FAB Travel Advisory - Single cabins and the dreeded supplements.
For solo travelers, the traditionally coupled-up cruise world has long meant navigating unfriendly waters, largely due to the "single supplement." This pricey fee could easily double the cost of a cruise for a single cruise traveler looking to sail in a room priced for two.
Things are slowly changing -- beyond Australia at least. More and more cruise lines are coming out with priced-for-one solo cruise cabins on both new and reconfigured ships. These are meant to give single travelers savings at sea (though, unfortunately, that's not always the case). So what exactly do you get when you sign up for a solo cruise?
Cruises With Single Cabins: What You Need to Know
While solo cruise cabin inventory is still relatively limited today, the concept was virtually non-existent in the mainstream cruise industry as recently as 2010, when Norwegian Cruise Line stepped in to pioneer a major presence of dedicated solo cabins on-board Norwegian Epic. Today, solo traveler-favourite Norwegian remains at the forefront of the movement with the most solo cruise cabin offerings of any cruise line, spread out across four of its ships. Passengers get design-savvy (if snug) cabins for one -- dubbed "studios" -- as well as the industry-exclusive extra of a shared solo travellers lounge, allowing for easy socialising between solo travellers onboard.
The cabin layout is cleverly designed so that the size does not matter so much. The solo lounge hosts a nightly happy hour, as well as serving coffee and snacks, and you can go there to make show and dining reservations. It's an excellent location for meeting other solo cruisers.
Holland America Line followed suit with a dozen designated solo cruise cabins aboard Koningsdam. In Australia, you have to wait for the summer deployments of Royal Caribbean's Ovation the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Cunard's Queens, which have solo staterooms.
U.K.-based cruise lines have long had a sensibility for solo travellers. Fred. Olsen has featured a generous number of solo cabins across its fleet for nearly three decades, while P&O Cruises also joined the game in 2010, and today offers such units on most of its ships.
River cruise companies present more limited options, including a smattering of solo cruise cabins on APT, Viking River Cruises, Vantage and American Queen Steamboat Company. (Many lines, such as Scenic, Uniworld, Evergreen Tours and Avalon Waterways, occasionally waive single supplements altogether on double-occupancy cabins.)
Overall, booking a solo cabin typically means less room (measuring as little as ten square metres) and smaller beds. You'll find more single-room inventory for interior cabins than balconies or ocean-view units, though amenities are generally the same shipwide. If you're OK with a little less space, and are indeed saving money (see below), booking a solo cruise cabin is generally a solid choice. And, of course, if you're looking to meet other solos, your chances are upped considerably when sailing aboard a cruise ship that offers multiple cabins for one.
The itinerary options are quite limited if you must have a solo cabin, since very few ships have them. If the itineraries are not appealing, then the best option is often to save even more money by having a roommate assigned as part of a group tour.
Are Solo Cruise Cabins a Good Deal?
Rates for solo cabins aren't fixed and can fluctuate widely based on season, destination, customer demand and other variables. As this is the case with any cruise room, comparing single cruise room prices to standard cabin prices can be tricky and is best done on a case-by-case basis.
A good rule of thumb is that you can generally expect solo cruise cabins to start out priced higher than the per-person rate for a double-occupancy stateroom, but lower than the rate for a single person booking a double-occupancy stateroom, when factoring in the single supplement. Cruise lines offering solo cabins quote fares averaging about 125 to 160 percent more, when compared to the per-passenger rates in shared double-occupancy room.
Solo cruise cabins are intended to be a better deal than the single supplement rates for singles booking double-occupancy cabins, which typically average 125 to 200 percent. For example, when we checked, Norwegian listed a sample solo cabin fare in a studio stateroom for a July sailing at $1,099 -- a deal compared to the cost of booking a double-occupancy room with a single supplement at $1,898.
However, as solo cruise cabin inventory is quite limited and coveted solo cabins quickly book up on ships, it's not unheard of that the more widely available standard double-occupancy cabins (especially interiors) offer more affordable fares -- even with the added single supplement. Word to the wise: Book early to get your hands on the best solo cruise cabin rates.
Cruise travel agents with specialties in booking solo cruise cabins will tell you that solo cabins aren't always the best deal for single travelers. Sometimes you are better off paying the single supplement on the double-occupancy cabin. The difference between the studio cabin and a standard cabin, plus single supplement, depends on overall demand, which can change for any given sailing. If double-occupancy cabins are not selling, some cruise lines will drop the double-occupancy price and the single supplement -- making a regular cruise room more affordable for solo travelers.
In short, it's smart to consider both solo cruise cabins and double-occupancy cabins with single supplements before booking, especially when considering that single-occupancy cabins can be much smaller in size. Do your homework -- or find a travel agent to help you -- to compare both options to get the best deal.
And don't overlook the smaller players, like the river cruise lines, which often offer good values on their solo cruise cabin inventory or waived single supplements. Rates for solo cabins sometimes match the per-person rate in certain categories of double-occupancy cabins.
As for special deals, don't bother holding out. There are deals to be found, but it's a segment of the market that is not well catered to in today's marketplace. Deals can be scarce. Booking early is usually best.
Solo Cruise Cabin Breakdown
We've "singled" out the major players in the solo cabin cruise market, outlining which lines and ships offer single-occupancy cabins (sometimes called studios), what you'll get when you book them and what kind of value they really offer. Once you find a fit, the expert advice across the board is the same: Space is limited, and solo cabins sell out quickly, so book early or risk missing the boat.
Norwegian Cruise Line
The Ships: Norwegian leads the pack with its cutting-edge offerings for passengers traveling alone. Five of the line's 15 ships tout high-design, single-occupancy "studio" cabins: Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Pride of America.
The Cabins: Norwegian Epic has a generous 128 solo studio cabins onboard, while Norwegian Escape offers 82 studio units. Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway offer 59 studio staterooms apiece.
Not only does Norwegian boast the most single cabins of any cruise line, but it goes above and beyond in catering to solo passengers with its keycard-access-only Studio Complex (situated on Deck 12 for Breakaway, Getaway and Epic, and Deck 11 for Escape). The area not only clusters the studio staterooms, but also contains a Studio Lounge, an exclusive social hub with a bar and TV area where studio guests can meet up both morning and night to socialise over complimentary coffee and snacks, or via daily hosted happy hour gatherings.
As for the cabins themselves, passengers can expect stylish, contemporary staterooms equipped with ambient mood lighting, flat-screen TVs and full-sized beds. Each inside unit -- with a window that outlooks the corridor -- measures a snug but well-designed 100 square feet. (For comparison, standard double-occupancy rooms on Norwegian start at 135 square feet.)
Additionally, the Hawaii-based Pride of America has been retrofitted with four similarly designed studio cabins (on Deck 13) and a small Studio Lounge (just a living room with TV, no bar)
Royal Caribbean International
The Ships: Nine of Royal Caribbean's nearly two dozen ships -- Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas -- offer solo-traveler staterooms.
The Cabins: Ovation of the Seas (based in Australia every summer), Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas have two cabin categories available to solo travelers, both offering standard amenities and European-size double beds. The studio interior staterooms (measuring 101 square feet) boast an industry-first virtual balcony: an 80-inch-high, floor-to-ceiling LED screen that projects real-time views of the ocean and ports. Meanwhile, the studio balcony staterooms (119 square feet) come with a real-deal, 55-square-foot, open-air veranda. (Standard rooms on the same ships would measure about 160 to 180 square feet, for comparison.) Each of the these ships has 16 studio interior staterooms and 12 balcony staterooms apiece; these cabins -- located midship and spread out over decks 6 through 13 – can sometimes connect to adjoining staterooms for parties traveling together. Also based in Australia for six months per year, Radiance of the Seas has three interior studio cabins. Harmony of the Seas offers a handful of studio interior staterooms with virtual balconies, but unlike Quantum-class vessels, the ship does not have any studio balcony staterooms.
Holland America Line
The Ships: Only two Holland America ships offer single cabins. Koningsdam has 12 dedicated solo cabins with ocean views, and Prinsendam has just three single-occupancy cabins.
The Cabins: The dozen solo cruise cabins on Koningsdam are all ocean view (set on Deck 1) and will range in size from 127 to 172 square feet (as compared to 175 to 282 square feet for standard cabins). They feature all of the same amenities of a double-occupancy cabin, but with a single twin bed. On Prinsendam, the trio of solo cabins (two outsides on Deck 9 and one inside on Deck 5) measure 156 to 205 square feet, touting the same size and features of the standard units, but only offering one twin bed and a shower instead of a bathtub.
The Ships: During a multimillion-dollar refurbishment, Cunard added nine solo staterooms each on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, as well as 15 ocean-view solo cabins on Queen Mary 2.
The Cabins: Australians should book two years ahead to score a single cabin on the local sailings aboard these grand vessels. On Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, solo cruise cabins are located at a prime midship location on Deck 2, close to popular public spaces like the Royal Court Theatre and Queens Room (site of afternoon tea and evening dancing). Choose from eight ocean-view rooms boasting expansive windows, or one inside cabin. On Queen Mary 2, the 15 single staterooms have windows. On all three ships, expect wide single beds (measuring 1.2 metres across), a wardrobe and ample storage space, with room configurations measuring 159 to 183 square feet -- a good size, considering standard staterooms can run even smaller, from 152 to 243 square feet.
Below is a link to the VTG singles page. We have exactly the same prices so once you short list please come back to us and we can advise from there.