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The first time I took a cruise on my own, my friends were in awe. “You’re so brave!” they said. Then, when they started hearing about the fabulous places I was visiting, they changed their tune slightly. “You’re so lucky!” they said instead.

Actually, neither bravery nor luck has anything to do with it. You don’t have to be one of those annoyingly gregarious types or even pretend to be one in order to take a cruise on your own, and you don’t have to break the bank to afford it.

Taking a cruise, simply put, is a 'people friendly' experience. And there are a host of reasonably priced cruises on offer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a more retiring bookworm or party time person determined to party all night. What counts is that you’re a passenger – first and foremost – and the cruise line’s job is to make sure you have the perfect holiday.

Being on your own is not a handicap.

In fact, I prefer to cruise alone. It means that in the planning stages I can pick and choose where I want to go – and be selfish about it! I don’t have to wait for friends’ vacation time to coincide with mine. I don’t have to listen to that initially enthusiastic “Gee, that sounds like a great idea!” followed by months of waiting for them to make up their minds – and above all, I can make the onboard experience exactly what I want it to be.

If you want to be solitary, it’s easy to lose yourself on a cruise ship, small or large – it’s a simple task to find a space on the aft deck where you can slather yourself in suntan oils and wallow in the latest best seller.

If you want to be a bigger part of the picture, however, there’s enough on offer, even on those cruise ships not geared to entertainment, to give you the chance to meet people and to have fun. It’s up to you to make use of the space, environment and the choices on offer to create the perfect vacation.

Start with a positive attitude and a clear idea of what you want. Leave that fear about being on your own at home. It doesn’t signify on a cruise ship.

If having fun with lots of people is what you want, the trick is to get involved. If you have a choice of seating assignments in the dining room, make sure you pick a larger table – the more people, the more chance of meeting 'like-souls' – and don’t be afraid to change your assignment if your fellow guests are even more boring than that group you were stuck with at the latest paleontologist convention.

And when you wake up in the morning and are tempted to scoff at what’s on offer in the daily program – don't! Take part in the activities on board, even those you wouldn’t dream of pursuing at home. Trivial Pursuit can be fun in the right setting. When you get the answer right to “Who last sighted Elvis at a gas station,” no one cares whether you’re married or divorced or single. They just want you on their team!

And if your cruise is destination oriented, take the excursions ashore – even if you think that this island looks the same as the one the day before yesterday. Part of the camaraderie on board results from shared experiences on shore.

Of course, you need to make sure you pick the cruise and cruise line that best suits your tastes. Whatever you choose, however, being on your own really is not the issue.

But then that’s easy for me to say. I’ve done it. I’ve taken that first step. Maybe my friends were right. Maybe it was brave. But that’s the only time you need to be brave. As in all adventures - that first step is the one that needs the courage. After that - the luck just flows!

All Rights Reserved 2008 © Prow's Edge Cruise Magazine - free cruise magazine and resource cruise guide packed with news on cruises, cruising, cruise lines, commentary on the cruise industry by top cruise line executives, recipes and cuisine tips from cruise line chefs, medical tips for cruise passengers, and suggestions on suitable books on cruising and travel.