Which Cruise Lines are Solo Friendly?
The major cruise lines vary from line to line in how friendly they are to solo cruisers. Some are more friendly in their pricing policies, some are very accommodating to solos onboard... and some seem to not be interested in solo cruisers at all. The list changes frequently with market factors, and one of my objectives is to work with cruise lines to educate them about the solo market and advocate on behalf of solo cruisers. Because of my unique position in the industry, I do have the correct contacts to be your advocate!
So, how do the major lines stack up?
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara Club Cruises: These sister brands have very similar policies. All three are standard at full 100% supplement, though as sailings get closer, they frequently offer reduced supplements, either across the board, or to specified groups such as Seniors, Military, and residents of certain states. In addition, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity offer weekly "Happy Hour" specials (also known as Sales Events and Xciting Deals, respectively) which offer not only dramatically reduced fares, but also frequently a reduced supplement as well. These specials occur most weeks, usually on Tuesdays, and I post them on my blog at CruiseResource News Blog over the weekend prior to the sale. Azamara Club Cruises also is becoming more solo friendly with supplements as low as 25% on selected sailings! These lines also do not charge a supplement in their port charges/Non-Commissionable Fares. Because of all this, these brands are some of the most solo-friendly, especially for booking within 2 months of sailing date.
Carnival: Formerly a somewhat solo-friendly line, offering reduced supplements across the board for their Category 1A cabins, Carnival has recently removed the reduced supplements, and now has 100% supplements in all categories for all sailings. While they might occasionally reduce supplements, these are not advertised and are found only by accident. Carnival also charges a supplement in their port charges/Non-Commissionable Fares. While their onboard atmosphere is very solo-friendly, these pricing policies have changed Carnival to a line difficult to find values for solo cruisers.
Princess and Holland America: In general, these lines can be good for those booking early, as they often offer reduced supplements of 50% in their insides and oceanview cabins for those booking far in advance. However, as the sailings approach, those supplements frequently move to a full 100%. In fact, Holland America now limits the number of solo occupancy cabins per sailing, so even if you're willing to pay a full 100% supplement, if they have reached their limit for that sailing, they will not allow a solo to book. However, Holland America does still offer the only cabin share option in the major cruise lines. With their cabin share program, certain categories are offered to solos to book at the full per person double occupancy fare for that category. If no roommate is found, the solo traveler receives the room for that fare with no supplement. Both Princess and Holland America charge a supplement in their port charges/Non-Commissionable fares equal to the fare supplement (i.e., 50% fare supplement, 50% NCF supplement). These two lines can be very solo-friendly, but they can also be restrictive. I recommend booking these two lines early.
Norwegian Cruise Lines: Formerly one of the least solo-friendly, both in fares and onboard, NCL has stepped out as a leader in solo occupancy cruising with their new ship, the Norwegian Epic. This ship offers inside Studio cabins with no single supplement! In addition, the Studio cabins have exclusive access to the Living Room, and area with bar, video and lounge where solos can meet up, socialize, and most importantly for Norwegian, make plans for meals and entertainment. I highly recommend these cabins to solos looking for a value, socializing and excellent entertainment.
Cunard: This line typically charges a full 100% supplement, though occasional specials do occur. Typical of luxury lines, their onboard offerings are very solo-friendly and they have a long history of accommodating solo travelers. Since they provide gentleman hosts for dancing on all cruises, this line is excellent for solo cruisers.
Crystal: Perhaps the most solo-friendly of all lines, Crystal offers supplements as low as 25%, reduced supplements in all categories, and solo-friendly atmosphere onboard, including gentleman hosts on all cruises. This is a true luxury line, with associated fares, but since they are generous with "As You Wish" onboard credits, their fares cover most any charges for most cruisers.
Silversea, Regent, Seabourn, Sea Dream: These luxury lines are also quite solo friendly in pricing and onboard accommodation. Each line varies a bit in their pricing policies, but solos are well treated overall.
River Cruises: Uniworld and Viking River Cruises are both very solo-friendly, offering reduced-supplement cabins on all sailings (limited availability) and also frequent reduced supplement offers. AMA Waterways and Avalon are both excellent lines, though not quite as solo-friendly in their pricing. River cruising by its nature is a very solo-friendly way to cruise, with an all-inclusive pricing, including tours, and easy socialization onboard for solos. I highly recommend all these lines for solo cruisers.
Other Lines: There are many other lines out there, including MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, Louis Lines, P&O, etc. These lines frequently have very solo-friendly fare specials, but because they are more specialty lines targeted to a more international clientele, I don't recommend them across the board. They can be wonderful for some people, uncomfortable for others. If you're interested in any of these lines, please contact me so we can discuss your personal style.
Expeditionary Cruises: Frequently, expedition lines such as Lindblad will offer a single share roommate matching program. These can be an excellent way to avoid the single supplement. Because you spend so little time in your cabin on expeditionary lines (truly, these are ships where you really do just shower, change and SLEEP in your cabin), I don't have any trouble recommending Expeditionary cabin share programs for usually solo-preferring clients. It's worth it for the experience!
Of course, if you have any questions about any cruise line, about their pricing or onboard experience, please email or call me! I've sailed all these lines, and am happy to share my experience. Together, we can find the right fit for you!