Avoiding the Dreaded Single Supplement

| July 20, 2009

Single cruisers, don't you just hate single supplements? Well here's a few ideas to help you avoid, or at least minimize them.

For the uninitiated, a single supplement is the price a single cruiser must pay in order to occupy an entire cabin alone. Why? All ship cabins are sold on a double occupancy basis, so if you want to sail in a stateroom alone you must pay the price of the absent individual who would have filled the other berth.

We all hate single supplements. We cringe when we first find out we must pay double for a cabin simply because we choose to sail alone. We rail and curse the cruise lines, but we still pay the supplements because we often have no choice. Either you pay or you don't cruise in the style you prefer.

But are there ways to avoid the dreaded single supplement, or at least minimize its impact on your pocketbook? Of course there are, and this is the article to tell you how it's done.

What Exactly is a Single Supplement? When a cruise line sells a cabin, that sale is based on two people occupying the cabin. When you see a cruise priced at $599 per person/double occupancy, that is what it means -- each of those two people will pay $599. But when a single occupies the cabin alone, does this mean they only pay $599? Sometimes, but very rarely. The cruise line expects each cabin to accommodate two people and therefore they expect it to earn the full revenue, even if only one person chooses to occupy it.

Many cruise lines will make no allowances for a single passenger and charge the full double occupancy rate. In such cases, the single supplement is referred to as 200%, which means the single pays exactly double the per person fare. If the single supplement is referred to as 150%, than the single is paying her full fare plus half of the missing passenger's fare.

Not only that, but most cruise lines will also charge the single passenger additional port charges and taxes for the missing passenger as well. A few cruise lines have even been known to tack on extra charges for the single, presumably to compensate for lost onboard revenue the second passenger would have generated.

But there are a few cruise lines that value the solo passenger much more highly and only charge reduced single supplements. Another option offered by some cruise lines is a cabin share program where they match two singles up by gender and smoking preferences so that each only pays the per person rate for the cabin. Holland America and Cruise West are two cruise lines that have this program.

What About a "Single Cabin?" Sadly very few cruise lines offer cabins specifically designed to accommodate one traveler. This wasn't always the case. Cunard's famous QE2, recently retired from the fleet, had several solo cabins onboard. These cabins were designed specifically for families who wanted to bring their nannies along. The cabins weren't big or fancy, but they were certainly functional.

Cunard no longer makes such provisions for single passengers, and neither do other cruise lines with all of their larger, newer ships. Why is this? Even a small cabin can usually accommodate at least two people and the size of the single cruiser market is not big or profitable enough to justify making single cabins.

This is especially true when onboard revenue generation has become so important to the cruise lines. On average, a solo traveler will spend less onboard than a couple, or especially a family. A solo traveler may not eat much at specialty dining venues because they won't want to dine alone. The solo traveler won't drink as much as a couple, and they won't buy the two to four shore excursion tickets that the family in the cabin down the hall will. So, not only would the cruise line stand to lose money on the solo cabin, but they will also lose substantial onboard revenue as well.

Continue Article >> Single Cruiser Booking Options (Part 2)

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