How often are you able to make your our own vacation choices… to wander the world and contemplate life on your own terms? The liberation of a solo cruise -- of not having to be responsible for anyone's pleasure but your own -- allows you to appreciate the experience on an entirely different level than when you're with a friend, spouse or family member.
However, in this coupled-up world, a solo traveler can find it difficult to cruise alone. Mega-ships don't make it easy to meet people and run into them again onboard, and harried crew members don't always have the time to dote on lone cruisers. Open-seating dining and reservations-only restaurants are not always friendly to singles who do not wish to dine alone. Then there's the issue of cost: A solo can expect to pay between 125 and 200 percent of the published cruise fare to cover the cost of the "missing" passenger.
Some cruise lines do make an effort to cater to solos. Some will greatly reduce or even waive single supplements in an effort to fill berths, or offer meet-and-greets or group dining for single cruisers. Additionally, several lines now offer dedicated solo cabins, touting priced-for-one fares that generally run higher than the per-person cost for a double occupancy cabin, but lower than assuming the cost of the single supplement on a standard cabin. (See The Truth About Solo Cabins for more info on how fares for solo-dedicated cabins stack up.)
All that said, here is a look at the seven best lines for those who like their "alone time."
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1. Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic was the first ship in its fleet to feature studio cabins (128 in all) targeted at and priced for solo cruisers. The line continued the trend with Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, which each feature 59 studio cabins, and Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss, which feature 82 studio units each. Four studios also can be found on Pride of America, which sails year-round in Hawaii.
A full-size bed, flat-screen TV and private bathroom are all squeezed into these up-to-100-square-foot accommodations (square footage varies by ship). Although all studios are inside cabins, nearly all have a window that looks out onto the corridor; those on Norwegian Bliss are the exception, as they are equipped instead with a virtual porthole that streams in ocean views. Four different colors of ambient lighting jazz up the room (though on Norwegian Bliss more subdued lighting is used due to its virtual porthole).
The biggest perk, however, is access to an exclusive, shared social space called the Studio Complex and Lounge. (It's not available on Pride of America, but studio occupants do have access to a shared living room space.) It's a sleek hangout area with its own large-screen TVs, coffee-making facilities, a bartender at certain times of the day and daily hosted predinner gatherings.
2. Holland America
Holland America Line is renowned for catering to solo cruisers. There are plenty of programs that don't require partners, and activities that can be delightfully solitary or a means to meeting others. (The culinary programs, from hands-on cooking workshops to wine tastings, are tons of fun.) The Single Partners Program, available on most voyages, offers hosted onboard solo traveler events like cocktail mixers and games, too.
The line's biggest ship, Koningsdam, offers 12 solo cabins. Koningsdam's solo cabins are all ocean view and range from 127 to 172 square feet. They feature all of the same amenities of a double-occupancy cabin, but with a twin bed. (When HAL's newest ship, Nieuw Statendam, debuts in December 2018, it will feature identical solo cabin offerings as Koningsdam.)
Singles are invited to dine together (by advance request), and, on most voyages of 30 days or more, gentleman hosts are available for dancing and dining.
Pricing: Koningsdam's cabins are priced for one, as will be Nieuw Statendam's.
3. Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International's Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas each feature 28 dedicated "studio" cabins for solo travelers on each ship, a mix of virtual balcony cabins (featuring 80-inch floor-to-ceiling LED display screens that project live images of the ocean and ports) and staterooms with actual 55-square-foot open-air balconies. These units all come with full-size beds and range in size from 101 to 119 square feet.
Harmony of the Seas also offers two categories (insides and outsides, though none with virtual or proper balconies), but only 15 cabins are available and they're smaller, starting at 96 square feet. It's the only Oasis-class ship with solo rooms.
A variety of singles-friendly activities onboard Royal Caribbean ships allows solo cruisers to socialize and have just as much fun at sea as couples and groups. From scuba training in the pool and group fitness activities to wine-tasting demonstrations and cooking classes, solo cruisers can easily keep themselves well entertained.
Pricing: Royal Caribbean's studio staterooms carry no supplement.
4. Silversea Cruises
Silversea doesn't offer "single" cabins, but its occasional special fare deals mean that a solo traveler can sail alone without a huge penalty. Typical solo fares are 25 to 75 percent above the double-occupancy rate. Singles make up about 7 percent of the line's passenger base, ensuring a good amount of fellow solos onboard any given voyage.
Another plus: With just 296 passengers on Silver Wind, 382 apiece on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper, 596 on Silver Muse and 608 on Silver Spirit, solo cruisers find it easy to meet people in such an intimate setting. Some of the enrichment programs and special-interest cruises ensure a compatible mix of people with like-minded interests, solo or not.
A welcome reception with Champagne is held on every voyage with a large number of solos. Most voyages of more than 10 days also have gentleman hosts onboard as dance partners and shore excursion escorts.
Pricing: Solo fares are often priced as low as 125 percent of the regular fares.
5. Crystal Cruises
Crystal is one of the most popular luxury lines for solos, who make up to 25 percent of the line's passengers on some sailings. Solo travelers are attracted by the wide range of activities onboard, plus singles' parties, gentleman hosts for dining and dancing, and supplements that can be as low as 30 percent for certain categories. Plus, while Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity are quite spacious, they carry only 848 and 1,070 passengers respectively; a sense of community prevails onboard.
While Crystal adopted an open seating dining policy in 2018 (it was one of the industry's last holdouts to maintain traditional assigned seating arrangements), the line still makes accommodations for solo travelers wishing to dine together in the main and specialty restaurants.
Crystal's unique activities include seminars through the Creative Learning Institute, with choices like wine tasting, Tai Chi lessons, art classes and a Computer University@Sea.
Pricing: Depending on the sailing, solo supplements range from 30 percent to 100 percent of double occupancy rates. On occasion, Crystal will offer limited-time sales on cabins for solo cruisers on select voyages.
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6. Seabourn Cruise Line
The cozy and social atmosphere on Seabourn's small ships assures solos that they won't be overlooked, and getting to know fellow cruisers -- and staffers -- is easy.
One of Seabourn's lovely traditions is to have its officers, staff and entertainers host tables at dinner -- not only on a formal evening but on just about every night. Solo travelers receive special consideration when it comes to invites, so you really don't have to dine alone if you don't choose to. As well, single travelers will be escorted across the dining room by the maitre d' or other staffer, which is a nice touch.
Pricing: Seabourn's standard single supplement is 75 percent more than the double-occupancy fare for ocean view, veranda, penthouse and penthouse spa suites and 100 percent more for premium suites. As well, the line occasionally offers single guarantee fares for just 50 percent more than the double-occupancy fares; with this pricing, Seabourn (not the passenger) will choose the stateroom location and availability is limited.
7. Cunard Line
Cunard has long attracted solo travelers to its traditional cruise ships and ocean liners, and the convivial onboard atmosphere means that solos can easily make friends with their shipmates if they choose. Cunard does try to accommodate passengers who wish to dine solo, but this depends on how full each voyage is. In general, solo travelers are assigned to tables with other singles. In addition, gentleman hosts are available to whirl single ladies around the dance floor.
Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria each have nine midship single-occupancy cabins; eight are ocean-view cabins, while the ninth is a standard inside cabin. Queen Mary 2, meanwhile, has 15 ocean-view single-occupancy cabins.
Solo travelers will never be bored on any Cunard ship with so many activities taking place onboard. You can attend lectures by experts in various fields, see a planetarium show on Queen Mary 2, enjoy theatrical workshops and performances by members of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, play numerous rounds of team trivia and relax in the Canyon Ranch spa.
Pricing: Cunard's typical solo supplement is a full 100 percent for Queens and Princess Grill Suites and 75 percent for inside, outside and balcony cabins. On occasion, the line offer discounts to solo travelers.