Mix and match

The best cruise lines for solo sailors

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - TIANA TEM­PLE­MAN

In many ways, cruis­ing is the ideal hol­i­day for solo trav­ellers. There is plenty to do both on and off the ship, it is easy to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with fel­low trav­ellers and there is no need to worry about the lo­gis­tics of get­ting from one des­ti­na­tion to an­other. But one is­sue that is any­thing but smooth sail­ing is the dreaded sin­gle sup­ple­ment. Solo cruis­ers are of­ten shocked to dis­cover some lines charge up to dou­ble the per per­son fare for the priv­i­lege of a sin­gle cabin. While many of us had imag­i­nary friends as chil­dren, pay­ing to bring them on hol­i­day with us as adults was never part of the plan.

For­tu­nately, the cruise in­dus­try is adapt­ing to bet­ter meet the needs of solo trav­ellers, with some lines now waiv­ing this ad­di­tional fee. “We pre­fer to look af­ter our guests trav­el­ling alone by of­fer­ing a cabin for sin­gle use at no ad­di­tional cost on many of our river routes,” says Paul Stra­chan, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of river cruise line Pan­daw, which has a loyal fol­low­ing of ad­ven­tur­ous solo trav­ellers.

The sin­gle-state­room con­cept is an­other trend rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the cruise in­dus­try. Newer ships such as Hol­land Amer­ica’s Kon­ings­dam, Celebrity Cruises’ soon-tobe-un­veiled Celebrity Edge and Royal Caribbean’s Ova­tion of the Seas, which re­turns for its sec­ond Aus­tralian sea­son this year, have cab­ins es­pe­cially de­signed for solo trav­ellers. “Most sin­gle ac­com­mo­da­tion on cruise ships is in in­te­rior rooms [with no win­dows] but Ova­tion of the Seas of­fers solo cruis­ers state­rooms with bal­conies, as well as cheaper ‘vir­tual bal­cony’ state­rooms that show real-time views on large screens in the in­te­rior cat­e­gory,” says Adam Arm­strong, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Royal Caribbean Cruises Aus­tralia and NZ.

Even with more lines of­fer­ing sin­gle cab­ins and re­duced or no sin­gle sup­ple­ments, solo cruis­ers should book early to se­cure the best deals. Sin­gle state­rooms usu­ally dis­ap­pear faster than cake at a cruise ship buf­fet. It is of­ten first-in, best-dressed when it comes to no sin­gle sup­ple­ment deals too. For ex­am­ple, Po­nant reg­u­larly waives the sin­gle sup­ple­ment on se­lect itin­er­ar­ies but as the ship fills, the ad­di­tional charge for solo trav­ellers starts go­ing up in in­cre­ments of 5 per cent. Hav­ing to book so early must surely leave some trav­ellers won­der­ing whether they will still be sin­gle by the time their cruise fi­nally departs.

Other solo sav­ing strate­gies in­clude join­ing cruise line mail­ing lists to find out about no-sin­gle-sup­ple­ment spe­cials in ad­vance or us­ing a cabin-mate match­ing ser­vice. While most pas­sen­gers are of­ten forced to com­pro­mise based on the wishes of their travel part­ner, solo cruis­ers have the free­dom to please them­selves. Don’t feel like go­ing to din­ner one night? Or­der cabin ser­vice and put up your feet. Danc­ing? Sin­gle fe­male pas­sen­gers can dance the night away aboard Crys­tal Sym­phony and Crys­tal Seren­ity with Crys­tal Cruises’ Am­bas­sador Hosts. These distin­guished gents are avail­able to dine with solo trav­ellers, join shore ex­cur­sions and serve as con­ge­nial li­aisons be­tween sin­gles and the on-board so­cial com­mu­nity. Cu­nard and Sil­versea also in­clude dance host pro­grams.


This bou­tique Aus­tralian eco-tourism ex­pe­di­tion line ex­plores the waters of the South Pa­cific, Cape York, the Kim­ber­ley, Arn­hem Land, Tas­ma­nia and the Great Bar­rier Reef. A standby sin­gles pro­gram and cabin-mate match­ing ser­vice is avail­able on all Coral Ex­pe­di­tions cruises. How­ever, it is hard to go past the year­round three, four and seven-night Great Bar­rier Reef itin­er­ar­ies, which are free of sin­gle sup­ple­ments. With set din­ing times, a con­vivial daily cock­tail hour, and no more than 72 pas­sen­gers on any of its ships, this is an ideal line for ac­tive sin­gles. More: coral­ex­pe­di­tions.com.


Aus­tralian fam­ily-owned APT (and sis­ter com­pa­nies Trav­el­mar­vel and Botan­ica World Dis­cov­er­ies) each have a pop­u­lar Solo Trav­eller Club, with monthly news­let­ters of­fer­ing a plethora of deals. Sail­ing with oth­ers who share a com­mon in­ter­est makes it even eas­ier to make friends. The num­ber of solo sailors on Botan­ica’s botan­i­cal and cul­tural cruises con­tin­ues to grow, ac­cord­ing to founder and co-owner Judy Van­re­nen. Sav­ings on Euro­pean river cruises can amount to more than $10,000 for sin­gle trav­ellers who book early enough. More: ap­tour­ing.com.au; botan­ica.travel.


With two bou­tique-sized ships, Azamara Jour­ney and Azamara Quest, this up­mar­ket line is renowned for its im­mer­sive itin­er­ar­ies and friendly on-board vibe. Longer stays in port, more overnights, and in­ti­mate shore ex­cur­sions with no more than 25 fel­low pas­sen­gers help sin­gles make new friends. Azamara of­fers a re­duced sin­gle sup­ple­ment on some voy­ages and oc­ca­sional no-sin­gle-sup­ple­ment spe­cials. More: aza­ma­r­a­clubcruises.com.


This lux­ury French line waives the sin­gle sup­ple­ment on a se­lec­tion of el­e­gant yet ca­sual voy­ages, where early book­ing bonuses can be com­bined with solo trav­eller deals. Itin­er­ar­ies range from the Arc­tic to Cen­tral and South Amer­ica, Ocea­nia to At­lantic and North­ern Europe, al­though you will rarely (if ever) see solo fares for the Antarc­tic. Po­nant cruis­ers tend to be well-trav­elled and aged over 50. Sail­ing afi­ciona­dos and those who ap­pre­ci­ate a more in­ti­mate cruis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence will en­joy the line’s three-masted sail­ing ship, Le Po­nant, which car­ries a max­i­mum of 64 pas­sen­gers. The buzz is build­ing about Po­nant’s new ex­pe­di­tion fleet, launch­ing with Le Lap­er­ouse in mid-2018, and three sis­ter ships to fol­low. For pas­sen­gers with mo­bil­ity or bal­ance is­sues, Po­nant is in­tro­duc­ing a hy­draulic plat­form that en­ables eas­ier board­ing and Zo­diac em­barka­tion and dis­em­barka­tion plus en­try to the sea for swim­ming and water sports such as kayak­ing or pad­dle-board­ing. More: au.po­nant.com.


This op­er­a­tor spe­cialises in Asian voy­ages aboard bou­tique, colo­nial-style lux­ury river steam­ers, which each ac­com­mo­date no more than 60 pas­sen­gers. Pan­daw has tai­lored sev­eral of its ex­pe­di­tions in re­sponse to the grow­ing de­mand from in­de­pen­dent ex­plor­ers, of­fer­ing ad­ven­tures along Myan­mar’s Ir­rawaddy and Chind­win and the Mekong, within the se­cure en­vi­ron­ment of a small group of like-minded peo­ple. Fares in­clude all meals on­board, bot­tled water, lo­cal soft drinks, beer and spir­its, crew gra­tu­ities and shore ex­cur­sions. Of­fers for sin­gles are avail­able on a reg­u­lar ba­sis through­out the year. More: pan­daw.com.


Cu­nard of­fers a tra­di­tional ex­pe­ri­ence with el­e­gant for­mal nights, as­signed din­ing rooms and af­ter­noon tea served by white-gloved wait­ers. Sin­gle-oc­cu­pancy cab­ins are avail­able across the fleet, with nine state­rooms fea­tur­ing over­sized sin­gle beds avail­able on Queen El­iz­a­beth and nine state­rooms, con­sist­ing of eight with ocean views and one in­te­rior, avail­able on Queen Vic­to­ria. Dur­ing last year’s ex­ten­sive re­fur­bish­ment of Queen Mary 2, 15 sin­gle ocean­view state­rooms were added, re­flect­ing the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of solo cruis­ing. Book early for these op­tions as Cu­nard’s sin­gle sup­ple­ment tends to be up­wards of 175 per cent for those who miss out. More: cu­nard­line.com.au.


If you don’t mind shar­ing a cabin, this line’s Sin­gle Part­ners Pro­gram, which matches solo trav­ellers with an­other same-sex sin­gle, is avail­able on all its ships. Hol­land Amer­ica’s flag­ship Kon­ings­dam has 12 solo cab­ins priced for sin­gle oc­cu­pancy. Pas­sen­gers trav­el­ling alone are hosted at a ded­i­cated sin­gles’ get-to­gether at the start of each cruise, which cre­ates in­stant ca­ma­raderie. With more than 40 daily ac­tiv­i­ties, such as line danc­ing classes, wine tasting and cook­ing demon­stra­tions on of­fer, there is lit­tle dan­ger of get­ting bored. Din­ner seat­ing with other sin­gles is avail­able by ad­vance re­quest. More: hol­lan­damer­ica.com.

Pan­daw reg­u­larly of­fers spe­cial deals for sin­gles, top; Hol­land Amer­ica’s Kon­ings­dam, top right, and the new Celebrity Edge, above right; Crys­tal Cruises of­fers Am­bas­sador Hosts, above

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