More Travelers Are Taking Luxury Cruises Solo — Here's How They're Affording It

Cruise lines are making it easier and more appealing than ever for solo travelers to jump aboard.

A woman walking down steps on the deck of a cruise ship
Cruise lines are introducing more options for solo travelers. Photo:

Sean Marc Lee/Getty Images

Tricia Haston, a 40-year-old single mom, had one thing in mind when she jetted off on her first cruise vacation in March 2022: some downtime. “Normally I have kids everywhere, all the time,” says the Blue Springs, Missouri, resident, who works at a high school. So when she booked her Caribbean trip on the Norwegian Escape, she wasn’t worried about being a solo traveler — in fact, that was the whole idea.

Haston decided to book with Norwegian Cruise Line in part because of the many amenities it offers individual passengers, such as a solos-only area on eight of its ships, including the newly launched Norwegian Prima. “When you’re in the Studio Lounge,” Haston says of the retreat, “it’s quiet in a good way. You have your own concierge, the lights are low, it’s very chill, and everyone’s friendly.” She enjoyed her time aboard so much that she booked another solo sail, this time on the Norwegian Getaway, that departed just four months later.

Haston is one of a growing cohort of travelers who have, in recent years, embraced the solo cruise vacation, says Sandi Valente, the travel advisor who helped Haston book those back-to-back vacations.

“Norwegian has really created a niche,” Valente says, noting that its Studio Lounges give solo travelers a place to mingle, which helps them feel just as comfortable as the couples and families who make up the vast majority of cruise passengers.

The studio lounge of the Norwegian Prima cruise ship
The Studio Lounge on board the Norwegian Prima.

Courtesy of Christian Santiago/Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian was also among the first to purpose-build cabins for singles, including 128 aboard the Norwegian Epic, which launched in 2010. Though at 100 square feet they’re smaller than average, the cabins are also more affordable, with no single supplement.

Since then, other lines have incorporated single-occupancy cabins as either a way to better utilize space or to repurpose existing staterooms. In the mid 2010s, Cunard added a total of 33 single cabins to its three ships, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria. This past September and October, Oceania Cruises converted the 18 smallest cabins on each of its four oldest ships (Insignia, Nautica, Regatta, and Sirena) into singles-only cabins. While the brand didn’t change the layout or amenities, the snug, 143-square-foot staterooms are a better fit for one.

“Cruise lines are seeing the need,” says Adam Martindale, a travel advisor in San Diego. “There’s a demand for single-occupancy travel, and it’s been increasing year over year.”

In response, companies are now including solo cabins into deck plans when they design new ships. Princess Cruises will have four solo cabins on its Sun Princess, which launches in 2024 — a first for the line. The five Meraviglia-class ships from MSC Cruises have as many as 34 solo cabins each; most of them are interior, meaning no view, but a few have balconies. Holland America Line incorporated 12 solo cabins on each of its three latest ships — Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam, and Rotterdam — all with ocean views.

A single infinite veranda stateroom on Celebrity Beyond
An Edge Single Stateroom with Infinite Veranda, on the Celebrity Beyond cruise ship.

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Others are upping the luxury ante for solos. The three latest ships from Celebrity Cruises, including the new-in-2022 Celebrity Beyond, have up to 32 single staterooms each, and all have the line’s trademark Infinite Verandas, indoor-outdoor spaces that are part sunroom, part balcony, thanks to a fully openable wall-to-wall window. Oceania’s forthcoming ship Vista will have six Concierge Level Solo Veranda staterooms when it arrives in May. Each will measure an industry-leading 270 square feet and have a private balcony.

A version of this story first appeared in the February 2023 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Going It Alone."

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