Passengers who embark on an ocean cruise as a single traveller certainly won’t be lonely, as Jeannine Williamson finds out.
Cruising is one of the best holidays for solo travellers, whether they are single or have a non-cruising partner. An increasing number of lines offer solo cabins, no longer the size of a broom cupboard, while others waive or reduce single supplements and organise special get-togethers for those on their own.
There are plenty of welcoming lines for clients looking to set sail by themselves, and agents can sell with confidence knowing their customers are guaranteed to be well looked after and will meet plenty of like-minded fellow passengers along the way.
What they do: Saga has an enviable reputation with single travellers, who make up around one fifth of passengers, and it’s easy to see why. The line provides a high ratio of single staterooms and a number of them have balconies – a rarity on many lines.
The two current vessels, Saga Pearl II and Saga Sapphire, have 57 and 44 single cabins respectively. Saga’s pair of brand new ships, Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure, being launched this July and in 2020 respectively, will each have an unprecedented 109 single cabins – and each of them will have its own balcony.
Saga organises cocktail parties and get-togethers before each port of call for those who want to go ashore in company, and fares include wine with lunch and dinner and a complimentary door-to-door chauffeur transfer service.
Sell it: Seven-night Norway Rocks round-trip Dover itinerary on Spirit of Discovery, from £1,592pp departing 29 September 2019.
Norwegian Cruise Line
What they do: In 2010 Norwegian Cruise Line transformed solo cruise travel by becoming the first company to introduce cabins and public areas specifically with single cruisers in mind. These award-winning Studio Staterooms have full-size beds and boast cool décor with multi-coloured lighting, plus a cleverly designed bathroom to maximise space.
Studio passengers have exclusive use of the private Studio Lounge and social area where they’ll find free tea, coffee and snacks, as well as a nightly happy hour, singles meet-ups and a whiteboard for posting notes to fellow travellers. Other perks include room service and, on some cruises, crew members host bar crawls around the ship.
For solo cruisers who want to book a regular stateroom, NCL offers a reduced single supplement on selected sailings.
Sell it: Seven-night Western Mediterranean round-trip cruise from Barcelona on Norwegian Epic, from £1,618pp departing 9 June 2019.
What they do: Brit-friendly Marella Cruises, formerly Thomson, offers special deals for solo travellers on selected cruises to destinations including the Mediterranean and Caribbean. All the ships have outside and inside single cabins and Marella Explorer 2, joining the fleet this summer, will be adults-only.
On all sailings a social host is on hand to arrange get-togethers for solo travellers, such as coffee mornings and dinners. And if any passengers are worried about dining alone, the ship’s maitre d’ will try to ensure they are seated with other single guests.
Marella offers good value for money, as all tips and service charges are included, plus Marella Explorer, Discovery and Discovery 2 offer all-inclusive drinks and free dining at speciality restaurants. From this summer Marella Dream and Celebration will also become all-inclusive.
Sell it: Seven-night Treasures of the Mediterranean round-trip Palma de Mallorca cruise on Marella Dream from £1,480pp departing 13 August 2019.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
What they do: Fred Olsen’s fleet of four smaller-sized ships – Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch – provide a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, particularly for first-time solo cruisers. This tried-and-tested formula means that on average around 13 per cent of passengers are travelling alone.
The line offers one of the largest numbers of single cabins in the industry, with 190 across the fleet, including 11 suites and a choice of inside and outside accommodation. Solo travellers are seated together in the restaurant and meet-ups enable them to go ashore with companions. There are dance partners for single ladies and activities such as bridge, and arts and craft classes that can be enjoyed with other passengers, or individually if they prefer.
There are also special deals, including no single supplements and ‘twin for solo’ occupancy rates on selected sailings.
Sell it: 11-night Spain, Portugal and Morocco round-trip Liverpool itinerary on Black Watch, from £1,499 departing 26 November 2019.
Holland America Line
What they do: Each of Holland America’s elegant ships hosts a party for singles to meet early on in their cruise, followed by cocktail receptions and other events. On each sailing there are more than 40 inclusive activities where passengers can meet fellow solo travellers and other guests, including exercise and dance classes, wine tasting and cookery demonstrations, trivia contests and sports challenges.
On most cruises of 30 days or longer, there are social hosts to welcome single women to dinner and dancing. By advance request, special effort will be made to seat singles with their counterparts at dinner. Launched last month, Nieuw Statendam, the sister ship to Koningsdam and the second of HAL’s Pinnacle-class ships, has 12 single cabins.
Sell it: Six-night Authentic Cuba round-trip Fort Lauderdale sailing on Veendam from £929pp, departing 23 October 2019.
Voyages to Antiquity
What they do: The line’s Aegean Odyssey carries an average of just 350 passengers per cruise, creating an ideal environment for meeting new people. This is reflected in an impressive seven per cent year-on-year increase in solo passengers, and in 2018 some 23 per cent of guests were single travellers.
There are solo drinks parties on every sailing, along with hosted dinners for solos, and during shore excursions participants stay in the same assigned group for the duration of the cruise, which means that friendships are quickly formed.
Dedicated single cabins have low supplements and are available in almost all categories, from inside to deluxe balcony. In 2017 the number of these cabins was increased from 29 to 38. However, when these are full, other staterooms are offered with similarly reduced supplements, something that accounts for the high number of single passengers choosing the line.
Sell it: 15-night Iceland, Faroes & Shetlands London Tilbury round-trip cruise from £3,995pp, departing 30 July 2019.