Cruise Lines Expand Their Focus On Solo Cabins
Cruise lines expand their focus on solo cabinsas Norwegian Cruise Line made a significant move by doubling the number of cabins designed for solo travelers, reflecting the cruise industry's acknowledgment of the growing appeal of solo travel.
Cruise companies and travel agencies have noticed an increasing trend in bookings from individuals traveling alone, prompting more cruise lines to either construct new single-person cabins or allocate existing ones for solo guests.
Alex Sharpe, the CEO of Signature Travel Network, pointed out that the demographic of solo travelers has expanded substantially. He mentioned that the percentage of bookings from solo travelers within the Signature Travel Network now falls in the high single digits.
This trend is a reflection of the current demographics, with single-person households accounting for 29% of all U.S. homes in 2022, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, a substantial 46.4% of U.S. adults are unmarried, encompassing those who are widowed or divorced.
Solo travel has gained particular popularity among women, and this interest has only intensified since the onset of the pandemic. Tour operators have noted a surge in solo travel demand this year, prompting cruise lines across various segments, from luxury and expedition to contemporary brands, to adapt to this trend by introducing cabins designed for single travelers and eliminating single-supplement fees.
For instance, when the new Crystal cruise ships were unveiled this summer, they featured single cabins without any additional single supplement charges, available on both the renovated Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. The OceaniaVista, launched in May, introduced a dedicated category of solo cabins complete with balconies. Even cruise lines that made their debut during the pandemic, such as the expedition-focused Atlas Ocean Voyages and Virgin Voyages, designed their inaugural cruise ships to include accommodations tailored for solo travelers.
"It's an important niche for our brand, as almost 10% of our audience is made of solo travelers," said John Diorio, Virgin Voyages' vice president of North American sales.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has attributed its decision to expand the number of single-person cabins to a growing demand for solo travel. Notably, NCL has recognized the solo travel category for quite some time. Back in 2010, they constructed their first cluster of "studio cabins," which were purposefully designed and priced with solo travelers in mind. These cabins even featured a Studio Lounge where occupants could socialize and connect. Presently, across nine out of their 19 ships, NCL boasts a total of 642 studio cabins.
In the upcoming year, NCL intends to increase the availability of inside, oceanview, and balcony staterooms for solo cruisers, with the precise number depending on demand and availability. This expansion will result in more than 1,500 cabins being designated for solo travelers across the entire NCL fleet.
We did this because these staterooms are incredibly popular with our guests and frequently sell out. With these new staterooms, we are providing more opportunities for guests to travel to other destinations, such as Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, on ships that historically did not offer solo staterooms.- John Chernesky, NCL's senior vice president of North America sales
NCL is set to broaden access to its Studio Lounge for solo travelers staying in staterooms that aren't part of the Studio complex. They also plan to introduce special programming tailored for solo travelers. Chernesky, a spokesperson for NCL, mentioned that the rates for these rooms will be lower than those for double-occupancy cabins but didn't provide specific pricing details.
In contrast, not all cruise lines are expanding their offerings of solo accommodations. For instance, while Royal Caribbean International offers 160 such staterooms on a dozen of its ships, there are no plans to include them on Icon of the Seas, a groundbreaking ship of its class that will commence sailing in January.
Approximately 2% of the cruise line's clientele opt for solo journeys that aren't associated with any other individuals or groups. According to Vicki Freed, who serves as Royal's senior vice president of sales, trade support, and service, for those seeking solo accommodations, the cruise line provides a 150% solo supplement, which can be utilized across a range of cabin categories.
"Cruising is a community of friends," said Freed, who said solo travel skews slightly higher on its sailings in Australia and Alaska and on short cruises. "They want to go on the ship because they have their friends, but now they may be widowed" or traveling solo for other reasons like waiting longer to marry, she said.
Many advisors expressed their appreciation for cruise lines like NCL expanding their offerings for solo travelers, but they are apprehensive about the associated expenses. Mandy Goddard, the proprietor of Cruise By Mandy located in Prosper, Texas, specializes in family travel arrangements but also arranges trips for solo travelers, including budget-conscious teachers seeking spring break getaways.
According to her, the pricing of staterooms designated for solo travelers may, depending on the cruise line, offer limited value when compared to the rates for double-occupancy cabins. She emphasized the significance of her role in deciphering costs and finding the most suitable options for her clients.
Solo travelers are happy to be in a regular-sized stateroom, but they don't want to pay double. It can be your highly successful solo traveler who still wants to have the perk [of a larger room] but not have to donate a kidney.- Mandy Goddard, the proprietor of Cruise By Mandy