For solo river cruisers, strength in numbers

In the past, passengers traveling alone were often seen as a bit of a liability — one passenger in one stateroom is definitely much less financially viable than filling ships with two people in each cabin.

Enter the single supplement, that nagging fee that solo travelers often have to pay to compensate for their economic inefficiency, which can cost as much as double the per-person cost of two people traveling together in one cabin. It is an unfortunate, but often necessary, single traveler tax.

Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

But one by one, as the number of solo river cruisers continues to increase and as river cruise capacity balloons creating greater competition between the river cruise lines, solo passengers’ cumulative buying power is beginning to hold some sway, and river cruise companies are responding by adding more departures with waived single supplements.

“It is extremely important that we continue offering programs specifically for solo travelers … without any additional costs or sacrifice,” said Kristin Karst, executive vice president of AmaWaterways, which recently announced that it will now have a limited number of base category (lower deck, category D and E cabins, which range from 160 to 170 square feet and have a fixed window), double-occupancy staterooms with no single supplement available on all of its 2015 and 2016 sailings. “We continue to see high demand in this fast-growing market.”

Additionally, Ama has four vessels that have two single cabins onboard with French balconies, and two vessels that have one single cabin with a fixed window onboard, all of which are 140-square-foot cabins with one twin bed.

Other river cruise lines have been increasing their offers for solo travelers as well.

Uniworld, which says that 10% of its customer base is made up of solo travelers, currently waives the single supplement on more than 80 departures — 54 in 2015 and 29 in 2016 — including on river cruises on the Rhine and Danube as well as in France, Italy and Russia. Uniworld’s waived single supplement offers are inventory controlled and as such, availability changes throughout the season.

Thus far, 20% of Uniworld’s 2015 Europe sailings had or will have a waived single supplement offer. These offers are not available for suites, but is otherwise not restricted to specific cabin categories.

For 2015, Tauck eliminated the single supplement on its lower deck, Category 1 cabins on its ships in Europe, something the company has been doing since 2013. While the program itself isn’t new, each year Tauck continues to sell out of the Category 1 cabins for solo travelers despite the fact that the company’s fleet has grown by 75% (from four ships to seven) since 2013.

In addition, Tauck this year reduced the single supplement by up to $1,000 for solo travelers booking Category 4 and 5 cabins on 37 departures of 15 different river cruise itineraries.

Avalon Waterways, Scenic and Emerald Waterways all feature reduced and waived single supplements for solo travelers as well.

So, wave your lone traveler flag high and proud, solos! It would appear you are no longer a liability but rather a hot commodity, and river cruise lines with their ever growing number of cabins to fill are vying for your business, one solo traveler at a time.


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