annual “Ultimate Halloween Caribbean Cruise 2,” targeting urban ethnic diversity. The cruise sails from New York to the Caribbean (nine nights) on Norwegian Gem and has a number of special guest artists and speakers.
Group organizer Laurence Pinckney says that along with Halloween fun, the theme is “diversity within our 90-percent GLBT clientele,” referring Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender interests. “Our cruise is an alternative to the larger GLBT cruise community," he says; "I actually wish we were not viewed as different, that the entire community would just get together, but this is just how things work out.”
Atlantis Events is the largest organizer of gay cruises nationwide and has its first Halloween cruise scheduled to sail from the West Coast aboard Carnival Splendor to Mexico this year.
It is important to remember that cruises are not cheap, so participants on any singles cruise are usually well-educated, independent and successful. If that description fits you, maybe you should consider one of these cruises.
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ANSWER TO THE TRIVIA QUESTION: A wedding ring.
Paul Motter is the editor of CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide. Follow him on Twitter @cruisemates.