The upside of traveling solo is your total freedom to choose your own activities and pleasures. Of course, there are downsides, such as occasional loneliness. And then there's the cost.
Cruises for solo travelers
It used to be that a solo passenger in her own cabin often had to pay between 150% and 200% of the regular cruise fare, to make up for the loss of the "missing" passenger. Lately, however, more lines have either begun to waive or curtail these fees, or plan to do so in the near future. Check out the cruise lines websites for actual availability and costs of solo cabins, and for the latest prices for specific cruises. Here's nine cruise lines reviewed for solo charges:
1. Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) has three ships (Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway, and Norwegian Getaway) that offer 100-square-foot studio cabins with a full-sized bed, flat-screen TV, and private bath.These are all inside cabins, with a window that overlooks the corridor.
Special Features: Studio cabins share an exclusive, social space called the Studio Lounge with a large TV, coffee making facilities, and a bartender, plus daily hosted pre-dinner gatherings. There are over 20 dining options and plenty of entertainment options, as well. On voyages of 40 days or more, gentleman hosts are available for dancing and dining.
Cost: Studio cabins are priced for solo travelers, with no supplement fee to pay.
2. Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com): Renown for catering to solo travelers, Holland
America provides an unusually rich activity schedule including many programs that don't require partners and are fun for one, and/or a means of meeting others. On trips of over 30 nights, gentleman hosts are available for dancing.
- A roommate-matching service guarantees you'll pay only the agreed-upon price, even if no partner can be found. Both open seating and traditional, set seatings are available. Entertainment includes performances of Broadway show tunes standards, plus significant collections of classic art.
- Holland America provides the best premium cruises for seniors with health or mobility issues. For handicapped travelers, it has a wheelchair-accessible tender transfer system providing mobility getting onto and off of the ship with ease and safety. A working relationship with the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston provides telemedical connections and live radiology feeds and consults. Handicapped-accessible cabins in all price categories are available, and Holland America has partnered with Special Needs at Sea to provide oxygen, wheelchairs and other mobility devices dispensed from kiosks at Holland American homeports. It has also received special praise from cruisers with hearing impairments for the line's fleetwide availability of listening and other devices.
- Fleetwide, Holland America offers one of the two best conventional cruises to Alaska. It was one of the original mainstream pioneers of the Alaska market, and these historic connections give the cruise line clout in securing coveted permits to enter Glacier Bay National Park—the platinum scenery standard for Alaska. For those wishing to extend their cruises with a land-based rail tour, it is one of the two cruise lines that have their own railroad cars with domed levels that extend the entire length of the cars, giving all passengers access to the surrounding scenery.
Cost: Typical solo rates run from 150% to 200% of regular fees.
3. Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) doesn't offer "single" cabins, but occasional special fare deals mean that a solo traveler can sometimes sail without a huge penalty. The number of passengers aboard varies from 296 to 540, so a solo passenger isn't likely to get lost in the crowd. The enrichment programs and special-interest cruises promise a compatible mix of people. Most voyages of more than 10 days have gentleman hosts as dance partners and shore excursion escorts.
Special Features: A welcome reception with Champagne is held on every voyage with a large number of solos. Silverseas expects to add four cruises this fall that offer a wellness program with a holistic approach to rejuvenation, including yoga, meditation, and nutritional counseling.
Cost: Solo fares are often as low as 125% of regular fares, and occasional sales can bring the price down to 110%, subject to availability.
4. Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com): Fleetwide, provides the best luxury cruises for solo sailors because it is able to create on large ships the quality of service, cuisine, and amenities one would normally expect only from small, boutique-class vessels. It offers a wide variety of activities, singles' parties, and gentleman hosts. Attracts affluent older passengers.
Special Features: Runs the best luxury cruises for enrichment, fleetwide. Offers the Creative Learning Institute with choices like acting workshops, language lessons, astronomy classes and a Computer University.
Cost: Crystal adds 25% for categories C1 through E3, 35% for categories A1 through B3, 50% for categories P1 and P2 and 75% for the Penthouse. On select sailings, they sometimes drop the single supplement fee to as low as 10%.
5. Fred. Olsen Cruises (www.fredolsencruises.com) caters mostly to a mature (55+) British market, with a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. It provides gentleman hosts, offers exclusive solo gatherings, and pairs single travelers together for dinner. Each single cabin has one bed and comes in a variety of categories, including a few balcony suites.
Special Feature: All Fred. Olsen cruises depart from a port in the United Kingdom.
Cost: Dedicated solo cabins carry no supplement fees. On select sailings, single supplement fees for solo occupancy of certain twin-grade cabins may be waived.
6. Seabourn's (www.seabourn.com) small-ship cruises means that solos won't be overlooked, and that getting to know fellow cruisers is easy. Officers and entertainers host tables at dinner. Solo travelers receive special consideration, and you don't have to dine alone if you don't choose to.
Special Features: Named World's Best Small-Ship Cruise Line by Travel + Leisure in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007.
Cost: 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 50% more than double-occupancy passengers, but Seabourn chooses the cabin locations. Specific suite requests can be met if solos pay 75% more.
7. Costa Cruises (www.costacruise.com) is an Italian line with limited single cabins in both inside and outside units on half of its ships. It offers singles' meet-and-greet parties, as well as a full range of other traditional shipboard activities that encourage social interaction among solo passengers.
Special Features: Italian ambience, vibrant entertainment, and the famous Samsara Spa. Cruises are geared toward Europeans. Good for those who enjoy traveling with people from other cultures.
Cost: Single cabins do carry a supplement fee, but it can be as low as 30% above the double-occupancy rate.
8. Cunard's (www.cunard.com) ships have a few single-occupancy cabins, including some with an ocean view. Solo travelers are assigned to tables with other singles. Gentleman hosts are available for dancing. There are many activities onboard, including lectures by experts in various fields, theatrical workshops and performances by members of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, team trivia, and more.
Special Features: Current specialty cruises include: The Ultimate Beatles Cruise, The Juillard School of Jazz Cruise, and The Royal Astronomical Cruise (complete with the only planetarium at sea).
Costs: Cunard's typical solo supplement fee is 200% for Queens and Princess Grill, and 175% for inside, outside, and balcony cabins. From time to time, the line offers discounts to solo travelers.
9. Royal Caribbean International (www.royalcaribbean.com) is planning shortly to create two categories of staterooms for solo travelers in Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. They will consist of 28 dedicated studio cabins—some with "virtual" balconies (80-inch, floor-to-ceiling LED display screens that project live images of the ocean and ports), and others with real, 55-square-foot open-air balconies. Currently, Serenade of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas each offers three, single-occupancy interior staterooms.
Costs: Royal Caribbean's studio staterooms carry no supplement fees.
Care to share?
If you've traveled solo on these or other cruise lines and would like to share your experiences, contact us.