The dreaded “solo supplement”: myths and truths (Part 2)

Let’s face facts: It’s (usually) more expensive to cruise by yourself than it is to cruise with someone else (or multiple someone elses). And while I understand the reason for that, it doesn’t really seem fair at all, especially when you’re not particularly traveling solo by choice. Believe me, as someone who was single until I was almost 35 years old, I get it!

If you’re traveling by yourself, here are a few things you can do to travel solo and still keep your costs reasonable:

  1. If you can, be flexible in your travel dates. I’ve written before about how flexibility and the ability to travel last-minute are your best weapons in the fight to find lower cruise fares. Some cruise lines will reduce or even remove the cost of the second passenger on close-in cruises. Usually this is only for cruises only about one or two weeks out though, so it also helps to live close to a cruise port, so you don’t blow your last-minute savings on expensive airfare.
  2. Be vigilant on checking fares, and/or engage a travel agent to help you with this. I booked my first solo cruise, a 4-day Bahamas cruise on Majesty of the Seas, when I noticed that the price had dropped to a very reasonable $184.00 per person, which made my total cost as a solo cruiser around $400. This price is definitely an outlier: The cruise was on December 4th, which is a traditionally slow time for cruising; the price I saw when I booked didn’t last very long, likely because a number of people had the same idea that I did! But that leads me to my next suggestion…
  3. If you want to cruise solo, target times of the year that are traditionally slow so that you can find the lowest prices for your cruise fare. In the US, this tends to be the times between New Year’s and Spring Break (mid-January to early March), the dreaded second half of the hurricane season (mid-September to late October), and post-Thanksgiving through the holiday season (late November to mid-December).If cruise prices are low to start, you’ll find that paying a double fare isn’t quite so painful. For instance, the hubby and I took advantage of a sale and booked a 7-night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas that came to a ridiculously low total price of $898. Even for one person, that would have been a deal – plus that one person would have gotten double Crown and Anchor loyalty points! Which leads to another point:
  4. Consider a studio cabin – these are cabins that are designed (and priced) specifically for single occupancy – but consider carefully. Norwegian Cruise Lines has made a point of including studio cabins on its new build ships, and these are good options for solo travelers. (I was in one for 12 nights myself and found it to be perfectly pleasant.)However, the number of solo cabins is limited, so the dynamics of supply and demand aren’t always in the solo traveler’s favor, especially on popular sailings. You might actually find it cheaper to pay the extra fare in a (double occupancy) inside cabin than to pay the studio rate. (This was the case on my Bliss sailing, but I stuck with the studio because I wanted to check out that kind of cabin.)

    Studio cabins can save you some money over paying the extra fare in a double-occupancy room, but if you’re loyal to a particular cruise line, they may not be the best bang for your buck. On my Majesty cruise, I received double Crown and Anchor points for traveling solo in a traditional double room, which allowed me to reach the Diamond level in Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program. If you calculate the number of points earned per dollar spent, you’ll find it’s much more efficient to pay double in a traditional room; however, on a longer or more expensive cruise, this might simply put the trip out of your price range. And we wouldn’t want to do that!

Just as a reminder, I’m not only a travel blogger, I’m also a travel agent! So if you’re interested in learning more about opportunities for solo travel, you can fill out this form and I’ll be happy to help you find your best options for a solo cruise. You can also follow me on Facebook, where I’ll be posting last-minute and solo travel deals.

The dreaded “solo supplement”: myths and truths

I’ve been extremely lucky to put my career as a college professor on hold for a year while I get started as a travel agent and do some (pretty fun) research about all sorts of cruise experiences. One thing I’ve learned is that I’m a pretty big fan of cruising solo.

I’m certainly not the only one who likes cruising alone – you can read plenty of blog posts about how to make the most of your solo cruise, including specific tips for solo cruisers on Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. (Both of these lines offer solo cabins for cruisers, such as the studio cabin I had on my Norwegian Bliss transatlantic cruise, which you can see in the picture at the top of this post.)

What I wanted to talk about today is the thing we don’t like to talk about, especially if we like to travel a lot: Money.

I think it helps a lot to think about the business of cruising, something I allude to in my post about finding deals on last-minute cruises. The cruise industry has built itself around the premise of double occupancy – that is, that each 2-person cabin will be occupied by two people.

Sometimes, of course, a cabin will be occupied by more than two people: When a family brings kids, for instance, or when more budget-conscious cruisers decide to put three or four people in a room to cut down on costs. Often, though, you’ll find that third and fourth passengers are heavily discounted or even free – this becomes cost-effective for the cruisers, but not really too great for the cruise company’s bottom line.

It’s easy to compare a cruise ship cabin to a hotel room: We don’t pay any differently to have one or two people stay in a hotel. But of course, the costs to the company of a cruise ship passenger extend much farther than the costs of a hotel room occupant (food, staff in the kids clubs, extra use of resources like toilet paper, etc). The cruise line is willing to discount third and fourth passengers because often they’re kids, and frankly, no one is probably going to pay full price to jam four people into a 180-sq-ft cabin no matter how great the cruise is.

But here’s where things get tricky: When a cruise ship cabin is occupied by only one person, instead of two, the problem isn’t that the cruise company uses additional resources. It’s that the company doesn’t recoup its expected costs, which it plans to use to pay staff like waiters and stewards and do all of the other things it needs to do to run the cruise, because it only has one paying customer in the cabin, not two.

Because of this, many cruise lines will charge what’s often known as a “single supplement” or “solo supplement” to account for the expected fare that’s not being paid by a second passenger. In truth, I think this is a bad way to look at it: Really, you’re just paying for a second person, even though that person isn’t actually there. (You do pay the fare, but not the taxes and port fees, which is why cruising single is often roughly double the cost of cruising with someone else.)

As a solo cruiser myself, I’d love it if the cruise lines would change their policies to be more in line with the hotel industry, but I understand why it’s not possible. So in the next post, I’ll look at what you can do to book a solo cruise that’s affordable and realistic.

Interested in booking a solo cruise? See more on my website or click here to contact me for more information.

12 days on a cruise ship…alone??

As you know from this blog, I plan most of my cruises at pretty short notice. We booked our cruise to Cuba just one week before departure, and most of our recent cruises have been booked around 2-3 months ahead of time. (I find that this is a great way to find deals on cruises with a lot of rooms left to fill!)

But in February 2017, I did something unusual: I booked a cruise for a whole 12+ months ahead of time. The sailing was the inaugural transatlantic of the newly built Norwegian Bliss. I picked this ship and this trip for a few reasons, but one of the main ones was that I wanted to check out Norwegian’s solo cabins, which can be found (in abundance!) on the Bliss and other new-build Norwegian ships including Escape, Breakaway, and Getaway.

At the point where I decided to take the cruise on the Bliss, I’d never cruised solo before. So as a sort of test cruise, I took a short 4-night cruise by myself on the Majesty of the Seas – and I loved it! Now, it’s important to say that I do love traveling with other people – cruising is a great way to spend time with friends, and I love cruising with my husband, who had never cruised before we met a few years ago. But any kind of traveling with another person requires some planning, and some compromising – and sometimes, to be honest, I just don’t want to do that!

As I’m writing this blog post, I’m on day 3 of my 12-day transatlantic on the Bliss. So far, it’s been a lovely, relaxing time – and this has been a great ship for exploring. I’m planning to use the time on our nine (!) sea days to write up plenty of blog posts and share lots of pictures with you!