Thinking of taking a cruise as a solo traveler? Here’s the bad news: With many lines, you could end up paying twice as much as someone traveling with a companion.
Most cruise ship cabins are designed for two, and the cruise rates you see advertised for these cabins are per person, based on double occupancy. That means the rates are only available to customers who will be sharing the cabin with a second paying passenger.
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If you want to occupy one of these cabins alone, you’ll pay a premium that, in cruise world lingo, is known as the “single supplement.” Often, that premium is 100%. In other words, even if you don’t have a second person in your cabin, you’ll be paying an extra fare as if you did.
Still, all is not lost if you’re a singleton wanting to experience life at sea. Spurred by increasing demand, a growing number of cruise lines are adding cabins designed specifically for solo travelers (with pricing that, by definition, is based on single occupancy). Some lines routinely offer lower single supplement charges than others, or they reduce or waive single supplements during promotions.
Of course, it’s not just a low price that makes for a good solo cruise. Just as important for many people traveling alone is the opportunity to meet other like-minded solo travelers through meet-and-greet receptions and organized group dining for solo cruisers. Some cruise lines do a better job with this than others.
Looking at all these criteria — price, cabin options and a welcoming environment — I’ve identified five lines going the extra mile for cruisers traveling alone. Here are my top picks for the best cruise lines for solo travelers.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Credit Norwegian for kicking off the trend of more solo cabins on cruise ships. In 2010, the big-ship line debuted an entire zone of small “studio” cabins for one — 128 in all — on its then-new, 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic. It was such a hit that other lines began to follow.
Just 100 square feet but superbly designed to maximize storage space, the solo rooms on Norwegian Epic are clustered around an exclusive Studio Lounge. It has a bar and television area where solo travelers can mingle at daily hosted happy hour gatherings.
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Norwegian has since added similar solo cabin areas with exclusive lounges to seven more new ships, including its two newest vessels, Norwegian Viva and Norwegian Prima. Both ships have a 73-cabin solo complex that spreads across two decks.
The bigger Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss all have an 82-cabin solo complex, while two older ships — Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway — have solo areas with 59 cabins.
Norwegian also offers four solo cabins on its Hawaii-based Pride of America.
Having sailed in one of Norwegian’s cabins for one, I can confidently declare them among the coolest solo digs at sea. I particularly love the futuristic “Jetsons”-like design and the multicolored mood lighting.
One big caveat: They’re all inside cabins without an ocean view, although most have a window that looks out onto a corridor. On Norwegian Bliss, the solo cabins have a virtual porthole that offers a live view of the outside world via an LED screen.
A bigger caveat, perhaps, is that these solo cabins have become so popular they often sell out far in advance, and at prices that aren’t much better than booking a cabin for two.
Royal Caribbean has taken a page from Norwegian’s playbook in recent years by adding solo cabins to both new and older ship classes. The line’s Quantum-class vessels, which began debuting in 2014, offer up to 28 of these dedicated studio cabins, which measure from 101 to 119 square feet.
Unlike Norwegian’s solo digs, some cabins are ocean-view rooms with balconies. Others have a virtual balcony that, at first glance, looks like a veranda but is really just a digital screen projecting a real-time view of the outside. (It sounds corny, but it works.)
Other Royal Caribbean ships with solo cabins include some of the line’s giant Oasis-class vessels, including Symphony of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas. Several of Royal Caribbean’s older Voyager-class and Radiance-class vessels also have solo cabins. But some of these ships have just two or three.
While the solo cabins on Royal Caribbean ships don’t come with a dedicated solo lounge, solo travelers will find Royal Caribbean-hosted meetups for solo travelers on the vessels, which is a great way for single travelers to find others in the same boat, so to speak. There’s also quite a bar scene on Royal Caribbean ships, with rows of bar seats in many bars that are a great place to find other solo travelers.
Additionally, Royal Caribbean ships are particularly known for their wide range of onboard activities, from big-production shows to rock-climbing walls and surfing pools, that you can enjoy just fine as a solo traveler.
Unlike Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, Silversea hasn’t created a specific cabin category for solo travelers. But the luxury line is known for catering to them with single supplements of just 10% to 25% on select sailings. Occasionally, during short-term promotions, the line even will waive the single supplement entirely.
Silversea also hosts welcome receptions for solo travelers at the start of every voyage to kick off the mingling process.
Operating relatively small, intimate vessels that carry just a few hundred passengers, Silversea is known for drawing a social crowd that likes to mix and mingle, particularly at dinnertime — a boon for people like me who don’t like to eat alone.
Head to the main lounge just before dinner on a Silversea ship, and there’s a good chance you’ll be pulled into a conversation with a group of complete strangers who will extend a dinner invitation. This has happened to me so many times on Silversea ships that I almost count on it.
On Silversea’s expedition sailings, you can also share meals with ship naturalists and expedition guides who join passengers in public dining venues. From my experience, they are always amenable to a friendly dining companion and some good conversation.
Of course, there’s always the rebellious startup line Virgin Voyages, backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which draws fun-loving folks (but not just millennials). It’s shaping up to be a leader in the solo cruise market, judging from my experience when I sailed on its first ship, Scarlet Lady.
The vessel boasts 46 cabins specifically designed for lone travelers — as do its newer sisters, Valiant Lady and Resilient Lady. That’s a big number for a ship with just 1,330 cabins overall. We haven’t yet sailed in one of their solo rooms, but based on what we saw when we toured Scarlet Lady, they might just become the coolest digs-for-one around.
The solo accommodations on Scarlet Lady, Valiant Lady and Resilient Lady include 40 windowless, 105-square-foot Solo Insider rooms on each vessel that are sleek and stylish with full-size beds, large flat-screen televisions, curvy vanities and high-design bathrooms. Six similar-looking Solo Sea View cabins on each vessel measure about 130 square feet and offer windows.
Note that the solo cabins with windows are at the front of the ships, facing forward. While that’s a spectacular location for sightseeing, seasoned cruisers know that cabins in this location can be bumpy in rough seas. I love a little movement when I cruise (how else do you know you’re at sea?), but if you don’t, consider yourself warned.
Meanwhile, for solos, you’ll find that Virgin’s hopping bar scene — and adult-focused atmosphere — is perfect for solos looking to meet up with other single travelers. With a ban on children under 18, you won’t find families with kids on this line. It’s all about solo travelers, couples and friend groups looking to have a good time and engage with their shipmates on board.
Solo travelers looking for an upscale river cruise can often find a deal from Tauck, a high-end tour company with a European cruise division. It markets more than half a dozen river vessels.
Tauck often eliminates its single supplement completely on its least-expensive category of cabins (Category 1) and reduces single supplements for other cabin categories (with savings up to $1,000 in select categories).
On board, Tauck directors and cruise directors take special care of solo travelers, and communal tables at mealtime make it easy to meet other travelers.
Cruisers traveling alone can seek out others at the bar (no worries about the bar tab — drinks are included) or escape to a quiet sun deck spot with a book when they’re tired of socializing. Daily shore excursions and tours are included, so you’ll always have a group ready to explore with you on land.
River cruising in general is ideal for solo travelers, and other river lines also waive or significantly lower single supplement charges. Avalon Waterways waives its single supplement charge for some cabins on every cruise departure in Europe, and AmaWaterways charges a single supplement of just 50% for solo travelers booking non-suite cabins. It also has four ships in Europe that each have two dedicated solo cabins that carry no single supplement.
As someone who often cruises alone when writing about ships, I’ve found that smaller ships often are better for mixing and mingling than bigger ships.
On small ships, you’ll see the same people again and again — on tours, in lounges, around the pool and so forth; this increases the odds you’ll strike up a conversation and soon become fast friends. On big ships with thousands of passengers, you might go days without seeing the same person twice.
The lines that operate small ships are also more prone to offering discounts for solo travelers, which results in a higher percentage of individual cruisers onboard. That said, for the most part, the lines operating bigger ships are offering the most dedicated solo cabins. They also offer more onboard activities, from Broadway shows to rock-climbing walls, that you don’t need companions to enjoy.
Not that you should worry too much about making friends at sea. Cruisers, in general, are social people. In fact, many passengers cruise specifically to meet others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting alone in a corner of a cruise ship lounge, minding my own business, when another passenger (or two or five) stopped by and struck up a conversation.
Whether you choose one of our top cruise lines for solo travelers or another line that suits your fancy, you’re bound to have a good time with as much or as little alone time as you desire.
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