INSIDER SECRET: If you want a solo cabin, be sure to book early. These cabins are usually the first cabins to sell out on the ship.
Let’s face it, cruises have always felt like a “couples” game. But that world is changing. More people are traveling solo and cruise lines that were traditionally reluctant to accommodate solo travelers are quickly changing course to accommodate solo cruisers.
In response to the trend, many cruise lines are retrofitting existing cruise ships to create cabins specifically tailored to solo travelers and even building special lounges for solo cruisers as well.
These changes have turned cruising into a friendly and approachable option for traveling by yourself. Here is what you should know about going it alone on the cruise lines:
How to Travel Solo on Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Lines was one of the first major cruise lines to accommodate solo travelers. With the launch of its ship the Norwegian Epic, the company began offering solo studio cabins (equipped with queen-size beds) and a solo-only lounge, which gives you a quiet place to hang out and makes it easier to meet other solo travelers.
This experiment by Norwegian Cruise Lines went so well, that the solo studios are the first rooms to sell out on every itinerary. Norwegian has responded by adding solo traveler accommodations to all new ships since then and began retrofitting existing ships with similar setups.
Other cruise lines have followed suit, and solo traveler cabins are now available on many different cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity, Cunard Line, Costa Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, P&O Cruises, and many others.
What is a Single Supplement?
One reason solo travelers have avoided cruises in the past is the dreaded single supplement or the “solo tax.” This is an additional fee, usually a percentage of the double-occupancy rate, that is added when you purchase a cabin for yourself.
These single supplements vary by cruise line, but usually cost the single traveler an additional 150% - 200% more.
Solo cabins don’t have single supplement rates because they are designed for single occupancy.
The good news is that if you book either a solo cabin or a double-occupancy room and pay the single supplement, you only must pay taxes, port fees and gratuities for one passenger. For areas with high port fees (like Panama Canal or Alaska), this is a significant savings.
Solo Cabins Require You to Book Early
If you want to book a solo cabin, book early. These cabins are usually the first to sell out on the ship. This leads to one of the biggest downsides of solo cabins: because they fill up so quickly, they never go on sale.
How to Find Good Deals for Cruising Solo
Because solo cabins never go on sale, look at last-minute deals on standard rooms. Often you can find really good last-minute deals on interior or ocean-view cabins that are cheaper than solo cabins, even after you add in the single- supplement charge.
For example, I recently found last minute seven-day cruise deals for only $300 double occupancy. The single supplement on the room was 150%, making the room $450 for solo travelers. The same boat and itinerary sells solo cabins for around $1,000.
Many cruise lines will lower or waive the single supplement on last-minute cruises, meaning you pay no additional single- supplement fees on a double-occupancy room.
Another thing to consider is that many cruise lines offer double loyalty points to cruisers who buy double-occupancy cabins and pay the single supplement.
This means solo travelers shouldn’t ignore good travel deals just because a solo cabin is unavailable. You can always use travel rewards to help offset the cost of a cruise.
How to Dine Solo
Dining alone concerns many solo travelers. Most cruise ships have now modified their reservations systems to group solo travelers together. I recommend requesting a bigger table. The dining staff is always looking to fill large tables anyway, and with a large group, it is easier to find people you might connect with.
Of course, there are tables that can accommodate one person and you can request a single-seating option if you’re not in the mood for socializing.
Either way, the maître d’ is understanding, so don’t hesitate to make your preference known.
How to Explore the Shore Solo
When you arrive in port, it is an exciting time to get off the boat and explore. The ship’s shore excursions are always a great option for solo travelers.
Even people traveling with companions on the ship will frequently split up during shore excursions, so you will fit right in and it is a great time to chat with other travelers.
Some of the best “ship friends” are people I met during shore excursions. If you really hit it off, coordinate dinner schedules so you can sit together at dinner.
The shore excursions offer a safe way to explore new territory because you are with experienced guides and a large group.
How to Stay Entertained Solo
Virtually all cruise lines offer activities targeted to solo travelers. These are listed on the ship’s itinerary each day. For example, you might run into me at the trivia events because I am a trivia nerd. I have met tons of people at these events. Don’t be afraid to go to any events on the ship. Everyone is sociable and excited to be there.
Which Cruise Lines Are Best for Solo Travelers?
So now that you know that solo cruising might be worth a try, which cruise lines are best for solo travelers?
You should call each cruise line prior to booking to get more specifics about what they offer. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here is what some of the top cruise lines offer solo travelers (in alphabetical order):
The new Celebrity Edge has 16 solo cabins, 12 of which have the Infinite Veranda, which opens up the room with the balcony doors moving into the wall to make a seamless transition between the room and the balcony area.
Celebrity plans to add three more sister ships over the next few years. Right now, the Celebrity Edge is the only ship with solo cabins on Celebrity Cruises.
Costa has put a lot of effort into ensuring solo travelers have options across their fleet of ships. Out of 14 ships that they operate, eight of them offer solo cabins.
- Costa Diadema (21 cabins)
- Costa Fascinosa (17 cabins)
- Costa Favolosa (17 cabins)
- Costa Pacifica (17 cabins)
- Costa Serena (17 cabins)
- Costa Magica (14 cabins)
- Costa Fortuna (14 cabins)
- Costa neoRomantica (6 cabins)
These cabins are nearly identical to standard rooms. They switch out double beds for a single twin bed but are otherwise the same, just a tiny bit smaller.
Cunard takes solo travel seriously and has retrofitted its entire line of ships to accommodate solo travelers. Cunard’s North America President Richard Meadows said recently that 24% of people surveyed in 2015 traveled solo on their most recent international vacation, up from 15% in 2013.
- Queen Mary 2 (15 cabins)
- Queen Victoria (9 cabins)
- Queen Elizabeth (9 cabins)
Cunard is a luxury transatlantic ocean liner. These cruises rarely have any ports of call (or very few), allowing you to simply enjoy the relaxation of the sea and their signature ships. It is known as a particularly social cruise line, with many activities for everyone, which sets up a great solo adventure.
Holland America’s two newest ships, the Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam are equipped with solo traveler accommodations, and they promise that ships in their existing fleet will be retrofitted with dedicated accommodations for solo travelers.
- Koningsdam (12 cabins)
- Nieuw Statendam (12 cabins)
- Prinsendam (3 cabins)
Rooms include Holland America’s signature Mariner’s Dream twin bed, mini fridge, flat-screen TV with video-on-demand and live TV, bedside USB ports, oversize modern shower, and more. These rooms are nearly identical to the double-occupancy rooms and the solo prices are significantly cheaper than paying single-supplement fees.
The UK-based Fred. Olsen has been offering solo cabins since they launched the cruise line in 1988. They offer a range of options for solo cruising cabins across their entire fleet.
- Balmoral (64 cabins)
- Black Watch (43 cabins)
- Boudicca (43 cabins)
- Braemar (40 cabins)
These rooms are equipped with the same amenities as double-occupancy rooms and have one oversize-single bed (4 feet x 6 feet).
Norwegian Cruise Line
Considered to be the most solo-friendly cruise line currently available, these ships have the highest number of solo cabins per ship compared to other cruise lines.
- Norwegian Epic (128 cabins)
- Norwegian Escape (82 cabins)
- Norwegian Breakaway (59 cabins)
- Norwegian Getaway (59 cabins)
- Pride of America (4 cabins)
Norwegian’s solo cabins are small at 100 square feet, but they are functional and include keycard-only access to the Studio Complex, a solos-only lounge that is stocked with complimentary snacks and coffee. These lounges also have TV- viewing areas and a private bar.
Don’t miss the nightly hosted happy hour gatherings.
Another popular cruise line based in the UK is P&O Cruises, which has retrofitted all of its ships with solo studio cabins — its most recent retrofit of the Aurora — was completed in April 2019, along with its change to become an adults-only ship.
- Britannia (27 cabins)completed
- Azura (18 cabins)
- Ventura (18 cabins)
- Iona (10 cabins)
- Arcadia (6 cabins)
- Aurora (4 cabins)
- Oriana (2 cabins)
Cruisers aboard these ships have noted that solo cabins are only barely smaller than double-occupancy cabins, usually only offering ~10 square feet per room less, with the same amenities. The only differences between the two cabins are that they are shower-only in solo cabins (no option for a bathtub) and have a single-size bed.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean has been quick to retrofit ships for solo travelers. Of the more than 20 ships in the fleet, a total of 10 have solo cabins available.
- Quantum of the Seas (28 cabins)
- Anthem of the Seas (28 cabins)
- Ovation of the Seas (28 cabins)
- Harmony of the Seas (15 cabins)
- Adventure of the Seas (5 cabins)
- Brilliance of the Seas (3 cabins)
- Jewel of the Seas (3 cabins)
- Mariner of the Seas (2 cabins)
- Radiance of the Seas (3 cabins)
- Serenade of the Seas (3 cabins)
One of the biggest draws to these new solo cabins is that the interior rooms offer an industry-first virtual balcony. This is a floor-to-ceiling screen that mimics a window, and displays ocean-view images as you cruise. This can help prevent seasickness or claustrophobia that interior rooms often cause passengers.
Solo travelers don’t have to ignore the cruise industry anymore as a fun and viable travel option. In the past, cruises were built and tailored to couples, but the shift to solo traveling has caused cruise lines to quickly adapt to this new trend.
Most major cruise lines have begun work to retrofit their existing ships to accommodate solo cabins. Some cruise lines are also working to tailor experiences for solo travelers by adding happy hours, solo-only lounges, excursions and other activities
Cruise lines report that as many as 20% of their passengers are solo travelers, so there are plenty of opportunities to make friends and have a great time. If you previously ignored cruises as an option for solo travel, think again. Your next solo adventure might be on a cruise ship.
Are there any other cruise lines I missed that are great for solo travelers?
This story was originally written on Million Mile Secrets. For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.