If your client is planning to holiday alone, a cruise can provide the perfect opportunity to make new friends while exploring the world.
It would be hard to design a holiday more suitable for people travelling alone than a cruise. They see the world from a safe environment where they are well looked after, and if they are on the right ship there will be plenty of other people on their own to meet. Lone cruisers come in all ages, from 40-somethings holidaying with a group of friends to widows or widowers in their 70s and 80s who want to see the world but are nervous about travelling alone.
Cruise lines have always promoted a holiday at sea as a terrific vacation for solo travellers but historically only those with older, smaller ships – such as Saga Cruises and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines – actually offered single cabins. Those with new vessels doubled their fare because solo travellers occupied a cabin built for two.
That all changed when Norwegian Cruise Line launched Norwegian Epic in 2010 with 128 single Studio cabins. They are small – 10 ft by 10 ft – but have an en-suite bathroom and exclusive access to a singles lounge.
The Studios were so successful that NCL has put them on its next three new ships (59 each on Breakaway and Getaway, 82 on Escape) and four were retrofitted on Pride of America, which sails in Hawaii.
NCL managing director EMEA Christian Boell said the cabins are popular with all ages, from groups of young friends to multi-generational families. He added: “The Studios are one of our most popular stateroom categories and often sell out early. [Advise clients to] book as soon as possible.”
These days other mainstream big ship cruise lines also have single cabins, but many fewer. Holland America Line’s Koningsdam launched last year with 12. Cunard retrofitted 15 to Queen Mary 2 during its 2016 refit. P&O Cruises’ Britannia has 27 single cabins, Azura and Ventura each have 18.
While all see strong demand for these cabins, people travelling alone often feel more comfortable on smaller ships. NCL excepted, it can be hard to meet people on a big ship but on smaller vessels you are always seeing the same folk, whether over meals, in the bar or on excursions. The best lines for singles also have activities that bring together those travelling alone.
Saga Cruises has singles gatherings, dance hosts, lunches and cocktail parties for solo travellers. If they want to go ashore together or in a group on a shore excursion, a bespoke departure time can be arranged.
The cruise line has 93 single cabins on its two ships Saga Sapphire and Saga Pearl II, and will have another 109 on new ship Spirit of Discovery when that launches in 2019. Saga commercial director Nigel Banks said: “We are putting such a high proportion of singles on our new ship (20% of total capacity) to meet ever-growing demand from solo travellers.”
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines also has dance hosts and gatherings where those travelling alone can get to know each other. Crew will seat them together at dinner and can arrange companions for them to go ashore with.
Head of sales Mike Evans said: “Single cabins sell out quickly, particularly on the most sought-after cruises. Agents should advise clients that they need to be booked early.” Fred Olsen has 190 single cabins across its four-ship fleet.
The ‘book early’ message is echoed by Hebridean Island Cruises, which has 10 single cabins on Hebridean Princess, and Voyages to Antiquity, which is converting 13 cabins on Aegean Odyssey into single accommodation next spring, taking the total on the ship to 39. Head of commercial Michelle Daniels said VtoA’s small-ship informality and culturally-themed cruises create a natural bond between passengers.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages is chasing solo travellers by offering 150 twin cabins each on Magellan and Columbus, CMV’s newest ship, for solo occupancy with a low 25% supplement.
In a new trend, most cruise lines have stopped quoting supplements and instead price single cabins individually but still at a premium. A single outside cabin on a 12-night cruise to the Mediterranean on P&O Cruises’ Azura next October costs from £1,679; an outside twin costs from £1,141 per person.
Saga explained it costs more because passengers in a single cabin get twice as much space per person as a couple.
River cruises are equally attractive for lone travellers as the vessels are small. Excursions are often included in the price, and some companies – such as Tauck, AmaWaterways and Uniworld River Cruises – have no-single-supplement offers on some or all departures.
Saga and Just You offer singles-only river cruises. Saga has three next year – Springtime Colours of the Rhine (March 29), Majesty of the Middle Rhine (October 23) and Douro Discovery (November 14). Just You has 16 across India, Asia and Europe.
1 – Suggest a small ship with plenty of single cabins for solo clients nervous about travelling alone.
2 – Look out for ‘no-supplement’ deals to pass on to a solo traveller database.
3 – Advise clients to book early as single cabins sell out fast.
4 – Themed cruises are good for bringing like-minded solo travellers together.
5 – Solo passengers are well catered for on river cruises with dedicated singles departures and twin cabins with no supplements.
Saga Cruises’ (0800 505030) seven-night Scandinavian Seascapes, departing on 13 September 2018, visits Stavanger, Kristiansand, Gothenburg and Skagen. From £2,159 for a single outside cabin.
Voyages to Antiquity’s (01865 566540) 13-day Aegean Experience, departing 26 April 2018, includes a five-night tour of the Peloponnese. From £3,400 for a single cabin including flights and transfers.
AmaWaterways’ (0800 520 2250) seven-night Enchanting Rhine cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, departing 18 November 2017, visits Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Mannheim, Strasbourg and Breisach. From £2,177 for supplement-free sole occupancy of a twin cabin.