Sailing solo can be a wonderful experience, if you pick the right line and ship.
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It isn’t easy being a first-time solo cruise traveler. For starters, there’s the way cruise lines price cabins, which penalizes people traveling alone. Since most cabins are designed for two or more occupants, cruise lines generally charge solo travelers a single supplement of up to 100 percent of the base fare to stay in a room alone. It sounds harsh, but the economics of the cruise business are built around having at least two people in every cabin. Some ships also are so geared to couples and families that they are of only limited appeal to solo travelers.
That said, a few lines have carved out a niche of catering to solo travelers. Holland America and Cunard, in particular, are known for their singles-friendly activities such as singles meet-and-greets and dances (on some voyages, the lines have “gentleman hosts” on call to dance with single women). And Holland America is one of several lines offering a (same sex) roommate matching service that offers solo travelers a way to keep down room costs.
In just the past couple years several other large lines also have reached out to solo travelers in a big way, most notably Norwegian Cruise Line. The line’s newest ships Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway were built with single-occupancy “studio” cabins—a rarity in the cruise business (the line’s older, Hawaii-based Pride of America was outfitted with single cabins during a 2013 dry dock). Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean will launch its first solo cabins with Quantum of the Seas, a new ship debuting in late 2014. British line P&O Cruises also unveiled 18 solo cabins on its newest ship, the Azura.
Although the 100-percent single supplement is the rule, among the major lines Princess is one that most often seems to offer reduced single supplements, of 50 percent or less (though typically the best deals appear only a month or so prior to sailing, and not on itineraries that are selling well). The major luxury lines also tend to be more reasonable with solo travelers, such as Crystal and Silversea (the latter sometimes offering discounted rates for single travelers that are barely above normal fares for couples). Crystal’s single supplement for solo travelers is only 25 percent on some cabin.