Because cruise fares are based on double occupancy in each cabin, cruising as a single person can be expensive. Cruise lines make up for the absence of another passenger by charging what they call a "single supplement" that can be as high as 200 percent of the standard price. The upside is that there are singles cruise deals out there, though it might take some digging. Here's what we found.
Affordable Cruise Lines for Singles
The best solo cruise deals are on cruise lines that have studio or one-person cabins. These cabins are often smaller than standard staterooms and typically only have one full-sized bed (rather than the common twin/queen configuration). Look for studios on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America, P&O Cruises and Cunard.
Few luxury lines offer studio cabins, but they sometimes run specials with a low or no single supplement. Silversea offers an extensive list of cruises with just a 25 percent single supplement. Ponant offers a few select cruises with no supplement. Crystal sometimes offers sailings with supplements as low as 10 percent. These sailings might not be cheap singles cruises, but with the luxury perks that are included, they often work out to be better deals than mainstream cruises with full single supplements.
River cruise lines are a popular choice for solo cruisers, and AmaWaterways, Tauck, and Uniworld frequently offer low to no single supplements.
Best Itineraries for Solo Cruisers on a Budget
The most affordable options for cruising solo might be short cruises. Four-night and five-night cruises offer more of a getaway than a long weekend, but are priced far lower than the average seven-nighter. Short cruises from Los Angeles are priced low enough that even with the single supplement, they top the list of cheap one-person cruises. Sailings from Florida to the Bahamas are only slightly higher. Repositioning cruises between Europe and the Caribbean are also bargains to consider.
Best Time to Take a Solo Cruise
Any time cruise prices drop is an ideal time to look for one-person cruise deals. That means look at shoulder seasons like September, October and early December in the Caribbean. Also, check April or October and November for repositioning cruise bargains. If your sights are set on Alaska, look at the first and last cruises of the season (typically May and September) for deals that are more affordable, even with full supplements. For the Mediterranean and most other European cruises, look at March and October when the season is beginning or winding down.
Top Tips for Getting a Great Solo Cruise Deal
Book early. This specifically applies to those no-supplement studio cabins; they are very hard to get on some itineraries, so booking a year or more in advance could be necessary. When booking standard cabins, six to eight months out is about right for booking shoulder season or repositioning cruises at the best price and for finding luxury lines waiving or lowering the single supplement.
Book late. Take advantage of your solo travel flexibility by keeping an eye out for last-minute deals that might put a cruise within your budget range, even with the supplement.
Study the cruise lines. The more you know about a cruise line, the easier it is to spot a deal and to know whether the vibe onboard is ideal for you as a single cruiser. The Cruise Critic member boards are a great place to read the opinions and experiences of other solo cruisers.
Skip the travel agent. Even though agents can sometimes help you find the best singles cruise deals, they have little incentive for doing so. If an agent books you on a cruise with a double-the-standard-cruise fare single supplement, they make more money. Unless it's an agent you have used before and trust to find a bargain, you might be better off on your own -- in more ways than one.