Per-person, double occupancy and single supplement: two phrases that elicit a collective shudder among solo cruisers everywhere because cruise-cabin pricing is based on two people sharing a room.  If a cruise line wants to get $1198 for a particular cabin, they’ll advertise a rate of $599 per-person, double occupancy and the two guests who book that cabin will each be charged $599 for a total of $1198.  When the same cabin is booked by a lone guest, the cruise line still wants $1198 for it and will charge the guest the $599 cabin rate plus a $599 single supplement to get it.

Cruise line justification for the single supplement

Cruise cabins are sold at loss-leader rates to get customers onto the ships and—hopefully—spend even more money on things like alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, shore excursions and gambling. Even with imposing a supplement on the solo passenger, an empty cabin bed equals lost revenue in the eyes of cruise lines. Had they been able to charge a second guest for the privilege of sleeping in that bed, that guest would likely have done so after a long day of buying drinks, spa treatments, shopping or gambling.

Who are solo cruisers?

You might be asking why on earth someone would want to go on a cruise by themselves or perhaps the term "solo cruisers" conjures up images of young singles on the prowl.  There are, in fact, many reasons why a passenger might be sailing alone or solo in a cabin. Sometimes passengers who never imagined that they'd ever sail alone have unwittingly joined the ranks of solo cruisers. A solo cruiser may be:

  • A single, divorced or widowed person
  • Someone who has vacation time but their family or friends don’t
  • A person who likes to cruise but their family or friends don’t
  • Someone who prefers privacy over sharing a tiny cruise cabin or who simply enjoys traveling alone
  • A solo extended family member such as an aunt, uncle or in-law who’s part of a larger group such as a family reunion
  • A person who’s part of a large group of friends or co-workers, but doesn’t have a roommate

A few cruise lines feature a limited number of cabins designated for single occupancy sparing the solo cruiser from having to pay double. While cruise lines advertise these single cabins as having no supplement, the single rate is usually slightly higher than the per-person rate of comparable double occupancy cabins.  For instance, where a double occupancy room might cost $599 per-person for a total of $1198, a single occupancy cabin costs $799 total.

Cruise ships that have single occupancy cabins

Norwegian Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean

  • 28 single cabins will be available on the new Quantum of the Seas.
  • A limited number of single cabins are available on Brilliance of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.

P&O Cruises 

  • The UK based cruise line features single cabins on the Arcadia, Aurora, Azura, Oriana, Ventura and their newest ship, Brittania, which debuts in February 2015.
  • A number of standard cabins are also available for single occupancy at a relatively modest supplement rate.
  • Americans wishing to book on P&O should contact a U.S.-based travel agency.

Roommate-matching service

Holland America Line's Single Partners Program arranges for a solo guest to share a cabin with another solo cruiser of the same gender. If a roommate isn't available, the guest will occupy the cabin alone without incurring a supplement.

Vacations To Go

Cruise lines will sometimes offer specials for solo cruisers on certain sailings to stimulate bookings. Vacations To Go is a Texas-based, online travel agency that features up-to-date listings of low or no single supplement cruises available worldwide. Registration is required in order to view the specials—however, only your name, email address and country of residence are asked for. Currently, many no-supplement cruises departing from Florida, Texas, Louisiana and California are available through mid-May.

Other ways to reduce costs

If you can't find a zero- or low-supplement sailing, you may be able to reduce the impact of the supplement on your fare by booking a year or more in advance, booking last minute or off-season, or looking for discounted rates that you may qualify for such as:

  • Law enforcement, fire department or EMT
  • Airline employee
  • Military
  • Senior citizen/Over 55
  • State (or Canadian province) resident rate
  • Previous guest rate
  • AARP
  • USAA
  • AAA

 

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Going Solo on a Cruise? Tips to Avoid Paying Single-Occupancy Fees