Cruising Solo: How to get the most out of a cruise without paying twice

Cruise lines are building smaller “studio suites” or offering rooms to single travelers at no extra cost, making it cost effective to travel alone.

You may be divorced or never married; you may be widowed. You may have a partner who doesn’t travel. You may just need some time away from a busy family life. Or you may be tired of trying to schedule a vacation with friends and family who are also busy. You are the Single Traveler.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the fastest-growing household type since the 1980s has been the single person. And single people have increasing purchasing power. But in many ways, Singletons (to use a term from the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary — a more respectful and amusing term than spinster, widower, bachelor or widow) are still penalized financially for being, well, single.

Travel, and especially cruising, is one of them. Cruise lines lose out when they don’t fill all the beds, and most ships are built to house couples, so solo travelers are charged a “single supplement” of 100 to 200 percent of the coupled travelers’ cost per person.

But more and more, in response to travelers’ demands, cruise lines are building smaller “studio suites,” or offering single rooms at no extra cost, i.e., no “single supplement” that requires Singletons to pay extra to cruise alone.

Single travelers can find options for travel all over the world, including the Pacific Northwest, with cruises to Alaska, Victoria, the San Juan Islands, and California.

Here are five options for the solo cruiser, some of which have “no supplement” options:

Ships with single cabins: Norwegian Cruise Lines has been adding hundreds of single cabins to their ships. Holland America Line and Royal Caribbean also offer single staterooms with no single supplement.

Boutique hotel ships: P&O Cruises feels like a boutique hotel, and their single cabins have no single supplement. Their ships are smaller, however, so the single rooms go fast. Another line, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, caters to 55-plus travelers, and has many dedicated solo cabins.

Seek out smaller ships: AdventureSmith Explorations has small ships and large yachts that offer some single rooms or a single share program, in which you are matched with a roommate. Windstar Cruises out of Seattle has smaller ships and has lowered their single supplements to 15 to 75 percent.

Low single supplements: Cruise lines such as Crystal, Silversea and Seabourn have single supplements from 75 percent and up depending on the price of the suite. Costa Cruises has single rooms, yet these rooms carry a supplement of about six percent.

Singles-themed cruises: Look for special cruise themes, e.g., “Halloween Cruise 2017,” “Singles Cruise Over 40” or “Senior Singles Cruises,” which are often offered around holidays such as Thanksgiving or New Years. These are fun, socially active cruises, most of which pair you up with a roommate (singlescruise.com).

Shannon Borg is a wine and travel writer living in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Her most recent book is The Green Vine: A Guide to West Coast Sustainable, Organic, and Biodynamic Wines (Mountaineers, 2011).

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