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Norwegian and other Cruises Set Sights on The Solo Traveler

In a strategic move, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has opted to double its inventory of single-person cabins, underscoring the cruise industry’s recognition of the surging prominence of solo travel.

With a noticeable uptick in bookings from solo adventurers, cruise lines and travel agencies are responding by creating or dedicating cabins specifically tailored for lone travelers.

This trend aligns with shifting demographics, where single-person households accounted for a substantial 29% of all U.S. homes in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, a significant 46.4% of U.S. adults find themselves unattached, be it due to being unmarried, widowed, or divorced.

The appeal of solo travel, particularly among women, has seen a considerable upswing since the onset of the pandemic. As a result, tour operators and cruise lines across the spectrum, ranging from luxury to contemporary brands, are adapting to the trend by introducing cabins designed for solo travelers and abolishing the additional fees that have historically deterred them.

In recent times, this evolving landscape became evident as Crystal Cruises unveiled its new vessel, offering single cabins without supplementary charges on the renovated Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Similarly, the Oceania Vista, launched in May, introduced a dedicated solo cabin category, complete with balconies. Even cruise lines born during the pandemic, like Atlas Ocean Voyages and Virgin Voyages, have taken the plunge, constructing their inaugural cruise ships with solo accommodations in mind.

John Diorio, Vice President of North American Sales at Virgin Voyages, emphasized the significance of solo travelers for their brand, constituting nearly 10% of their customer base.

NCL, responsive to the heightened demand from solo travelers, has decided to expand its single-person cabin offerings. Back in 2010, NCL pioneered the concept of “studio cabins,” tailor-made and affordably priced for solo travelers, and even included a Studio Lounge for social interaction. Currently, NCL boasts an impressive 642 studio cabins spread across nine of its 19 ships.

Beginning in the upcoming year, NCL plans to open up a minimum of 850 inside, oceanview, and balcony staterooms for solo cruisers, contingent on availability and demand. In total, the cruise line will allocate over 1,500 cabins for solo travelers.

John Chernesky, NCL’s Senior Vice President of North America Sales, revealed that these solo staterooms enjoy tremendous popularity and tend to be booked rapidly. The introduction of these new staterooms will expand opportunities for travelers to explore various destinations, including Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, on ships that previously did not feature solo accommodations.

Furthermore, NCL is set to broaden access to its Studio Lounge for solo travelers staying in staterooms beyond the Studio complex. The cruise line also plans to introduce tailored programming to enhance the experience for solo travelers. Although Chernesky did not delve into specifics regarding pricing, he hinted that the rates for these rooms would be more budget-friendly compared to double-occupancy cabins.

However, it’s worth noting that not all cruise lines are following suit in the expansion of solo accommodation options. For example, Royal Caribbean International, while offering 160 solo staterooms on a dozen of its ships, has no immediate plans to incorporate them into its forthcoming Icon of the Seas, set to embark on its maiden voyage in January.

According to Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support, and Service at Royal Caribbean, solo travel accounts for about 2% of their guest bookings. For solo travelers interested in accommodations, Royal Caribbean provides a 150% solo supplement that can be applied to various cabin categories.

Freed emphasized that cruising often revolves around forming friendships and connecting with fellow travelers, which explains why some solo travelers opt to sail on these ships, even if they’re journeying alone. She added that solo travel is slightly more prevalent on Australian and Alaskan voyages and shorter cruise itineraries, noting that many solo travelers seek the camaraderie of other passengers, as they may be traveling solo for reasons such as being widowed or choosing to marry later in life.

While the expanded offerings of solo accommodations by lines like NCL are generally welcomed, some travel advisors have expressed concerns about the pricing. Mandy Goddard, owner of Cruise By Mandy in Prosper, Texas, who specializes in family travel but also books solo travelers, emphasized the importance of cost considerations. She highlighted that pricing for staterooms set aside for solo travelers, depending on the cruise line, can sometimes lack competitiveness when compared to double-occupancy rates. This underscores the critical role of travel advisors in deciphering costs and identifying the best-fitting options, as many solo travelers seek comfort in regular-sized staterooms without the burden of double occupancy fees.

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