Affordable Solo Cruising:
Avoiding the Dreaded Supplement
3 Ways To Make Your Dream Cruise A Reality
By Sarah Roberton
Have you ever dreamed of traveling alone? Fully immersing yourself in an experience with no distractions and no one else’s agenda. Alone and engaged in your surroundings, you are forced out of your comfort zone, constantly learning and making new friends along the way. Traveling alone can be one of life’s most enriching experiences and if you are ready to take the next step then solo cruising might be for you.
“The number one benefit of solo traveling is that you put yourself at the top of your to-do list,” says April Merenda of Gutsy Women Travel, “You really need time for yourself to dedicate to you. The trips give you empowerment, inner strength, and they really make you get to know yourself.”
On the surface traveling solo may seem intimidating and expensive, but that is no reason to disregard the opportunity. Travel companies are beginning to recognize the growing popularity of independent travel and taking steps to accommodate these adventurous souls. With more and more opportunities available each day traveling solo is no longer a luxury, it is a reality.
Who is the Solo Cruiser?
First of all, anyone can go on a solo cruise. Anyone can go on any vacation by themselves for that matter. There is no specific type of person that should travel alone; all that matters is what the traveler wants to get from their experience. If you want a relaxing, enlightening, wholesome experience then solo cruising is the option for you.
Now it is important to note the difference between solo cruising and singles’ cruising. A single cruiser books a singles’ cruise with the intention of meeting other single people. Single cruisers are entertained by other passengers and the activities they do together. On a singles’ cruise the entertainment finds you.
A solo cruiser is the type of person who travels for the experience, not so much the artificial entertainment. Solo passengers tend to be of a more mature breed who want to see the world, are less concerned with the people around them, and appreciate time spent by themselves.
“A solo cruiser is the person who is traveling by themselves and is comfortable being alone, says Cynthia Janssens, editor at Allthingscruise.com, “They enjoy meeting people but also enjoy being by themselves.”
Gutsy Women Travel is a big proponent of solo travel as a way to empower women. April finds that many of her clients are newly divorced or widowed women who are starting a new chapter in their lives and have turned to solo travel as a way to start again. Her clients’ ages range from thirty to seventy, living proof that it’s never too late or too soon to start your own adventure.
“Any women who wants to experience the destination and the thrill of traveling in the small group setting should go for it,” says April, “Life is about building memories and you need to do these things and achieve these milestones in your life. And you need to invest in yourself.”
1. Waived Single Supplements
In the past, cruising solo was nearly impossible for a traveler on a budget. Cabins priced for couples or families were unable to lower their prices to accommodate solo travelers without losing revenue. A single traveler would have to pay as much as a couple renting the same cabin, meaning they would pay up to twice as much for the same cruise.
This price disparity is known as the “single supplement”. From the cruise line’s viewpoint it makes sense; they don’t want to lose money renting a full cabin to a solo passenger when they could make twice as much money in the same room. Everything changes, however, when no one buys the room and the cruise line still wants to make some money.
“It used to be standard that a single traveler paid double the rate for a cabin and that discouraged a lot of cruisers, says Cynthia Janssens of allthingscruise.com, “In the last 10 years, however, the rates have dropped between 50-100% when cruise lines drop the single supplement.”
When cabins are left empty some cruise lines drop the single supplement, meaning they allow people to pay the same price as if they were in a shared cabin. When cruise lines drop the single supplement it creates the perfect opportunity for the solo traveler to cash in on the great deal.
Cruises drop the single supplement when they have empty cabins they want filled after most full cabins are booked. Cruises will wait until the last minute, typically about 90 days out, to drop the supplement which means single travelers must be vigilant and flexible when looking for a cruise.
2. Roommate-Matching Services
“Quite a few of the lines, if not all, offer some sort of roommate matching service,” says Cynthia, “So if you want to go on a cruise and you are willing to share a cabin with another person that could be an option for someone who wants to save money.”
A roommate matching service is another way that solo cruisers save money. Finding a roommate is usually the best option for adventure cruises where travelers will be away from their bunks most of the time. Using a roommate matching service is also a way to meet new people with similar interests.
The benefits of using a roommate matching service as opposed to a cabin to yourself are price and availability. Popular cruises during peak cruising season are less likely to waive single supplements, while using a roommate matching service is a guaranteed way to get a bed to sleep in for the lowest possible price any time of the year.
3. Single-Occupant Cabins
European cruise lines have been ahead of the game in regards to offering single-occupant cabins to their cruise ships. As the demand for single accommodations grows, luxury lines such as P&O and Fred Olsen Cruises have become well known for their excellent single-occupant offerings.
While more expensive than finding a waived single supplement or roommate matching service, single-occupant cabins provide cruisers with the most comfort and privacy. In the past only small, luxury cruise lines have offered single-occupant cabins, but the trend is growing.
Now even major cruise lines have been adding these smaller cabins to new and old ships. The Norwegian Epic has 128 single cabins available, and the Royal Caribbean will be offering 28 single cabins in their new Quantum of the Seas and Anthem boats.
Finding a Discounted Solo Cruise
To find a cruise that has waived the single supplement requires patience, good timing, and a great travel agent.
“A lot of people don’t seem to use travel agents anymore but they are invaluable especially when you are looking for something special,” says Cynthia.
Travel agents know the industry and are up to date on all the latest offers. They are the first ones notified when a cruise drops the single supplement and are a reliable way to ensure that you choose the right cruise for you.
A travel agent is vital to having a great quality cruise, but it also helps to do a bit of studying yourself. Cynthia Janssens’s website, Allthingscruise.com, is a great catalog of cruise line reviews and vacation recaps that give an inside look to what each individual trip is like. The site is a great way to familiarize yourself with individual cruise lines and get started planning your own trip.
When booking a solo cruise timing is everything. The best chance of finding great deals are during the “soft seasons” which vary by region but offer considerably lower prices and more empty cabins. Soft cruises are more likely to waive the single supplement to fill all the empty cabins, creating a perfect opportunity for the last-minute solo traveler.
The “shoulder seasons”, spring and fall, also tend to be less busy with better prices. Ask your travel agent about soft season and shoulder season pricing so you can stay on the lookout for the best deals.
Another way to save money on a solo cruise is to wait until the last minute. Some of the best deals for cruises are offered right before the first payment deadline 90 days out. This strategy requires patience and a very flexible schedule but it is a time-tested way to get great discounted cruise tickets
Take the Plunge
With so many affordable options for solo cruisers there are no longer any excuses to put off your dream adventure. Cruise lines have been taking big steps to accommodate the single traveler, but that only matters if you finally take advantage of the opportunities.
“Life should be reaching out to strangers and how to react to them,” says April, “Meeting people from different cultures with different languages in a different social environment that’s really the challenge of living and having a full life.”
Learn more about solo travel for women on Gutsy Women Travel
Learn more about cruising opportunities on Allthingscruise.com
Sarah Robertson is a student at UMass Amherst studying Journalism and Social Thought in Political Economy. She is Lifestyle editor for The Daily Collegian and AmherstWire. Follow Sarah on twitter at @srobertson_ _ and read her blog at http://robertsonsarah.wordpress.com/.
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