Single people face a particular challenge when it comes to cruise vacations, the dreaded "singles supplement" that cruise lines charge one person who wants to sail alone in a cabin designed for two people. Unlike hotel rooms, where the price is the same regardless of the number of occupants, cruise ship staterooms are traditionally sold on a "double occupancy" basis, meaning the quoted price is per person, but it is mandatory for two people to each pay that price and occupy the room together.
Double occupancy developed over the years because beyond the beds cruise fares also include food, entertainment, transportation and amenities like room service. If a single person wants to travel alone they are required to pay the cruise fare for the person who will not be sleeping in the other bed - or sharing the queen sized bed, as the case may be. The end result is that very few cabins on any given cruise are ever sold to singles. I would estimate the number to be under 1%.
When a cruise line quotes the price of a singles supplement, they generally describe it as "200% of the per person price." To me, this phraseology is confusing. If the person is paying a "supplement" that implies it is added to the basic price of the cruise, so the supplement should be 100% (added to the full (100%) cruise fare. Apparently, I am not the only one who finds this confusing. I have heard novice travel agents actually telling single customers they are required to pay an additional 200% above their cruise fare. They were, obviously, wrong.
While the average singles supplement is usually 200% of the basic cruise fare there are exceptions; special sales for singles where the cruise line drops the price. Once in awhile some cruise line will lower the singles supplement to 175% or even as low as 125% - depending on how many staterooms are still available on a given sail date. Still, it is rare for a cruise line to give single cruisers a break on that 200% singles supplement. The cruise lines will always prefer to have as many people onboard as possible.
Even though the person who is not there will not be consuming any food, at the same time, at the same time neither will she be spending any money on alcohol, shore excursions, spa treatments or other "onboard revenue" services the cruise lines rely upon beyond cruise fare revenue to add to their bottom line.
What is a single to do? One can pony up the 200% fare, or one can find a roommate.
Here at CruiseMates we have seen a new trend in the last year, a marked increase in the number of people using our open forums to find cruise companions. While our forums also have lively discussions about all cruise topics, the "Seeking Cruise Companion" board has become especially popular in the last two years.
Most users describe the kind of person they would like to share a cruise with, citing age, gender, and smoking and drinking habits. Importantly, CruiseMates does not attempt to match people or get involved in the process in any way. It is solely up to the personal discretion of each individual to decide how to proceed with the people they meet in the site.
CruiseMates is careful to recommend to its users that meeting online is only the first step. We strongly advise people to proceed cautiously and get to know their potential CruiseMates well before they actually take a cruise together. We strongly advise people to exchange email, then make telephone calls and if possible, even meet in person before they go on a cruise together.
The number of people using CruiseMates to find cruise companions has grown exceptionally in the last few years. Five years ago there were only about 30 posts per month made by people seeking cruise companions. That number is now up to over 100 posts per month. This can easily be attributed to the growth and new popularity of cruising over that last five years, and but it shows that the cruise lines' attempts to appeal to a younger demographic has succeeded.
Other options for singles include joining organized group cruises for singles where the group organizer matches people up to become roommates during the cruise. These "singles cruises" tend to appeal to people looking to make new relationships during a cruise, but not every single cruiser is looking for a "special someone." Many people simply want to find a fellow cruise enthusiast, usually of the same gender, who enjoys cruising and wants to save money. If you happen to become good friends that is "icing on the cake."
Only one major cruise ship has a regular option to avoid the single's supplement; NCL's Norwegian Epic is the first, and so far the only cruise ship to have a large section of staterooms specifically designed for single cruisers. Although the prices tend to be about 80% of what a single would pay to have an entire standard cabin alone, the Studio Staterooms are particularly appealing to single cruisers with mood lighting and a shared corridor to take them to a "private" living room where cruise staff members coordinate special singles activities. As the only ongoing and organized singles cruise ship, we highly recommend Norwegian Epic for single cruisers.
Until more ships create similar programs, we expect CruiseMates to remain a popular platform for people looking for cruise companions.
Please understand that CruiseMates has no responsibilities for what happens outside of our message boards. It is up to each individual to decide with whom they choose to sail, and we urge everyone to proceed slowly when it comes to finding a cruise mate, and err on the side of caution.