Should a solo traveller book a cruise? It seems like a daunting vacation choice – aren't ships filled with couples and families? And who wants to pay the costly single-supplement fee? And yet, more and more people are taking cruises on their own. So much so that some cruise lines are actively catering to the single traveller.
According to last year's Consumer Market Profile, prepared by Cruise Lines International Association, 2 per cent of cruisers in North America were solo travellers. This year, the association expects a growth of almost a million passengers, up to 23 million people.
Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer reserved solo-traveller areas and single-room accommodations, while other lines sometimes waive the single-supplement fee or offer match-up programs so single travellers can share a double room.
During a seven-day sailing through the Caribbean onboard Norwegian Epic, the singles-only area was busy. The Studio Lounge is large, two-storeyed and equipped with sofas, chairs, a latte machine and its own bartender during peak hours. There are two large-screen televisions as well as books and board games. Every morning a continental breakfast is served so guests don't even have to leave the lounge. And since this hub is available only to passengers booked in single rooms, meeting and mingling with other solo travellers is that much easier.
"We've created our own community through the lounge," said Darrell James, 29, of Moncton.
Darlene Edmondson, from Florida, sat in the lounge with her coffee, exchanging adventures and travel plans with fellow Studio passengers. "I can mingle with people when I want to and, because the other passengers are also solo travellers, they are more open to meeting new people and chatting," she said.
"The reason I took this cruise was because it offered a single room. I travel alone and didn't want to share a double room with anyone," she added.
Norwegian's single-only Studio rooms are inside cabins with large beds, televisions and closet space. They even have a sort of trompe l'oeil porthole, which removes any sense of being walled-in. The lighting and temperature can also be adjusted to anyone's mood.
"Solo travelling is a growing market and we are seeing increased demand for these accommodations," Norwegian spokesperson Vanessa Picariello said. "Best of all, these accommodations are not just specially designed for solo travellers, but priced for solo travellers as well."
To compare the difference, consider that an inside cabin on the Norwegian Getaway in July begins at $1,049 (U.S.) a person. So at double occupancy, the cost for a single to sail in an inside cabin is $2,098. A studio suite for the same week on the Getaway would cost $1,249.
Royal Caribbean also offers Studio interior staterooms on some ships, and some of these rooms feature a virtual balcony – an 80-inch, floor-to-ceiling LED display screen that shows live views of the ocean and ports.
The cost savings for single suites are significant, too.
For example, on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas' 12-night Western Caribbean cruise – sailing round-trip from Bayonne, N.J., on Nov. 30 – the cost for single occupancy in an interior studio with virtual balcony is $2,099. But if a solo traveller booked an interior stateroom (with virtual balcony) they'd have to pay $2,488 for one person.
Royal Caribbean has three single-occupancy studio rooms, without virtual balcony, on Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas. Additionally, guests can book single-occupancy studios with virtual balconies on Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.
According to Cruise Lines International Association, singles-only accomodation is also available on Costa Cruises, Cunard, American Cruise Lines and six ships of the AmaWaterways' European fleet.