Cruising and solo travellers could have been made for each other. Your travel arrangements are handled by experts, you’re looked after on board and are in safe hands when you join a shore excursion. Your ship is a secure environment in which to socialise, you’ll make new friends and are unlikely to be the only one sailing solo.
However, lone travellers are often deterred by cost. Cruise lines calculate on-board spend on the basis of two passengers per cabin; so you could be charged a supplement of up to 100 per cent. The good news is that more lines are building ships with dedicated single cabins, while others are reconfiguring existing vessels. At the same time, fares with low or no single-occupancy supplements are being offered as standard, or on selected dates.
• The best cruise lines for solo travellers
For the latter, book early or you could miss the boat. Single-occupancy cabins are in short supply and no- or low-single-supplement departures sell out fast. Be flexible and, if you can, change your travel plans if the cabin or price you want is not available when you want it. To find the best deals, use a travel agent, ideally a cruise or solos specialist, as they will be up to speed with what’s on offer.
If you’re already booked on a cruise it’s a good idea to buy your next one on board; most ships have a desk for future cruise sales, and many offer special discounts if you book there and then.
Another option is to consider sharing. Holland America Line’s Single Partners Program finds you a same-sex passenger to share a twin cabin with, so you each pay only the per-person double-occupancy rate – and you won’t be charged extra if they don’t find one.
Use a travel agent to find the best deals, as they will be up to speed with what’s on offer
Especially for you
Booking a single cabin may mean less space than a double to yourself, but you’ll be charged on a single-occupancy basis. Norwegian Cruise Line pushed the boat out in 2010 with the launch of Norwegian Epic, providing it with 128 inside studio cabins for singles.
Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway each have 59; Norwegian Escape, launching in October, will have 82. These cabins, and a dedicated studio lounge for socialising, are within a keycard-accessed area of the ship.
Cruise lines that attract more mature passengers generally cater for a larger proportion sailing on their own. In 2014, 12 per cent of those sailing with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines were solo travellers; on Saga’s ships, the figure is one third.
• Meet the 86-year-old widow who’s spent 10 years living on a cruise ship
Fred Olsen has 190 single cabins across its fleet (64 on Balmoral, 43 each on Boudicca and Black Watch and 40 on Braemar) and Saga offers 57 on Saga Pearl II and 44 on Saga Sapphire. Cunard has added nine new single staterooms on each of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.
New ships that feature a number of single cabins include P&O Cruises’ recently launched Britannia with 27, some with balconies, while fleetmates Azura and Ventura each have 18; Arcadia has six; Aurora four and Oriana two. Holland America Line’s Koningsdam, launching next February, will have 12 single ocean-view cabins.
If you want more space, Royal Caribbean International’s two newest ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, which launches this month, feature studio staterooms (which can sleep two) with no single supplement. Cruise & Maritime Voyages has set aside for singles 150 superior twin cabins on Magellan, and will charge only a 25 per cent single-occupancy supplement. Quark Expeditions will price a number of cabins with no single-occupancy supplement on its new ship Ocean Endeavour.
• Travel as a solo woman: 10 lessons for the intrepid
Among river-cruise companies, Emerald Waterways has two single cabins on every ship and Scenic Tours vessels have one each; The River Cruise Line’s Lady Anne has three and Uniworld’s SS Catherine one. Sailing the Mississippi, the American Queen Steamboat Company’s paddlewheeler, American Queen, has 12.
Some ships in the AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways and CroisiEurope fleets also have single cabins.
Fun for one: cruise ships and organised shore excursions offer a secure and relaxing travelling environment for solo passengers
If you can’t find a single cabin, the next best deal is a sailing that charges no, or low, single supplements. Luxury line Crystal Cruises offers one of the lowest rates for sole occupancy of a double stateroom, with single supplements of just 10 per cent on selected sailings (020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.co.uk).
Fred Olsen is not charging a single supplement for selected outside cabins on a 13-night Canaries Collection round trip from Tenerife on Braemar, departing December 10, 2015. From £1,016pp excluding flights (0800 0355 242; fredolsencruises.com).
Tauck is waiving the single supplement in its Category 1 cabins throughout 2015 on its European river ships, and reducing it by £650 for solo passengers in Category 4 and 5 cabins on 37 departures.
Saga is reserving for single occupancy 53 of the 74 cabins on a 10-night Through the Heart of Bavaria river cruise on Filia Rheni II, departing October 27, 2015. From £1,599pp including flights (0800 506066;saga.co.uk/river-cruises).
For those looking to cruise further afield, Pandaw Expeditions, which sails in Asia, will charge no single supplement for main-deck cabins on a seven-night Mandalay Pagan Packet cruise on Kalaw Pandaw and Kindat Pandaw, on selected dates from July to October 2015. From £965pp excluding flights (020 3773 8796; pandawexpeditions.co.uk).
The River Cruise Line has two no-single-supplement sailings on Serenity: a 15-day Danube to Black Sea round trip from Munich, departing September 29, 2015, from £1,999pp including flights; and an eight-day Danube to Vienna and Budapest cruise, a round trip from Passau, departing October 13, 2015. From £999pp including flights (0844 544 6580; rivercruiseline.co.uk).
Uniworld has two itineraries this year that waive the single supplement: an eight-day Bordeaux, Vineyards and Châteaux cruise on River Royale, a round trip from Bordeaux, departing August 23, 2015, from £2,979pp including flights; and an eight-day Castles Along the Rhine cruise on SS Antoinette from Basel to Amsterdam, or vice versa, on November 1 and 8, 2015, from £2,279pp including flights (0800 988 5873; titantravel.co.uk/uniworld).
A cruise ship is a secure environment in which to socialise and make new friends
Get the most from your trip
Pick a ship with more single cabins and it follows that you will have more solo travellers to socialise with, and more dedicated events, such as cocktail parties, hosted lunches or dinners and bridge tournaments.
That said, on smaller vessels, including river ships, it’s easier to spot the passengers who are travelling on their own.
Themed cruises can also promote socialising on board, as the passengers have an interest in common.
At meals ask the maitre d’ to seat you with other single travellers. On ships that operate an open-dining policy, you can choose when, where and with whom to dine.
Use online forums to touch base with, or meet, fellow passengers before you set sail. Holland America Line’s Roll Call and Meet Fellow Cruisers! tabs on its Facebook page also facilitate meet-ups.