As much as I enjoy traveling with friends or family, sometimes I just need to be on my own. And I’ve found that cruising by yourself is the answer.
The fly in this ointment is that cruising, by design, is priced for two people, and singles often pay a dreaded “single supplement.” But I’ve discovered ways to enjoy the luxury of cruising solo without paying double.
The joy and cost of cruising by yourself
Inevitably, by winter’s end, I ache to travel someplace warm. I love everything about the process of planning and taking a trip. Figuring out the logistics and details associated with a complex itinerary gets my blood rushing and my gray cells working overtime. The more complicated the schedule, the greater the puzzle and the happier I am.
I also crave me-time, when I can do what I want to do, on my schedule, without worrying about pleasing others. I want to run away from home and get a respite from the chores, and I want someone else to take care of the details, so all I have to do is book a flight, pack a bag, and go.
Cruising makes that easy. Once aboard the ship, worries disappear, and everything is taken care of for me.
But, while a hotel room costs the same whether one or two guests sleep in the room, a cruise is usually priced “per person based on double occupancy.” So although a cruise satisfies all my run-away travel needs, the price usually does not. Single supplements vary, but the average single supplement fare is about 75 percent higher than the cost of double occupancy, and it can run as high as 100 percent.
The case for solo cruising and snagging a deal
Cruise lines are slowly waking up to the fact that there is a market for solo cabins, making a slight nod to those of us who prefer cruising by ourselves. But even new ships by Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Royal Caribbean International include a relatively small number of single cabins. For example, a Quantum Class Royal Caribbean ship with more than two thousand staterooms has only 28 dedicated solo cabins, barely 1% of the available cabins.
COVID shut down the cruise lines for more than a year. Despite the lack of cash flow for such a lengthy time, most of the industry survived. Cruise lines have been offering one great deal after another to entice guests back on board their ships,
I like to use the VacationsToGo.com website to easily see a list of cruises and approximate prices. As I clicked on a cruise I was interested in, I noticed a new, highlighted text field: singles. Clicking on that revealed the single supplement percentage for the various cabin categories.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Princess Cruises was practically eliminating the single supplement on last-minute sailings. For many itineraries leaving in the next few weeks, Princess was only charging a 10% single supplement – an extra charge I was willing to pay.
Once I learned that many upcoming Princess cruises would not cost me double, I started looking in earnest at the options. Finally, I found a full transit Panama Canal cruise that checked off everything I was looking for:
- Timing: embarking in the next few weeks
- Location: sailing to a warm and sunny locale
- Destination: a bucket list destination (the Panama Canal)
- Transportation: the flights flew out of less expensive airports (Fort Lauderdale and San Francisco)
- Price: Sold!
Once aboard the ship, worries disappear, and everything is taken care of for me.
Once I made the booking, I was on a plane and onboard Ruby Princess in a little over a week. With about 1500 registered guests, the ship was only half full, and guest services were giving away balcony upgrades for a minimal charge on embarkation day.
For 16 days, I reveled in cruise heaven. Each day after breakfast, I returned to a cleaned room with a freshly made bed with clean towels. Sometimes, I indulged in the ultimate luxury — room-service breakfast on the balcony in my bathrobe; that never happens at home.
My itinerary included the nine days at sea I wanted. This sailing was not about the destinations because this time, being on the ship was my destination. It stopped at a port of call every few days, providing just enough distraction to break the routine.
Passing through the Panama Canal’s new locks marked the high point. Only a few locations in the world are best seen from the deck of a ship, and the Panama Canal is one. So seeing one of these enormous lock gates left me in awe at this engineering marvel.
During my days on the ship, I contentedly watched movies, read, and caught up with my work, doing what I wanted when I wanted. If I did not feel like getting dressed up for the formal night, I went up on deck instead and watched a “Movie Under the Stars” with a burger and fries.
This cruise gave me everything I desired. And best of all, I did not have to pay double.
All photo credits: Rose Palmer (except for Pinterest Photo, credit Princess Cruises)
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Big ship cruising is easy because everything is done for you.
- Right now, Princess Cruises is offering reduced solo supplements for single cruisers on last-minute itineraries.
- Current cruise deals also allow for upgrades to balcony or mini-suite staterooms for less.
- Before you book any cruise, be sure to read the CDC Guidance on Cruise Trip Travel During COVID-19. Doing so will help you know more about cruise ships and their COVID-19 records and protocols, as well as recommendations for protecting yourself and others.
Disclosure: The author was upgraded to a mini-suite but many other passengers received cabin upgrades due to low occupancy.
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