There was once a time if you cruised solo you'd be hit by an array of penalties: the dreaded single supplement, no dedicated activity programs and no single berth cabins.
Things have come a long way since then. Today, solo cruisers can expect tailored activity programmes, dedicated cocktail parties for mingling, and dining companions hand-picked for compatibility. There are lots of opportunities to be sociable, with classes, seminars and shore excursions, while Gentlemen Hosts ensure ladies travelling alone aren't left with an empty dance card.
That said, it remains a fact that single cabins take up almost as much room as twin cabins, yet generate half the revenue. As a result, ship building with solo travellers in mind has never been high on the agenda. While several Brit-popular ships previously offered a choice of single cabins on older vessels, all too often solo cruisers opting to sail on ships less than 20 years old have had to accept the iniquitous supplements for occupying a double cabin -- from 10 percent to twice the fare, depending on time of year and availability.
Fortunately, the tide has turned since then. Norwegian Cruise Line arguaably led the charge with the introduction of its studio cabins, which single-handledly removed the lingering stigma about travelling alone. Studios are contemporary in design, with cool lines and colours; you'll find them all in one place (so all the people you bump into are travelling solo); and they include a lounge area for socialising. The studios -- which debuted on Norwegian Epic -- were a huge hit and you'll find them on every Norwegian ship since.
Other lines quickly followed suit. That same year P&O Cruises' Azura launched that same year with 18 dedicated single cabins. And the 2015 flagship -- the 3,647-passenger Britannia -- debuted the first dedicated single cabins with balconies (15 in total), as well as 12 single inside cabins.
There's now a ship for every traveller who prefers to sail alone. The following selections include a range of the most popular.
Single cabins have now been incorporated into most ships in the P&O Cruises fleet. Stylish havens with single beds and en-suite bathrooms, they don't come with a hefty price-tag. While Arcadia, Aurora and Oriana each boast a small number of single cabins, Ventura and Azura have 12 outside single cabins and six inside single cabins on F-Deck; Britannia meanwhile has 27 dedicated single cabins -15 of them with a balcony.
The good news for those solo travellers who prefer not to have to share a ship with other people's children is that Arcadia and Oriana are both exclusively just for adults, so you'll find them full of like-minded passengers enjoying the fine dining, sophisticated bars, pampering spas, quiet pools and very grown up facilities like the onboard casino and art gallery on Arcadia.
P&O Cruises offers the Holy Grail for UK cruisers – free tea and coffee making facilities in each stateroom (with a variety of different teas available on request). You'll also be offered mineral water and a pamper pack of toiletries on arrival.
Coffee mornings are arranged on cruises over three nights to help single travellers meet on a busy ship.
All three Cunard ships have had single cabins added as part of their 2015/2016 refurbishment programmes. Fifteen smart Britannia single staterooms were added to Queen Mary 2 in June 2016. Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria boast nine new Britannia single cabins each, including eight Oceanview rooms with extra large windows and one inside cabin. These are especially well placed on deck 2, close to some of the most popular rooms on-ship -- the Royal Court Theatre and the Queens Room grand ballroom.
Highlights aboard Queen Mary 2 include the Queens Room -- the largest ballroom at sea; the Illuminations Planetarium and the 8,000-book library with resident librarian. Guests can watch graduate actors from RADA at the Royal Court Theatre, see West End and Broadway hits performed by the Royal Cunard Singers & Dancers, or relax in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub.
Coffee mornings and dedicated daytime activities mean solo travellers can easily meet other single travellers.
And if your travel companion of choice is of the furry, four-legged variety, Queen Mary 2 is the proud owner of the only kennels at sea -- complete with Kennel Master -- to transport pets in pampered comfort to and from New York.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Barcelona-based Norwegian Epic broke the mould when it came to single cabins when it launched in 2010, rebranding them 'Studio Cabins', clustering them all together (and all interconnecting), and even including a hip lounge for exclusive use of studio guests.
The Studios are compact and all inside, but have windows (with shades) which look out onto the corridor. They also funky, multi-coloured lighting and an unusual bathroom design to maximise space.
In a nutshell: Norwegian made solo cruising cool.
Exclusive key-card access to the double-height lounge, which has free tea and coffee and snacks; a wine vending machine and a whiteboard where you can post notes for fellow singles, and start lists for shore excursions.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
All four ships in the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines fleet offer a wide range of single cabins. On the 1,300-passenger Balmoral there are three single balcony suites, 39 outside single cabins, 13 superior inside cabins and two inside single cabins. The 930-passenger Braemar has two balcony suites, 12 outside single cabins, six superior inside cabins and 15 inside singles. On the 880-passenger Boudicca there are two single balcony suites, four outside singles and 24 superior inside singles. The 804-passenger Black Watch has four single balcony suites, nine outside singles and six superior inside singles on Main Deck; and 11 inside singles on Atlantic Deck.
Fred. Olsen offers traditional British-style cruising for a more mature market, with the smaller hotel-style ships creating a friendly, cosy atmosphere that single travellers should appreciate. There's plenty of choice when it comes to eating and drinking onboard, too. Boudicca, for example, has three formal dining rooms -- the refined Four Seasons Restaurant, the vibrant Tintagel Restaurant and the smaller Heligan Room. The informal Secret Garden Café has an al fresco ambience at breakfast and lunch, and serves popular Indian, Thai and Indonesian-themed buffet dinners. The Secret Garden Lounge is the epicentre of life on board, while the most serene room is the Observatory.
Fred. Olsen looks after its solo cruisers well, with special activities arranged for single travellers and dance hosts who make sure that everyone who wants one has a dance partner in the evenings.
As well as offering single staterooms, Fred. Olsen also scraps the single supplement on selected other room grades on some cruises.
This British-based cruise line targeted at the over-50s claims that one fifth of its guests travel independently -- and it certainly has a decent number of dedicated single staterooms to offer them. The 720-passenger Saga Sapphire has 44 single cabins in various categories throughout the ship, while the 449-passenger Saga Pearl II has 57 single cabins in total, from two single suites to 18 inside cabins. Two new ships -- Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure, set to launch in 2019 and 2020 respectively, will have 81 dedicated single cabins, all of them with balconies.
Saga offers all passengers 24-hour room service at no extra charge; bathrobes, fresh fruit, toiletries and a turndown service.
Saga Sapphire has a relaxed vibe, with an extensive library and numerous bars and lounges. At 'View from the Top’ you can enjoy sea views from a sun lounger or hot tub by day, after dark this aerie is transformed into an open-air cinema. Despite being smaller, Saga Pearl II also has plenty of attractive features, including indoor cinema and Discovery Lounge, which hosts dance classes, afternoon teas and evening entertainment from the ship's own theatre company.
Cocktail parties are hosted for solo cruises and there are get-togethers before each port for those who'd like to go ashore with some companions. Dedicated Solo Hosts will also seat new friends together on the bus for shore excursions.
Table wines and soft drinks are included at lunch and dinner.
Possibly the most attractive inclusion is the complimentary Chauffeur Service for passengers living up to 250 miles from their departure port. As an alternative there's free parking at the port, domestic flights, as well as rail and coach options.
Hebridean Island Cruises
With a capacity of just 50 passengers, Hebridean Princess has ten single cabins and is ideal for solo travellers looking to travel in close company with like-minded fellow guests. There are three single cabins on Princess Deck, four on the Waterfront Deck and three on the Hebridean Deck, all named after the local landscape and enjoying a cosy, home from home feel.
Harking back to a bygone era, the world's smallest luxury cruise ship has an enviable reputation for cruising the Scottish islands in style. Her Majesty, The Queen chartered the vessel in 2006 and again in 2010. The Tiree Lounge overlooking the ship's bow has an Inglenook fireplace and a bar well stocked with single malts, while the Columba Restaurant features top quality, locally-sourced produce. Experienced guides accompany every cruise and selected themed itineraries feature knowledgeable guest speakers. Champagne, selected wines, beers, spirits, soft drinks, tea and coffee are all included, as are entrance fees to places of interest. Transfers from Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow Airport to Oban are included and there's a strict no tipping policy.
Bicycles are available for guests use ashore and Hebridean can organise fishing trips and speedboat rides by request at no extra charge).
Picnics are often provided on longer walks, and barbeques might also be held (Scottish weather permitting).
Up to two large tables in the Columba Restaurant are hosted by the ship's Officers, which are ideal for solo travellers who don't wish to dine alone.
The guides give an evening talk over coffee or a digestif after dinner, providing single travellers with a good opportunity to mingle with fellow cruisers.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Cruise & Maritime Voyages specialises in adults-only, no-fly cruises for the British market and attracts older couples and singles. The 800-passenger Marco Polo has 15 single cabins across two categories, 1,250-passenger Magellan has 150 inside cabins, 75 inside and 75 ocean views with 25 percent supplement; while Columbushas 150 single cabins.
There's a traditional feel to Magellan, particularly in the Waldorf and Kensington restaurants which offer open seating at breakfast and lunch, and first and second sittings for dinner. Bars and lounges include the Captain's Club, Churchill's Lounge, Hampton's Bar, Sinatra's Bar and Scott's nightclub. There's the New Additions Programme of guest speakers, plus presentations on maritime history, broadcasting, gardens and criminology. For comedy, there's the Laugh on the Ocean Waves programme, while An Audience With... features on selected sailings. There's also the Livingstone Library, the Jade Wellness Centre and two swimming pools.
A singles programme of events, including a welcome cocktail party and get-togethers for solo travellers, makes it easy to mingle onboard.
Because many of CMV's single cabins are actually doubles allocated for single occupancy, you get all of the space of a double cabin, without the equivalent cost.
Voyages to Antiquity
Voyages to Antiquity's sole ship, Aegean Odyssey, carries a maximum of 378 passengers -- but this number is often lower thanks to popular pricing for singles. In fact, according to the line, more than 35 percent of its UK passengers travel solo, so you'll be in good company if you're planning to cruise alone. There are 26 dedicated single occupancy cabins, with four inside single cabins; 20 outside single cabins; and two balcony single cabins spread across three decks. When these have sold out, low or no supplement accommodation is offered across selected cruises.
This elegant small ship has a relaxed, friendly feel that's suited to solo cruising, and features two dining venues: the Terrace Cafe and Grill serves all three meals from a circular buffet, while the Marco Polo Dining Room serves only lunch and dinner, and offers an a la carte menu. Most nights there's musical entertainment from a string trio or pianist. The main focus of onboard entertainment is high quality lectures by visiting professors from Oxford and Cambridge, former ambassadors, journalists and historians. Shore excursions are also a focal point and, with the exception of a few special tours, all are included in the price.
A relaxed, small ship, and group shore excursions and lectures mean that solo travellers feel included.
Guests can mingle over afternoon tea or in the evening hub of the ship, the Charleston Lounge.
Marella Dream, Celebration, Spirit and Majesty all feature outside and inside single cabins. In addition, Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2, both feature 15 outside singles and 15 inside singles, which are in fact doubles without the single supplement. Newest ship, Marella Explorer also has 15 cabins designated as solo, with a small supplement.
The latest ships are great for foodies, with a range of dining options in addition to the main dining room, 47 Degrees. These include Gallery 47, an Italian trattoria; The Glass House, for tapas and light bites; Steakhouse Surf and Turf; and pan-Asian Kora La, both of which are for fee. Snack Shack is a collection of food stalls and provides grab'n'go snacks. The open-air ‘Movies by Moonlight’ shows the latest box office films under the stars. There's also a rock-climbing wall and two swimming pools on TUI Discovery and Discovery 2.
Onboard Social Hostesses arrange get-togethers for solo travellers, including coffee mornings and opportunities to dine together. A full daily activities programme, including everything from fitness classes to cookery demos by the head chef to cocktail making workshops, provide single cruisers with plenty of ways to mingle and make new friends.
All ships are all-inclusive, meaning spirits, selected draught beers, aperitifs, cocktails and house wines are included -- as are gratuities -- so you can be as generous as you like when buying a round.