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Lounging in the spa on Norwegian Star (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

11 Best Cruise Lines for Solo Travellers

In Australia, the situation is fairly grim for solo cruisers, whose only affordable option is to share a cabin with a friend or even a stranger. Technically, does that make you solo anymore? The problem is that local ships are targeted at couples, families and groups, and cabins are priced accordingly. If you want a room to yourself, expect to pay around twice the published cruise fare to cover the cost of the "missing" second passenger. Cruise lines simply want to make sure they are making the same money for the cabin whether it is used by one or two passengers. However, there are some tricks to the trade.

In an effort to fill empty cabins, cruise lines will sometimes waive or reduce the single supplement, but this is almost always for overseas departures, and often on more expensive small ships or river cruises. From time to time, Australian cruise lines do release single fares that are cheaper than the standard twin fare. This is usually for "distressed inventory" -- cabins they are worried they can't sell -- 90 days before departure when final payments are due and people tend to cancel. These deals may be 150 percent of the full cabin price instead of 200 percent, and are rarely advertised. Basically, you have to be lucky to stumble upon them by continually searching websites for such pricing anomalies.

Some people sneakily try another practice: the "no show". This is when you find a good twin-share fare, book yourself and a friend (who has no intention of coming), and then your friend doesn't show up on the day of boarding. So you have still paid for two people but you get the room to yourself. No, you certainly don't get a refund for the person who didn't turn up, but your discounted twin-share fare was cheaper than paying the single fare (the full twin-share price).

If it all sounds like hard work, too dodgy or high-risk, generous people often share bargains they have found online. The El Cheapo Cruises Thread on Cruise Critic's [Australia & NZ Cruisers board]( http://boards.cruisecritic.com.au/forumdisplay.php?f=712) has been running since 2014 -- skip to the last page for the most recent posts. (The latest secret promotion was an unbeatable single fare of $782 for 10 nights in an inside cabin on Pacific Explorer; $1,370 for a balcony cabin.) Cruise Critic also promotes a weekly solo special on our [Deals](/../articles.cfm?ID=21) page, but it's a maritime miracle if we find a good local option that isn't snapped up within minutes.

For this reason, we deliberately haven't included P&O, Princess and Carnival in the list below -- and until these local cruise lines instal some single cabins or bring in better, advertised deals for Australians, we don't feel we can recommend them as the best for your specific needs. That's not to say you can't have a good time on these ships -- of course you can. Solo-specific activities are offered onboard and you can always make new friends or find your own fun. We suggest spending time in the adult-only areas such as Carnival's Serenity, Princess' Sanctuary and P&O's Oasis decks. Let's also not forget you will save a lot of money on airfares compared to flying overseas for an international cruise.

So if you only cruise locally, you have two choices: trawl through websites until you hit the jackpot with a special sale, or wait for one of the single-friendly international ships to come down here in summer and hop aboard their Australia, New Zealand or South Pacific sectors. These seasonal visitors sometimes release great solo fares; last year, for example, the UK-based Aurora had single cabins priced at $420 for five nights from Adelaide to Sydney.

Here is a look at the best lines for solo cruisers, in no particular order -- until better local options become available.

For other pointers on cruising alone, read our [Solo Basics](/../articles.cfm?ID=21) article.

Studio Lounge on Norwegian Escape

1. Norwegian Cruise Line

Why: Norwegian Epic was the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship to feature studio cabins (128 in all) targeted at and priced for solo cruisers. The line continued the trend with Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, which each have 59 studio cabins, and Norwegian Escape, which has 82 studio units. Four studios also can be booked on Pride of America, which sails year-round in Hawaii. Evening meet-ups in a quiet bar, such as the Sailing Solo Social, are held fleetwide including onboard Norwegian Jewel, which is based part-time in Sydney from November 2017.

Special Extras: A full-size bed, flat-screen TV and private bathroom are all squeezed into these nine-square-metre accommodations. Although all studios are inside cabins, each has a window that looks out onto the corridor. Four different colours of ambient lighting jazz up the room, but the biggest perk is access to an exclusive, shared social space called the Studio Lounge. It's a sleek hangout area with its own large-screen TVs, coffee-making facilities, a bartender at certain times of the day and daily hosted pre-dinner gatherings (from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.).

Discounts Available: The studio cabins are priced for solo travellers, with no extra supplement to pay.


Wine Tastings on Noordam

2. Holland America Line

Why: Holland America Line is renowned for catering to solo cruisers. There are plenty of programs that don't require partners and activities that can be delightfully solitary or a means to meeting others. (The culinary programs, from hands-on workshops to wine tastings, are tons of fun.) Most voyages also have hosted solo events like pre-dinner or post-dinner drinks; the solo afternoon tea is usually a bigger hit.

Koningsdam has 12 solo cabins; even the smallest in the fleet, Prinsendam, has three. Koningsdam's solo cabins are all oceanview and range from 12 to 16 square metres. They feature all of the same amenities of a double-occupancy cabin, but with a twin bed. On Prinsendam, the trio of solo cabins measure 14.5 to 19 square metres and again, share standard cabin features, with the exception of one twin bed and a shower instead of a bathtub.

Special Extras: Singles are invited to dine together (by advance request), and, on voyages of 40 days or more (or if you're on a sector of a world cruise), gentleman hosts are available for dancing and dining.

Discounts Available: Koningsam's cabins are priced for one. Typical rates for Prinsendam's cabins run from 150 percent to 200 percent of the double-occupancy rate.


Single Balcony Stateroom on Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas

3. Royal Caribbean International

Why: Royal Caribbean International's Ovation of the Seas (based in Australia for half the year), Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas feature 28 dedicated studio cabins for solo travellers on each ship, a mix of virtual balcony cabins (80-inch floor-to-ceiling LED display screens that project live images of the ocean and ports) and staterooms with five-square-metre open-air balconies. Harmony of the Seas also offers two categories, but only 15 cabins are available.

Special Extras:  A variety of singles-friendly activities onboard Royal Caribbean ships allows solo cruisers to have just as much fun at sea as couples and groups. From scuba training in the pool and group fitness activities to wine tasting demonstrations and cooking classes, solo cruisers can easily keep themselves well entertained. And with the line's "My Time Dining" policy, passengers who wish to enjoy a meal with others can request to be seated at large table -- no need to eat alone.

Discounts Available: Royal Caribbean's studio staterooms carry no supplement.


Silver Wind Vista Suite

4. Silversea

Why: Silversea doesn't have allocated single cabins, but its occasional special fare deals mean that a solo traveller can sail alone without a huge penalty. Their typical solo fares are 25 to 75 percent above the double-occupancy rate. Singles makeup about 10 percent of the line's passengers, which is pretty significant in cruising. Another plus: With just 296 passengers on Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, 382 apiece on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper and 540 on Silver Spirit, solo cruisers find it easy to feel at home. Some of the enrichment programs and special-interest cruises ensure a compatible mix of people with like interests, solo or not.

Silver Discoverer, part of the expedition fleet, makes regular calls at Australia and has a dedicated Kimberley program. Expedition cruising is perfect for solos as the Zodiac rides and other shore activities are perfect for meeting people.

Special Extras: A welcome reception with Champagne is held on every voyage with a large number of solos. Most voyages of more than 10 days also have gentleman hosts onboard as dance partners and shore excursion escorts (except on expedition vessels).

Discounts Available: Solo fares are often as low as 125 percent of the regular fares, but occasional sales can bring single traveller rates down to 110 percent. The line is quick to point out that these fares are "capacity controlled and subject to availability." In other words, book early.


Planetarium on Cunard's Queen Mary 2

5. Cunard

Why: Cunard is spending increasing amounts of time in Australian and New Zealand waters. The famous line has long attracted solo travellers to its traditional cruise ships and ocean liners, and the convivial onboard atmosphere means that solos can easily make friends with their shipmates if they choose. Cunard does try to accommodate passengers who wish to dine solo, but this depends on how full each voyage is. In general, solo travellers are assigned to tables with other singles. In addition, gentleman hosts are available to whirl single ladies around the dance floor.

Special Extras: Queen Elizabeth has nine midship single-occupancy cabins; eight are oceanview cabins, while the ninth is a standard inside cabin. Queen Victoria has nine solo cabins, and Queen Mary 2 has 15 oceanview single-occupancy cabins, located on decks 2 and 3. Additionally, Additionally, many activities taking place onboard are ideal for solos such as watching a planetarium show on QM2 or participating in theatrical workshops and performances by members of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Discounts Available: Cunard's typical solo supplement is 200 percent for Queens and Princess Grills and 175 percent for inside, outside and balcony cabins. On occasion, the line offer discounts to solo travellers.


Crystal Symphony Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah

6. Crystal Cruises

Why: Crystal is one of the most popular luxury lines for solos, who makeup to 25 percent of the line's passengers on some sailings. Solo travellers are attracted by the wide range of activities onboard, plus singles' parties, gentleman hosts (and hostesses) and supplements that can be as low as 10 percent for certain categories. Many luxury-minded solos also choose Crystal because it features assigned dining room seating, which is unique in this market segment. (Most luxury lines have an open single-seating dining room.) This set-seating dining policy means you dine with the same people every night, and the Table for 8 program lets solo travellers dine at the specialty restaurants with other singles. Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity are as spacious as mega-ships but they carry less than 1,000 passengers and a sense of community prevails.

Special Extras: Crystal's unique activities include seminars through the Creative Learning Institute, with choices like acting workshops, language lessons, astronomy classes and a Computer University@Sea.

Discounts Available: Depending on the sailing, solo supplements range from 10 percent to 100 percent of double occupancy rates. On occasion, Crystal will offer limited-time sales on cabins for solo cruisers on select voyages.


Seabourn Colonade Patio Group

7. Seabourn

Why: The cosy atmosphere on Seabourn's small ships assures solos that they won't be overlooked, and getting to know fellow cruisers is easy.

Special Extras: One of Seabourn's lovely traditions is to have its officers and entertainers host tables at dinner -- not only on a formal evening but just about every night. Solo travellers receive special consideration when it comes to invitations, so you really don't have to dine alone if you don't choose to. As well, single travellers will be escorted across the dining room by the maitre d' or other staffer, which is a nice touch.

Discounts Available: Seabourn's standard single supplement is 75 percent more than the double-occupancy fare for ocean view and veranda suites and 100 percent more for premium suites. As well, the line offers single guarantee fares for just 50 percent more than the double-occupancy fares; with this pricing, Seabourn will choose the stateroom location (not the passenger) and availability is limited.


8. Azamara Club Cruises

Why: This two-ship company has short seasons based in Australia each summer, not to mention its 2018 world cruise departing from Sydney. The friendly crew make sure solos feel welcome. The recently refurbished Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest take just 690 passengers and exude an intimate ambience. The ships venture to many places that bigger ships cannot access and spend more time in port, often with two or more nights in some places. Azamara’s cruises are virtually all-inclusive with selected wine, beer, cocktails, soft drinks, specialty coffees and gratuities included.

Special Extras: Solo fares are often 125 percent of the twin-share fare. Each itinerary includes a complimentary AzAmazing excursion, which may be a cultural experience such as a night at the ballet in St Petersburg, Russia.

Discounts Available: Azamara sometimes waives single supplements so keep an eye out for special deals.


Britannia Ship Single Cabin

9. P&O UK

Why: Australians travelling to the UK should consider the British version of P&O, which is more upmarket and formal. P&O Cruises Azura has 18 dedicated single cabins for solo cruisers. Britannia has 27 single cabins of its own. Plus, several other UK-based ships, including Ventura, Oriana, Arcadia and Aurora, had single-friendly cabins installed during refurbishments.

Special Extras: P&O UK's solo cabins include both inside and outside options and have a "boutique hotel" feel to them. Special touches include complimentary water and a "pamper pack" on arrival. Each cabin has a single bed, a flat-screen television and a vanity/writing desk and drawers, plus a bathroom with a shower.

Discounts Available: Cabins are priced for one, with no solo supplement, but they do sell out quickly since they're so limited in number. Don't expect any last-minute deals on these staterooms.


Samsara Grand Suite with Ocean View Veranda

10. Costa Cruises

Why: If you’re cruising in Europe and don’t mind travelling with lots of Italians, consider Costa Cruises. Limited single cabins in both inside and outside units are found on half of its ships, including two of its newest vessels, Costa Favolosa and Costa Fascinosa, which have 17 solo cabins each.

Special Extras: This Italian cruise line offers singles' meet-and-greet parties onboard, as well as a full range of other traditional shipboard activities that encourage social interaction among solo passengers. As Europeans love to dance, Costa's newest ships have some of the largest dance floors on the seas. While they don't have dedicated gentlemen hosts, there are plenty of opportunities to take to the dance floor for everything from merengue to polka.

Discounts Available: Single cabins do carry a supplement, but it can be as low as 6 percent above the double-occupancy rate.


Boudicca, Superior Single Balcony Cabin

11. Fred. Olsen Cruises

Why: Another one for the over-65s who are travelling to the UK, Fred Olsen has long catered to older, mostly British passengers. The line has dedicated cabins for solo travellers, employs gentleman hosts, offers exclusive solo gatherings and pairs single travellers together for dinner; they can even arrange companions for solos going ashore, upon request. Fred Olsen ships have a relaxed and intimate atmosphere, offering a welcome change for those who choose to avoid the more raucous nature of most mass-market lines.

Special Extras: All Fred Olsen ships -- Balmoral, Boudicca, Braemar and Black Watch -- offer solo cabins, ranging in number from 40 (Braemar) to 64 (Balmoral). These cabins, outfitted with one bed, come in a variety of categories including a few balcony suites.

Discounts Available: In addition to its dedicated solo cabins, which carry no supplement, Fred Olsen waives single supplements for solo occupancy of certain twin-grade cabins on select sailings.

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