Cruising for solo travellers

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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.

Q. Tina

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.

Size matters

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.

Stately affairs

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.

Sign up

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.

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Written by kayo


Total Comments: 4
  1. 0

    Having done quite a few cruises (my favourite holidays of all!) I shared a cabin years ago, it was a complete disaster for me.
    Have no problem on my own, my favourite ships being P & O (UK) they have three adult only ships, am cruising from Brisbane to Asia on one next year. They are so friendly. I did try another company last time from Sydney to NZ (just cannot go too many times to NZ) there were over 450 children on board – seriously thought of joining the dolphins!!!!
    So I will stick to my favourites from now on.
    To me just reading or “contemplating” with the waves rolling by, is so special, I never get tired of it.
    Just try one cruise, I am sure you will be hooked!

    • 0

      I’d be inclined to agree. The cabins, unless a suite, are not huge and the idea of sharing with a stranger is not very appealing. I’ve done the sharing bit on a coach tour of Europe and that was fine but you only ever go to your hotel room at night. This is not always the case with a cruise. My cruises have always been booked out of school holiday times!

  2. 0

    I just took a look at Ponant Cruises to Alaska. It is a 7 night/8 days cruise out of Vancouver – expensive air fares from Australia. While it might be no single supplement, at the quoted price for the cheapest cabin of $3370, I’m still paying less for an 11 night/12 days cruise to NZ from Sydney WITH the single supplement! No supplement doesn’t always mean cheaper prices!

  3. 0

    Hi! If we buy on genuine RED HOT SALES = short notice to take and pay for a cruise is worth to pay for the twin price. To share a cabin with someone else , well got to be a very special and dear partner. Sometimes, we have to travel on our own as our spouses are not able to: it happened to me last year: had a wonderful cruise and paid so very little. Met lovely people and had my space. Other ladies who acctually shared the cabin: yes, they paid very very little but, this and that and the other: No thanks. All Travel Offers sold in Australia are extremely expensive: you will get a better price checkong in tour opertors abroad but, beware: when one is emailing from Australia ….well, not always get a good deal. Worth the effort to take time to dream about a trip and to get the best value for money. As for single supplments: some many offers one gets thse days via Groupong, Our Deal, Scoopon, etc. – there is no S/S: single supplement – which means you have to pay the price for the twin = then, it is not such a great offer at all. If one has a dear /genuine friend: then, it is great to share. Otherwise, AVOID AVOID AVOID. Bon voyage!!



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