As its ocean counterpart belatedly embraces solos, river cruise – which is ideal for the single traveller – is starting to offer solo cabins and dedicated itineraries
For a long time solo passengers and the cruise industry have been uneasy bedfellows. The fact of the matter is that cruise lines price their bookings on a double occupancy basis. If a single person takes up the space of a couple then they are taking up valuable profits.
This is why cruise lines first incorporated single supplements to help them redress the balance.
However, over the past few years we have increasingly seen a kickback against this. A mixture of changing living habits (fewer people feel the pressure to get married, so don’t), more people feeling like they’re able to travel on their own (even if they have a partner) and people living longer (increasing the chance of being widowed) means that the proportion of people who are single has increased. That united voice has forced cruise lines into action.
What started with the ocean cruise industry (with lines such as Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines assigning double cabins to solo travellers) eventually migrated to some of the bigger cruise lines actually building custom-made solo cabins on their new ships. Two recent examples are Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Studios and Celebrity Cruises’ solo cabins on Edge – the first solo cabins in the company’s history.
The river cruise industry is, in many ways, more versatile than its ocean-going cousin. Smaller companies, often formed more recently, are used to solo travellers being a more important demographic to their balance sheets. While the hardware isn’t always there – in terms of single cabins – there is a different mindset. The options available to solo travellers are more ubiquitous across the river industry.
Amawaterways is a key example. The company has sailings available throughout October and November on many of its most popular itineraries, which are available to individuals without a single supplement. Uniworld has an entire section of its website dedicated to cruises which boast either a reduced or waived single supplement, an area that the company takes very seriously, according to Kathryn Beadle, Uniworld’s managing director.
“Travelling solo can be a daunting experience which is why river cruising is such a perfect choice,” she explains. “Our customers have the opportunity to interact with fellow guests on the daily included excursions on offer, and shared experiences enjoyed during the day are recounted over dinner.
You can confidently sell a river cruise to a solo customer knowing that they will have
a memorable experience and the opportunity to make lifelong friends, as most of our guests do.”
Saga went one better last year and hosted an entire river sailing for solo passengers. It will be doing the same this year with cruises in October (Rhine from £999pp) and November (Douro from £1,529pp). In March, there will be another opportunity to get on the Rhine, with a seven-night cruise starting at £1,099pp.
Emerald Waterways has two single occupancy cabins on every vessel while Riviera Travel tops that with five lower deck cabins on every sailing (except the Seine), which have no single supplement. The cabins also come with another major advantage.
“We offer our solo customers the chance to experience one of our five-star river cruises without the burden of a single supplement,” explains Thomas Morgan, key account manager at
Riviera Travel. “They get the same cabin size as a twin share, so are not penalised.”
As more and more people are willing to travel on their own it is crucial that companies don’t dismiss the opportunity that solos present.
That goes for travel agents, too. A river cruise is an incredible experience for a solo passenger: there is the safety of being within a group with the added benefit of being able to be independent.
On top of that are all of the benefits that come with a cruise, like being able to visit multiple destinations in one trip (important to 74 per cent of people according to Abta), the quality of the food (69 per cent) and the ease of travel (67 per cent)
Given that the river sector is one of the fastest growing areas of the travel industry, it would appear to make a lot of sense to combine it with solo travel – another one of the industry’s key prospects. You might be on to a winner.