Solo Travel Made Easy: The Ultimate Guide to Solo Ocean Cruises
There’s never been a better time to see the world, without paying the dreaded single supplement…
When it comes to solo travel, times are changing. No longer is it just for gap-year backpackers or those looking to start a new chapter when they find themselves single later in life. These days, solo cruises are tailor-made for anyone of any age who wants to get out and explore the world, without waiting for someone else to tag along.
With more ocean ships than ever offering special single cabins, solos-only sailings and heavily reduced solo supplements, we’ve picked the best ocean cruise lines, cabins and ocean destinations for single travellers. After all, the world doesn’t wait for you, so why should you wait for your perfect travel partner?
Best ocean lines for solo cruises
Go solo with Saga
Single travel is booming, especially among older holidaymakers – a fact that has not been lost on over-50s specialist Saga. According to the ever-popular British-based line, no less than one-fifth of its customers are now travelling alone – and to keep up with rising demand, Saga has ensured that its two newest ships, Spirit of Discovery and the upcoming Spirit of Adventure, are a solo cruiser’s dream.
These stunning boutique vessels have four grades of dedicated single cabin, all as bright, elegant and airy as their double equivalents. From a standard stateroom all the way up to a single suite, these cabins are 85 per cent the size of regular cabins on board, and solo travellers can enjoy a double bed and a spacious balcony.
Every bit as opulent as their double counterparts, the solo suites even come with a king-sized bed and a walk-in wardrobe, as well as a generous seating area and balcony.
On top of its impressive single cabins, Saga goes above and beyond when it comes to making solo travellers as comfortable at possible. On all its ocean cruises, the holiday starts with an exclusive singles cocktail party, giving you the perfect opportunity to meet other passengers travelling alone.
Throughout the cruise there are informal gatherings before each port call – allowing singles to go on shore together – and Saga will make sure that new friends are put in the same excursion groups. What’s more, to save you the hassle of lugging your suitcases to the airport alone, all Saga cruises come with a free airport chauffeur service too.
Get on Board
14-night ‘Stars of the Canaries’ cruise aboard Spirit of Adventure, round trip from Southampton via Madeira, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, departing 1 November 2020, from £4,449 for a single cabin. travel.saga.co.uk
Make friends with Fred
Much like Saga, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines offers a winning set-up for singletons, specialising in small-ship voyages for a customer base of like-minded British travellers.
Offering a safe, welcoming and accessible environment for single cruisers, three of the line’s ocean ships – Black Watch, Boudicca and Braemar – offer solo-friendly sailings around the world, taking adventurous Brits to the Caribbean, the Middle East, India and the Mediterranean, with solo fare supplements either heavily reduced or removed altogether.
On rival lines’ big ships, it’s easy for the single traveller to feel swamped – and when you do connect with someone, you can lose them again in the crowd. But there’s no danger of that on Fred’s boutique vessels, none of which carries more than 1,400 guests. In fact, Fred has a well-deserved reputation as one of the friendliest lines at sea, and it couldn’t be easier to meet and mingle in the ships’ public areas and dining rooms. There are also special solo travellers’ get-togethers, so those embarking alone will certainly not stay that way for long – unless they want to.
If you’re looking for a more active holiday experience, Fred Olsen also works with Ramblers (ramblersholidays.co.uk) to provide Cruise & Walk experiences, taking in the terrain of the Caribbean, the Baltics and even the Arctic. Choose one of these and you’ll immediately feel part of a team, dining and exploring ashore with the small Ramblers group, and no doubt making friends for life.
Get on Board
28-night ‘Island Discovery with South Africa & the Namib’ cruise aboard Boudicca, from Southampton to Cape Town via Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, St Helena, Walvis Bay and Luderitz, departing 5 November 2020, from £5,199 including return flight, with no single supplement deal. fredolsencruises.com
Culture with Cunard
With a fleet of legendary liners and a history that stretches back to 1840, Cunard has a reputation as the most proudly traditional of cruise companies. But this grand old line can move with the times, too, and all three of its iconic vessels now offer stylish solo cabins.
As part of her most recent refit, in 2016, flagship Queen Mary 2 acquired 15 single-occupancy cabins, each emulating the feel of a classic Cunard stateroom. Built in an area formerly occupied by the ship’s casino and art gallery, the new Britannia Single Staterooms feature oversized picture windows, letting in magnificent views, and come with a plump single bed – allowing for more space in the cabin.
As a result, adventurous singles now have the opportunity to make that iconic transatlantic crossing without paying a solo supplement. From the moment of embarkation, Cunard makes solo passengers feel as comfortable as possible by hosting special coffee gatherings and seated dinners, allowing you to mix with friendly fellow singletons. And to ensure there’s always plenty to talk about, why not try one of Cunard’s exciting themed cruises, such as Transatlantic Fashion Week or the annual Literature Festival at Sea?
Other ways to break the ice include traditional deck games, art classes and dance lessons (and who could resist having a laugh with your fellow guests over your atrocious samba skills?).
Get on Board
7-night ‘Literature Festival at Sea’ aboard Queen Mary 2, from Southampton to New York, departing 1 December 2020, from £1,952 for a single traveller, including return flight. cunard.com
Norwegian leads the way
Since 2010, Norwegian Cruise Line has pioneered the idea of solo travel, and to this day its offering remains a cut above the rest. Norwegian Epic was the first of NCL’s ships to feature single ‘studio cabins’, and the scheme has since been rolled out to a further six ships – Escape, Breakaway, Getaway, Bliss, Pride of America and Encore.
Solo travellers looking for a fun-filled, laid-back time will just love cruising on NCL, as it’s impossible to feel bored or lonely on vessels packed with high-octane entertainment options like go-kart tracks, waterparks and laser-tag arenas, not to mention gentler distractions such as onboard shopping malls and impressive spas.
When it comes to accommodation, Norwegian Epic offers a whopping 128 stylish single studios, with no solo supplement to pay, and Norwegian Encore has 82. In other words, you could end up sailing with a small army of fellow singletons, most of whom will be only too happy to make friends.
To help the process along, each solo-friendly ship has a Studio Complex – a lounge and social hub with bar and TV area where guests can meet over complimentary coffee and snacks. And to oil the wheels even more, there’s a happy hour gathering each evening. Can’t find a studio cabin? Don’t worry – there are also reduced single supplements for regular staterooms on selected NCL sailings.
Get on Board
5-day ‘Western Caribbean’ cruise aboard Norwegian Encore, round trip from Miami via Harvest Caye and Costa Maya, departing 19 February 2021, from £894 for a single studio. ncl.com
The best of the rest…
With solo travel now making up 18 per cent of global bookings, it’s no wonder cruise lines are clamouring to accommodate single passengers. Catering for British guests, Marella offers single cabins on Marella Dream, Celebration, Spirit and Majesty, while Discovery and Discovery 2 each have 30 singles that are actually double cabins but without the single supplement. Newest ship Marella Explorer also offers 15 cabins just for solos, but with a small supplement to pay.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages, another quintessentially British line, reserves a certain number of cabins per sailing exclusively for solos, at a reduced rate of half the full cabin fare. CMV also hosts a special programme of onboard events for single travellers, including a welcome cocktail party and other get-togethers, so it should be easy to strike up new friendships.
Royal Caribbean is also not far behind in the solo race, adding single cabins to both its new and older ships. The giant Quantum-class vessels have 28 studio cabins perfect for singles, ranging in size from 101 to a generous 119sq ft. So whichever style you prefer – from boutique cruisers to glitzy megaships – a solo sailing could be one of the best holiday decisions you ever make.
Best ocean cruising destinations
You’ve picked your ship, now it’s time for the itinerary. Travelling solo can sometimes be daunting, but the perfect port calls will put your mind at ease…
Everyone loves the Med, with its countless perfect little ports and great cities like Barcelona and Rome. Friendly, familiar and safe (as long as you’re sensible), it’s the perfect choice for sun-seeking singletons.
Get on Board
Marella 7-night ‘Mediterranean Medley’ cruise, round trip from Palma de Mallorca, departing 1 September 2020, from £1,491 for a single cabin, including flights. tui.co.uk
No matter which island you visit, there’s something about the laid-back local vibe that puts everyone in a sociable mood – so book yourself a little slice of paradise and get ready to make friends.
Get on Board
Royal Caribbean 8-night ‘Eastern Caribbean’ cruise, round trip from Miami, departing 14 November 2020, from £889 for a single traveller. royalcaribbean.com
The Baltic states and Russia offer some of the most fascinating historic cities in the world, so there’s much to be said for exploring them at your own pace, with no one else in tow. And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting the fjords as well, you’ll find their beauty leaves you speechless – so who needs a travel companion anyway?
Get on Board
CMV 14-night ‘Baltic Cities & St Petersburg’ cruise, round trip from Tilbury, departing 12 September 2020, from £1,979 for a single cabin. cruiseandmaritime.com
Five tops for solo travel success
- Don’t feel obliged to join all the solo travel groups on the ship. It’s your trip – go at your own pace.
- Be friendly, say hello to everyone on board and you’ll soon find that people want to talk to you.
- Don’t get stuck with the first other solo you meet – think of your cruise as a party, and mingle!
- The crew are your allies. Lonely? Grab a seat at the bar and have a good gossip with the barman.
- Carry a book, then others can break the ice by asking what you’re reading.
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- 12 nights, departs on the 09 Oct 2021
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British Isles Explorer
- 14 nights, departs on the 29 Jul 2022
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