Cruising is no longer the preserve of the stereotypical retired wealthy couple. It’s become much more mainstream and affordable in recent years, and more and more cruises for solo passengers are coming onto the market.
If you are travelling alone and interested in taking a cruise, check out this list of the top 10 cruise deals for solo passengers at a variety of price points.
Here’s a list of the best cruise lines that cater to the solo traveller.
Special Extras: The solo cabins on Deck 6 include both inside and outside options (both 130 square feet) and have a “boutique hotel style” feel to them. Special touches include complimentary water and a “pamper pack” on arrival. Each cabin has a single bed, a flat-screen television and a vanity/writing desk and drawers, plus a bathroom with a shower.
Discounts Available: Cabins are priced for one, with no solo supplement, but they do sell out quickly since they’re so limited in number. Don’t expect any last-minute deals on these staterooms.
2. Norwegian Cruise Line
Why: NCL’s newest ship, Norwegian Epic, features 128 studio cabins targeted at and priced for solo cruisers.
Special Extras: A full-size bed, flat-screen TV and private bathroom are all squeezed into these 100-square-foot accommodations. Although all the studios are inside cabins, they each have a window that looks out onto the corridor. Four different colours of ambient lighting jazz up the room. But the biggest perk is access to an exclusive, shared social space called the Studio Lounge. It’s a sleek hangout space for solo travellers, with its own large-screen TV’s, coffee-making facilities and a bartender at certain times of the day.
Discounts Available: The studio cabins are priced for solo travellers, with no extra supplement to pay.
3. Holland America Line
Why: Holland America Line, more than any other big-ship cruise line, is renowned for catering to solo guests. There are plenty of programs that don’t require partners, and activities that can be delightfully solitary or a means to meet others (the culinary programs, from hands-on workshops to wine tastings, are tons of fun!). The Single Partner’s Program, its roommate-matching service, matches passengers of the same sex with others who want to share — and guarantees you’ll pay just the double occupancy price, even if no partner can be found.
Special Extras: Singles are invited to meet and mingle at a cocktail mixer and on voyages of 30 days or more, gentleman hosts are available for dancing.
Discounts available: Typical rates run from 140 percent to 200 percent for solos. Holland America does not offer any special solo deals.
4. Silversea Cruises
Why: Silversea doesn’t offer “single” cabins but its occasional special fare deals means that a solo traveller can sail alone without a huge penalty. Typical solo fares are 25 to 75 percent above the double-occupancy rate, but may be eligible for Silver Savings discounts and free or reduced airfare. Singles make up about 10 percent (pretty significant in cruising) of its passengers. Another plus: With just 296 passengers on Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, 382 apiece on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper, and 540 on Silver Spirit, solo cruisers find it easy to feel at home. Some of the enrichment programs and special interest cruises ensure a compatible mix of people with like interests, solo or not.
Special Extras: A cocktail reception is held on every voyage with a large number of solos. Most voyages of over 10 days also have male Social Ambassadors onboard as dance partners and shore excursion escorts.
Discounts available: Solo fares are often as low as 125 percent of the regular fares, but occasional sales can bring single traveller rates down to 110 percent. The line is quick to point out that these fares are “capacity controlled and subject to availability.” In other words, book early!
5. Crystal Cruises
Why: Crystal is one of the most popular luxury line for solos, who make up to 15 percent of its passengers on some sailings. Solos are attracted by the wide range of activities onboard, plus singles’ parties, gentleman hosts and supplements that can be as low as 25 percent for certain categories. Many luxury-minded solos also choose Crystal because it features assigned dining room seating, which is unique in this market segment (most luxury lines have an open single-seating dining room); this set-seating dining policy means you dine with the same folks every night. Additionally, the Table for 8 program lets solo travellers dine at the specialty restaurants with other singles. Finally, while Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity are as spacious as super-liners, they carry only 940 and 1,080 passengers respectively; a sense of community prevails onboard.
Special Extras: Crystal’s unique activities include the Creative Learning Institute, with choices that range from acting workshops, language lessons and astronomy classes to a Computer University.
Discounts Available: Crystal adds only 25 percent for categories C through E, 35 percent for categories A and B, and 50 percent for category AA.
6. Fred. Olsen Cruises
Why: This well-known British company, now in its fifth generation of ownership by the same family, has long catered to its traditionally over-50 passengers. In this sense, it actually creates — and designs — cabins for its solo travelers. The line offers primarily U.K.- based cruises to a mostly British market, but is attracting some North Americans to its winter Caribbean trips, which are marketed to new world travellers. Fred. Olsen‘s sedate atmosphere, which caters to a mature demographic, will be a welcome change for those who choose to avoid the more raucous nature of most mass-market lines.
Special Extras: All Fred. Olsen ships — Balmoral, Boudicca, Braemar and Black Watch — offer solo cabins, ranging in number from 40 (Braemar) to 64 (Balmoral). Not only do single cabins come in a variety of categories (including a few balcony staterooms and solo suites), but they are also decorated for solos. Travellers will find a cosy stateroom with just one bed, with extra furnishings where the second bed would normally go.
Discounts Available: Technically, all cabins could be discounted if they don’t sell close to a sailing. But discounts on single cabins are rare as they typically book up very early.
Why: The cosy atmosphere on Seabourn‘s small ships assures solos that they won’t be overlooked, and getting to know fellow guests is easy.
Special Extras: One of Seabourn’s lovely traditions is to have its officers and entertainment staffers host tables at dinner — not only on a formal evening but on just about every night. Solo travellers receive special consideration when it comes to invites — so you really don’t have to dine alone if you don’t choose to. As well, single ladies will be escorted across the dining room by the maitre d’, a nice touch.
Discounts Available: Depending on the sailing and the time of year, Seabourn offers capacity-controlled discounts on “run of the ship” A-, B2- or V1-category suites. Solos pay just 50 percent more than double-occupancy passengers, but Seabourn will choose their statement location. Assignments will be made about 30 days before sailing.
8. Costa Cruises
Why: Costa Cruises actually has single cabins (or in some cases, regular cabins priced for solos) on most of its ships. Unfortunately for American cruisers, these solo staterooms are not available outside of Europe.
Special Extras: This Italian cruise line offers singles’ meet-and-greet parties on board, and the full range of other traditional shipboard activities that encourage social interaction among solo passengers. As Europeans love to dance, Costa’s newest ships have some of the largest dance floors on the seas. While they don’t have dedicated gentlemen hosts, there are plenty of opportunities to take to the dance floor for everything from merengue to polka!
Discounts Available: Europeans who book a dedicated single cabin do pay a supplement, but it can be as low as 30 percent above the double-occupancy rate. North Americans typically have to pay 80 to 100 percent more than the regular fares.
Why: Have you ever considered taking a ferry for a cruise vacation? The small ships of Hurtigruten are actually part of the Norwegian highway system, delivering goods and people to the towns along the west coast of the country, places where highways cannot be built. You can travel 13 days from the Arctic Circle to Bergen in the south (or reverse) or just do a four-day trip from Tromso to Bergen (or reverse). It’s an incredible voyage; the ships are unique, offering charming accommodation and three meals a day. However, do beware that most meals and beverages, including coffee, is priced on an a la carte basis.
Special Extras: There are no special activities for solo passengers, but the congenial, relaxed ambience and excitement over the magnificent scenery make it easy to meet people.
Discounts Available: Hurtigruten charges a mere 10 percent supplement on suites year-round; solo passengers booking regular cabins pay no supplement between mid-September and mid-April. Check for special senior savings as well.
Why: Cunard’s ships have long attracted solo passengers to its traditional cruise ships and ocean liners, and the convivial onboard atmosphere means that solos can easily make friends, if they so choose, with their shipmates. Cunard does try to accommodate passengers who wish to dine solo, but this depends on how full each voyage is. In general, solo travellers are assigned to tables with other singles. In addition, gentleman hosts are available to whirl single ladies around the dance floor.
All three Cunard ships have had single staterooms added as part of their 2015/2016 refurbishment programmes. 15 smart Britannia single staterooms were added to Queen Mary 2 in June 2016. Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria boast nine new Britannia single staterooms each, including eight Ocean View rooms with extra large windows and one Inside. These are especially well placed on deck 2, close to some of the most popular rooms on-ship — the Royal Court Theatre and the Queens Room grand ballroom (which hosts Royal Nights Themed Balls by night and white-gloved afternoon teas by day).
Highlights aboard the newly ‘remastered’ (extensively refurbished) Queen Mary 2 include the Queens Room — the largest ballroom at sea, the Illuminations Planetarium and the 8,000-book library with resident librarian. Guests can watch graduate actors from RADA at the Royal Court Theatre, see West End and Broadway hits performed by the Royal Cunard Singers & Dancers, or relax in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub.
Discounts Available: Special single stateroom fares and 175 percent for inside, outside and balcony double cabins. Occasionally the line will offer discounts to solo travellers.
So, hopefully this post has whet your appetite and given you some pointers on the best cruises for solo passengers. Let us know how you get on and post your comments below.