SWINGING TOWARDS SINGLES- A SEA CHANGE IN ATTITUDES (Updated)

CNV00002For years, most cruise lines have treated single passengers like pariahs, subjecting them to exorbitant extra occupancy supplements, and often pigeon holing them into the least desirable areas of real estate on board ship. But, at last, it looks like things are starting to slowly change…..

Recently, P&O’s Ventura emerged from a dry dock that shoe horned some eighteen inside cabins into the ship, bringing her neatly up to scratch with her sister ship, Azura. Not so long ago, the veteran Oriana had a small number of single cabins added, in a similar refit.

While the number of single passengers has been steadily growing, the mainstream lines traditionally reacted by simply hiking up their single supplements. To the great surprise of nobody with a surplus of brain cells, these would be travellers simply voted wit their feet.

The real game changer came in 2010, when the heavily revamped Norwegian Epic finally arrived on the scene. Chief among the ship’s controversial raft of new features was an entire complex of tiny, inside solo rooms- or studios as the company calls them. Fitted out with funky lighting and their own, dedicated lounge, this studio complex was a huge hit from the start.

Many in the industry were taken aback to find just how well these small rooms- around a hundred square feet each- actually sold. Demand was such that a similar, smaller complex was installed in the brand new Norwegian Breakaway. The 2014 debut of sister ship, Norwegian Getaway will also showcase a similar complex, bringing affordable single living spaces to the Miami run for the first time ever.

Norwegian have also just installed some studio cabins into the refurbished Pride Of America, though whether the trend will be across the rest of the fleet is unclear. However, what is clear is that the success of the concept has caught on with the opposition.

Next year, Royal Caribbean will debut the much anticipated Quantum Of The Seas. For the first time, Royal will incorporate single cabins into the design. But the company is going one further; for the first time, a mega ship will showcase single cabins with balconies. A wonderful idea, but not quite as original as it in fact seems.

CNV00002Long the preferred UK carrier of older, single passengers, Fred. Olsen retrofitted most of their ships with at least a clutch of single balcony cabins a few years back. Almost uniquely, the line has always offered a decent number of single cabins on most cruises, albeit mostly insides.

Next year, the line will go one better, with a series of cruises where twin cabins can be booked at no single supplement. In the main, these tend to be on longer cruises, but there are some astonishing bargains to be had.

Rival company. Cruise and Maritime aslo offers some dedicated single cabins, but the supplements for these come in at around a hundred per cent in any event. A rethink here might yield more positive passenger numbers.

Kudos should also go to Costa, who pegged single supplements at a pretty reasonable thirty per cent a few years back. In a similar vein. MSC have also offered- and continue to offer- some excellent single bargains for those travelling solo.

Typically, the solo supplement for a double cabin is around fifty per cent for insides, graduating to a full hundred per cent for the best suites. No one could realistically complain about the latter, in all fairness. But single supplements on some lines are still way too high.

Worst offender is, unquestionably, Cunard. They ask an eye watering seventy five per cent extra, even for inside cabins. This is both bad publicity for the line and, ultimately counter productive when the opposition charges a lot less. Why pay that much extra for what is, effectively, a three class ship, when you can pay a lot less for more egalitarian lines such as Celebrity? It makes no sense to me.

CNV00085It’s doubly ironic still, when you consider that the veteran QE2 had a number of small single cabins. In the current financial climate, my guess is that the single supplement as it is, is ultimately unsustainable, and will probably go the way of the old dress codes.

Of course, the true solution is to follow those lines now building, or retrofitting their ships with single cabins. They take up little enough space, respond positively to an obviously growing market, and more or less guarantee a solid, constant revenue stream. Accountants need to listen more to passengers, and liaise better with designers.

The end result would, I’m sure, work for pretty much everybody.

Update:

Since this post was first written, Cunard has installed a small group of eight, inside and outside cabins aboard the Queen Elizabeth. It’s a small start, but still a welcome one.

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