By Marc Pulisci
Due to an increased appetite for solo travel, cruise operators are stepping up, from cutting single supplements to offering solo itineraries.
The pandemic has fueled a desire to explore the world, whether alone or with company. Solo travel is now more accessible, leading to significant growth in the cruise industry. As the industry caters to this demographic, solo travel on cruises is becoming increasingly popular.
Apart from the popularity of cruising, solo travel has experienced a significant surge and is expected to endure beyond the pandemic. Skyscanner's latest report indicates that over half of its users (54%) have expressed interest in solo travel this year. Additionally, Kayak, a competing travel search engine, has observed a 36% increase in searches for solo flights in 2023 compared to the previous year. Moreover, independent cruise agency Planet Cruise has recently released data revealing a 36% rise in solo cruises in 2023, with a majority of these individuals seeking adventurous experiences.
According to travel search engine Opodo, men and women have distinct motivations for travel. Men seek connection with new people, while women seek self-discovery along with exploration.
In 2010, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) was one of the first to offer solo ‘Studio’ cabins and accompanying Studio lounges for single travellers. In January this year, NCL published research that showed two-thirds of respondents booked solo trips either to ‘have a break’ or ‘treat themselves’. One in five (17%) had booked a solo cruise to reconnect with themselves after a relationship breakdown and a similar number cited reasons such as not having to deal with annoying habits of companions.
Solo travelers, often frequent adventurers, are sought-after by cruise liners. To cater to this growing audience, these liners are reducing single supplements, building ships with dedicated single cabins, and introducing activities and hosts tailored for independent travelers.
Upon closer examination of the statistics, it is evident that the options for single cabins are quite promising. Norwegian Cruise Lines leads the way, offering 128 Studio cabins on Epic, 82 on Bliss, and 59 on Breakaway. Virgin Voyages, an adult-only cruise line, provides 40 interior cabins for solo travelers on their superyacht-style ships Scarlet Lady, Valiant Lady, and Resilient Lady. Additionally, Fred Olsen now offers 65 single cabins on Balmoral, 49 on Borealis, and 43 on Bolette. It is noteworthy that these solo accommodations are not only increasing in quantity but also in variety, with options available on premium decks and featuring balconies. Nevertheless, the sizes of these cabins still differ; NCL's Studios average around 100 sq ft (many without windows), while Holland America Line's newest ships, the Koningsdam, Rotterdam, and Nieuw Amsterdam, provide staterooms ranging from 127 to 172 sq ft. Furthermore, Royal Caribbean International offers staterooms for solo travelers of up to 199 sq ft, occasionally without single supplement fees as well.
Riviera Travel, the UK's leading river cruise provider, offers free sole-occupancy cabins for single travelers. They also have entire ships dedicated exclusively to solo travel. In 2024, they have eight itineraries designed specifically for solo travelers, with 11 departure dates. Explore captivating voyages along the Rhône, Rhine, Danube, and Seine rivers.
Introducing the Solivagant Society, exclusively for independent travelers, by Explora, the new luxury cruise line. This complimentary group connects solo adventurers for activities, events, and experiences throughout the voyage. While traveling alone can be costly, Explora offers reasonably priced cabins designed for solo travelers. However, it's important to review the details before making a reservation.
Some cruise lines, like Hurtigruten, offer voyages without extra charges for solo travelers. However, other companies advertise single cabins but still charge double the price compared to couples. For example, on the Virgin Voyages French Riviera and Ibiza Nights cruise, a sea view cabin costs £320.29 for one guest, whereas it costs £160.14 for two people sharing. Silversea Cruises and Azamara are among those reducing single supplements on selected sailings, typically charging 25-50% of the double occupancy rate. Also, watch for special promotions between cruise lines and travel agents.
The cruise industry is not just acknowledging but embracing the surge in solo travel. Companies are innovatively adapting their offerings to accommodate solo cruisers, demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity and a keen understanding of evolving travel trends. From waiving single supplements to creating dedicated spaces for solo travelers, cruise lines are reshaping the solo cruising experience, making it more affordable and enjoyable. While there are disparities in pricing structures among different cruise lines, the industry as a whole is making strides towards making solo travel a norm rather than an exception. This steadfast approach is propelling the industry forward, and solo travelers can look forward to even more tailored experiences in their future voyages.