One of the nice thing about travelling solo on cruises is that you can always ask to be seated with other guests, so you never have to dine alone. (If you don’t want to be seated with other guests, seek a ship with alternative-dining options although a steady diet of Table for one, please is likely to raise a few eyebrows among your shipmates.) You also needn’t worry much about finding people to talk to because the general atmosphere on nearly all ships is very congenial and allows most to find conversation easily, especially during group activities. Some ships host a party or lunches on sea days to give singles a chance to get to know one another, and some ships provide social hosts as dance partners for women traveling alone.
Roommate Pairing Programs
Some lines, like Holland America and a number of the river cruise lines, have a stateroom-share program. By selecting this, solo travelers can sign up to be paired with another single traveler of the same sex and thus dodge the dreaded singles supplement. If the cruise line can’t find you a same-sex roommate, they’ll book you in a cabin alone but still honor the shared rate.
The downside is that you may have to pay for the privilege of traveling solo. Cruise ship cabins are traditionally designed for two people and so pricing is offered per person based on double occupancy. Historically the cruise lines have charged a single supplement for cruisers who take a whole cabin for themselves, in order to compensate the line for the fact that it is designed for double occupancy revenue. Today the single supplement fee ranges from 10% to 100% of the doubleoccupancy fare, with a few exceptions (see below). If you must pay one, find a line with a reasonable single supplement rate Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, and Silversea frequently offer lower-than-average solo supplements on entry-level staterooms; top-of-the-line suites will always carry a hefty surcharge for single occupancy.
HOW TO GET freebies ON BOARD
No need to lug toiletries on board with you: Nearly every cruise line offers soap, shampoo, body wash, and conditioner free of charge. On some lines, the amenities can be quite upscale, with Viking and Windstar featuring L’Occitane toiletries and Silversea trotting out the Bulgari and Ferragamo. Stateroom bathrooms often have little extras like cotton balls, nail files and shower caps. If you’re trying to minimize packing, ask the line or your travel agent in advance what will be in your loo.
If it’s free drinks you’re looking for, many lines serve them at sail-away parties and others offer them at ship-sponsored cocktail hours. Past guest of the line are usually plied with free drinks (and canapes are typically doled out in liberal quantities) at special parties just for these loyal customers.
Other freebies vary from line to line. Some have lanyards for your cabin card, others have playing cards, postcards, combs, and wine keys. Many will offer seasickness or pain-relief medicine gratis if you ask. After all, it’s in their best interest to see that you enjoy your cruise. In addition, many lines give out logo-covered items such as T-shirts for people who win onboard competitions. Holland America, Princess and Windstar provide guests with handy little tote bags before setting out on shore excursions, while Viking ships out leather luggage tags and destination guides with guests’ tickets that can be very valuable.
If you’re taking an expedition cruise to colder climates, you may not have to pack that hefty parka: Hurtigruten, Seabourn, and Silversea each equip guests with jackets and parkas that are theirs to keep on cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic. Many expedition lines also provide guests with complimentary backpacks.
Sadly, the days of leather document holders and printed tickets have gone the way of the 8-track: Most cruise lines nowadays issue electronic tickets and luggage tags in PDF form that guests print off themselves.
Your best choice as a cruiser who wants to travel alone, but hates the idea of a single supplement: Book a cruise with a line that offers cabins specifically for solo travelers. In 2010, Norwegian Cruise Line launched Norwegian Epic with a block of 128 single-occupancy cabins known as Studio Staterooms. Created to be smaller, but efficiently and even playfully designed, these cabins are all insides but they have access to a shared lounge that serves as a coffee shop, bar, and meeting place. The line has rolled additional studio staterooms on its new builds, with Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway each blessed with 59 single occupancy cabins and Norwegian Escape with 82.
Other cruise lines are following suit. Royal Caribbean has 28 studio cabins on board the new Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. Cunard Line added nine single staterooms on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, along with the first solo staterooms on board Queen Mary 2. Holland America ‘s Koningsdam has 12 solo cabins, its Prisendam has 3. Costa Cruises has singles cabins on about half of its fleet.
Gentleman Hosts & Social Hostesses
A few decades ago, most cruise lines had gentleman hosts. These single male travelers would get free passage, and in exchange they would commit to dining and dancing with the single women on board. All but a few lines have eliminated the program. Today, Cunard, Crystal, and Silversea still offer gentleman hosts, and they often do more than just dancing and dining some lines have them accompany single travelers on shore excursions, as well.
Most cruise ships have what are known as a Social Hostess. These crew members do a lot to make single travelers feel included: They organize morning coffee chats on sea days and group lunches, and make an effort to introduce people who travel alone to others. On luxury lines like Silversea, the Social Hostess may also be the International Hostess, able to assist guests who need information in languages other than English.