Tina is not only new to cruising, but she’s also a solo traveller. Kay O’Sullivan has some great tips on how not to feel left out and how to avoid the dreaded single supplement.
I love your cruise coverage. I am a ‘newbie’ to cruising and am keen to book a cruise to New Zealand or around the South Pacific, but as I am a single female, I am concerned about feeling left out with most passengers probably being couples.
So, how do I choose a line that caters for singles? How do you know up front that they will do this well? And is there any way of avoiding the punitive singles supplement?
A. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the thought of travelling on your own is daunting. But the good news is the cruise industry has become keenly aware of solo travellers and has changed its ways, and even the ships, to make us feel right at home.
Also, the destinations you mention, South Pacific and New Zealand, are two of the most popular cruise destinations, which means plenty of choice, on ships with staff that take wonderful care of solo travellers.
I’m a fan of smaller ships when travelling solo, as it’s easier to become friendly with people when you keep on seeing them. While the new breed of superliners – 4000-plus guests – have many fascinating attractions, you could wander around for a week without seeing anyone you’ve met before.
I’ve spoken to a number of travel industry gurus, cruise experts and travel agents and they tend to agree that you are more likely to chum up with other solo travellers on a mid-size or small ship.
For instance, APT’s fleet of three ocean ships, the MS Caledonian Sky, the MS Island Sky and the MS Hebridean Sky, hold a maximum of 114 guests. Perfect. The spokeswoman for APT also suggests that themed cruises, such as those offered by Botanica World Discoveries exploring the world’s great gardens, are another great way to bond, as you are mixing with like-minded people.
Question, question, question
Chance may be a fine thing, but there are some basic facts you need to know before plonking down your deposit. First off, I’d ask whether the cruise line and itinerary you fancy has get-togethers for solo travellers. These really make it easy for you to meet people. On Cunard ships, solo travellers can look forward to special activities organised by the ships’ social hostesses, including a welcome reception, coffee and cookies every sea-day morning, and specially organised meeting points and excursions on port days. P&O Cruises World Cruising ships also feature coffee mornings for passengers travelling by themselves.
Monique Van Gelder, the national marketing manager for cruise specialist Cruiseabout, says to also ask about seating arrangements for dinner.
“We see more older travellers cruising solo, and for this market the traditional cruise ships from Cunard or Holland America Line tend to suit best. On these ships, passengers have the choice between open dining or set seating, so those with a sociable disposition can mingle, while those who want the certainty of an assigned seat can get to know their dining companions.
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Timing is everything
if you can, avoid school holidays when families dominate. And if you are looking to avoid the dreaded single supplement, then plan ahead. “We often see supplement-free offers around the beginning and end of the cruise season before peak season hits, which is a great time for solo passengers to make a saving”, says Cruiseabout’s Monique van Gelder.
Something worth knowing is that Ponant, the upmarket French fleet with four boutique ships, has year-round supplement-free itineraries built into its normal schedule. “Current destinations with No Single Supplement fares during 2015 and 2016 include the Mediterranean, Alaska, South America, Asia, the Russian Far East, Japan and the Pacific”, says Steve McLaughlin, Director of Sales, Ponant Australasia.
Share and share alike
You can totally avoid the single supplement by agreeing to be partnered with another traveller. Place a listing on YourLifeChoices to see if there are any like-minded cruisers keen to visit the same destination as you. A number of other sites offer these services as well. Holland America Line offers a single partners program that matches passengers of the same sex with others who want to share, guaranteeing that you’ll pay just the double occupancy price, even if no partner can be found.
The big news in cruising is the advent of the solo stateroom. The numbers are still small but are sure to grow as solo staterooms have been a huge hit on the Cunard and P&O Cruises World Cruising ships. So much so that they’ve been included in the design of the latest ships, such as Britannia, and have been retrofitted onto existing ships, such as Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth (for Cunard) and Oriana and Arcadia (for P&O Cruises World Cruising). A range of options are usually available, from the lead-in inside single rooms through to outside and balcony singles. Royal Caribbean International’s new Quantum-class ships offer a range of solo staterooms or studios as well.
Get to know your travel agent and sign up for newsletters, such as APT’s Solo Traveller Club, so you get the heads up when the solo cabins or single supplement itineraries are announced.