Cruising in a solo cabin
By Jackie Finch
GoNOMAD Senior Writer
Two questions I often hear as a solo traveler: Do I get lonely traveling by myself? Am I afraid to travel alone?
The answers? Nope. And nope.
Although I enjoy being with family and friends or with groups of strangers, I also enjoy alone-time to journey to fascinating places. Cruise ships seem to offer the best of both worlds and I’m pleased to be taking a solo cruise aboard the new American Serenade.
Not only will I be cruising alone, I also will be cruising in a solo cabin – a first for me. Solo cabins are not as large or as expensive as regular staterooms on a cruise ship. American Serenade offers seven single cabins.
And every cabin on the American Serenade is booked. That shows how popular cruising has become. Maybe it also shows that American Cruise Lines’ Music City itinerary is drawing much interest and its riverboats are the choice for many cruisers.
Cruising from Memphis to Nashville
When I told a friend that I was taking an eight-night riverboat cruise from Memphis to Nashville, she just laughed.
“It only takes a little over three hours to drive the 212 miles from Memphis to Nashville,” she said. “Why is it taking you so long to cruise there?”
Well, for one reason my American Serenade cruise is traveling on rivers, not on major interstate highways. For another, the journey is what is important.
We stopped at ports along the way and take shore excursions, plus have several days cruising leisurely while watching the river flow.
Paducah Kentucky and Clarksville TN
Along with Memphis and Nashville, we visited Paducah in Kentucky, and Dover and Clarksville in Tennessee. The itinerary also included two days of cruising the Mississippi and Ohio rivers plus Lake Barkley and the Cumberland River.
The cruise featured a complimentary overnight stay at The Guesthouse at Graceland in Memphis which is a smart move on the part of American Cruise Lines.
With the way flights are often cancelled or delayed, that first Guesthouse overnight means that passengers have an extra day to arrive to board the Serenade.
Spending one night in a hotel before the cruise starts also gives cruisers a chance to get a good night’s sleep and eat a relaxing breakfast before boarding the riverboat the next morning. Not all cruise lines offer this overnight stay before ship boarding so I really appreciate it.
Walking in Elvis’ Footsteps
I also opted for the Two-Night Graceland Pre-Cruise Package so I could visit Graceland and other Memphis attractions. I hadn’t been to Graceland since Lisa Marie Presley died and was buried near her son Benjamin and her father Elvis.
Lisa Marie Presley died of cardiac arrest Jan. 12 at age 54. Elvis Presley died of heart attack Aug. 16, 1977, at age 42. Benjamin Keough committed suicide July 12, 2020, at age 27. It seemed strange to see all three graves at Graceland.
New American Serenade
As for the new American Serenade, the riverboat set sail on its inaugural journey down the Mississippi River on April 20, 2023. The five-deck Serenade offers 91 staterooms, all with step-out balconies, and can accommodate 180 passengers.
The Serenade boasts a patented open bow with a retractable gangway. Incorporating a stunning use of glass for awesome views, the Serenade has an impressive four-story glass atrium in the center of the ship.
My Solo Stateroom is Quite Comfy
Boarding a new ship is always exciting. And seeing my stateroom is doubly exciting, especially this time because I am in a solo cabin. My solo cabin is cozy and beautiful. Not as large as regular cabins but it is just me staying there.
Located on Deck 2, my cabin has a plush double bed with quality bed linens and duvet, three bed pillows and a cushion, long dresser with plenty of drawers and a desk on part of the dresser, a chair, mirror, Keurig coffee maker, nightstand next to the bed with lamp and clock, large flat screen TV, closet and lots of storage space.
For such a small room, my cabin has more than enough electric outlets to plug in my cellphone, camera and laptop. The bathroom seems like a full size one with plenty of hot water and great water pressure. That isn’t always the case on cruise ships so I am quite happy.
Located at the bow of the ship, my single cabin has sliding glass doors leading to a lovely balcony with a table and chair plus an oversized window directly opposite the bed. In fact, my cabin has more great window views than many full-size cabins sometimes have.
Quiet Spaces, Plus Books and Games to Enjoy
For such a fully booked ship, the American Serenade has some charming quiet spaces. Located on Decks 2, 3 and 4, Lyric Lounge, The Study and High Note Lounge are wonderful places to enjoy ship-supplied games like chess, work on a puzzle, read a book or just sit and watch the passing scenery.
Fitness Centers on Deck 2 aft are available for workouts but the Deck 4 Jogging Track seems to be most popular for passenger exercise. The ship has two speedy elevators that serve all decks but the uppermost Sun Deck.
Open Seating Dining Room
Serving three meals a day, the dining room on the Main Deck aft is large with plenty of room for even a fully booked cruise likes ours. No reservations are needed. No seats are assigned. Just walk in, sit down and be prepared to be pampered.
The dining room is light and airy with linen tablecloths and napkins, little battery-operated table candles and comfortable chairs. Tables for two and larger tables are available.
As a solo traveler, I stood in the doorway of the dining room for a moment deciding where I would sit. That’s when a fellow passenger named Sarah asked if I was traveling alone. Sarah was cruising with friends she had met on previous American Cruise Lines voyages.
When I answered that I was indeed a solo traveler, Sarah said, “Good for you” and invited me to sit at her table. I’m accustomed to traveling alone and dining alone but appreciated the invitation.
That friendly offer was also made by other passengers and I never lacked for dining company. Most of my meals were with three delightful dining companions – Marie and Ruth Ann from Virginia. Later a charming man traveling alone named Ray from Maryland joined our table.
Complimentary Drinks on Cruise
Alcoholic drinks and soft drinks are complimentary. A great idea since it can get very tiresome signing expensive drink bills on cruise ships.
I paid almost $5 for a can of Coke one time (price included port tax and gratuity) on an ocean cruise. Never again.
Then there is always something to eat available 24 hours a day in the Sky Lounge. The setup is very handy and unusual on a ship.
A choice of boxes of cereal, packages of assorted nuts, candy and snack bars are always in the Sky Lounge. Fruit and pastries are often set out on the bar counter. In the self-serve fridge, passengers can always get cartons of milk, soft drinks, fruit drinks and water.
A fellow passenger told me that he had a yearning for a snack in the middle of the night. So he got up, went to the Sky Lounge and picked up some Cheerios and milk which he ate on the balcony of his room. Then he climbed back in the bed and slept soundly the rest of the night.
Champion Fiddler Laura White
Entertainment onboard American Serenade was great. We had an Elvis-singing guy, a Jerry Lee Lewis boogie-woogie piano man, comedian and more. One of my favorites was champion fiddler Laura Weber White and her two musicians Jeff White (her husband) on guitar and vocals and Todd Phillips on bass.
A multi-instrumentalist, Laura has performed and recorded with country greats – Roy Acuff, Patty Lovelsss, Ray Price, Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Marty Stuart, Earl Scruggs, Kris Kristofferson, June Carter Cash and many others. Laura was married from 2000 to 2013 to John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June.
In between songs, Laura shared the fascinating story of how she became a musician. Growing up in Corvallis, Oregon, Laura loved music and would play “The Sound of Music” over and over. When she was about nine years old, Laura found an old accordion under her parent’s bed and taught herself to play all the old movie songs.
How She Became a Musician
“Dad came home and I was playing those songs on the old accordion,” she says. “He told my mom, ‘She’s got talent.’ We had an old fiddle in the attic and dad brought it down for me to play.”
To pay for the fiddle restoration, her father offered to build a two-story deck on the back of the luthier’s house. “Dad would work his regular job, then drive 90 miles to Portland to build that deck. Slept in his truck and then drive back home to go back to work,” Laura says.
By age 12, Laura was winning fiddling contests. By 17, she won the National Junior Fiddle Champion title. Later she won the adult division of National Fiddle Contest. In 1989, Laura enrolled in Oregon State University but in 1990, she departed college to take a job playing with Patty Loveless. Laura was 18 years old.
After the evening entertainment, I went to my solo stateroom and sat on the balcony. The American Serenade is whisper quiet when cruising. No rocking or rolling. A pleasure to listen to the night birds softly calling and the crickets’ nocturnal symphony. The American Serenade definitely lives up to her musical name.
For more information: Contact American Cruise Lines at (800) 460-4518, www.AmericanCruiseLines.com. The author’s trip was sponsored by American Cruise lines but the opinions are the author’s own.