May 13, 2007

A raw deal for singles? This week, Jane Archer asks how to avoid paying a premium when you cruise alone.

This appeared on and talks about the QE2 which does offer single cabins:

"It didn’t take much to work out from comments following my first cruise column last month that one of the main grievances among keen cruisers is the single supplement. I am grateful to all who contributed to the debate.

Why pay for yourself, and a non-existent partner?

I know this issue has been a major cause for complaint for lone travellers, whether they are planning a cruise or land-based holiday.

I am also sure that most people who travel alone know the reasoning behind the single supplement.

Quite simply, one person in a cabin has to pay for themselves and a non-existent companion because accommodation is costed on the basis of two people sharing and paying a “per person” price.

So if the ship only gets revenue from one person, it is losing out. It’s the same for most hotel rooms.

I am sure most reasonable people understand the argument.

The problem surely is the huge variety in supplements that are slapped on single people. I have seen supplements of 150 per cent – that’s 50 per cent more than a couple would pay on a cruise holiday.

On average, though, singles have to pay 100 per cent of the price. Paying such a hefty supplement is desperately unfair and means that many single people are priced out of taking a cruise, which is such a good holiday if you are on your own.

A very few cruise-lines still offer single share schemes, pairing lone travellers with another (unknown) person also cruising on their own. The only thing they can be sure of is that they will be the same sex.

I appreciate that this might mean the difference between affording a cruise or having to stay at home for some people – and maybe it can lead to new friendships – but I think it is appalling to expect anyone to do that. Imagine being stuck with someone you did not like for seven nights or more?

A few cruise-lines, mostly those aimed at people aged 55-plus, have single cabins, priced at a premium but still less than the average single supplement. They include QE2 and Spirit of Adventure.

Viking River Cruises has two single cabins on each of the boats it operates in Russia and Ukraine, and Saga River Cruises has no single supplements on three of itineraries in Germany.
Fred Olsen has single cabins on all its ships. They tend to be small but sell out fast.
I like Hebridean International Cruises’ solution. It doesn’t have single cabins, but it does get a lot of people travelling on their own, so it designates some ordinary-sized cabins on each cruise as singles. If the cabins are not sold by a certain date, they are turned back to a twin share.
Of course, Hebridean ships are small so you have to be quick to get the single price, and they are expensive compared to Olsen, so it is by no means a panacea for single people.

The problem was summed up by one cruise-line executive. “We don’t want single people. It’s a financial thing. They should find themselves a partner.” It was said in jest, but only partly. Singles are a nuisance, wanting to pay less for their cabin and spending less than two people when on board. But demographics are changing. More people are choosing to live alone, which means more people are holidaying alone, or with friends, but that doesn’t mean they want to share.

Singles should be able to choose a cruise from a wide selection of lines, as couples and families can do, without being penalised for it.

Cruise-lines regularly tell me what a great holiday cruising is for people on their own, and I agree, having cruised alone many times. But it’s about time they put their money where their mouth is and gave those same singles a fair deal. "

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