Bad Economy Good for Solo Travelers?

December 10, 2008
Solo cruise travelers have traditionally gotten the short end of the stick with high single supplements and very few single cabins on the market. However, we've been seeing plenty of solo-friendly news of late, from cruise lines adding cabins for one on new or refurbished ships to no-supplement promotions. Cruise lines are realizing that they need to reach out to every potential traveler to fill their ships in today's tough economy -- and that means catering more to solo cruisers.

So far, we've seen two major trends:

More solo cruise deals: Solo travelers who book in December and January can save serious cash with waived single supplement deals from a variety of cruise lines. Uniworld is waiving the supplement on select 2009 river cruises if booked before January 31, 2009. Hurtigruten is letting solo travelers book at double occupancy rates on select Norwegian coastal voyages departing January through March and October through December, 2009 (book by December 31, 2008). Elegant Cruises & Tours is not charging a single supplement on April 2009 departures of its "Venice and the Dalmatian Coast" cruise booked by the end of January -- and is offering 30 percent off shore excursions to boot. Voyages of Discovery is enticing solo travelers to book last-minute December and January sailings to Antarctica with free airfare from eight departure cities, 10 percent off expedition cruise tours and no single supplement in select cabin categories.

New single cabins: With the retirement of Cunard's QE2, single travelers had to bid farewell to one of the only ships to accommodate solo cruisers with single-occupancy cabins. Cunard has no plans to offer more single traveler promotions on its remaining ships, QM2 and Queen Victoria, but in a reversal of the existing trend of treating singles as second-class citizens, several other lines are adding solo cabins to their ships. Fred. Olsen added single cabins to Braemar and Balmoral in recent 2008 refurbishments -- the cabins are designed for solo travelers, often sporting one bed and a comfortable couch or chair, and come in a variety of categories from inside to balcony (130 to 200 square ft.). And beginning in spring 2010, P&O Cruises will offer its first single cabins on the new Azura. The 18 Deck 6 solo staterooms will have a boutique hotel design and decor.

Solo cruise travelers, have you experienced increased goodwill from the cruise lines of late? Or are you still trying to find ways around the dreaded supplement that really never disappears for long? Please post your experiences on the Cruise Critic message boards.

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor