Question: I am writing about the discrimination against single travelers when it comes to cruises. Last month I desperately wanted to go on a cruise that cost $13,000, which was a bit steep for me. But when the cruise line got through with me, the cost of going solo was $27,000. I didn't go. Why can't cruise lines give us a break?
— Margery Parker
Rancho Palos VerdesAnswer: The bottom line is the bottom line. If there's only one of you, you're consuming only half the overpriced drinks, buying only half the overpriced jewelry and taking only half as many overpriced shore excursions.
Somebody has to pay, so it might as well be the solo traveler, right?
Some lines will try to link solo travelers with someone to share a cabin, and if you don't mind sharing, you can keep your costs down. But generally, when it comes to sailing single, you're on your own.
So it pays, cruise experts say, to take some of these steps:
Find a good travel agent who will watch for specials and will know what lines don't charge two-fares-for-one. Don't know a good agent? Go to www.asta.org (the website of the American Society of Travel Agents) and use its travel agent finder in the right-hand corner. Click on advanced search and type in "cruises" as a specialty. If you're not Internet savvy, enlist a child or grandchild to help.
If you think the single supplement is unreasonable, ask for a discount. (What's the worst that can happen?) "Depending on how much space is left on the cruise, some lines will reduce the single supplement," said Elaine Beno, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Consider smaller or more upscale lines. Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of the interactive online magazine for cruise travelers CruiseCritic.com, notes that many cruises have shifted from "being a village to a city." She added, "A ship that has 3,000 people [is] not going to work too hard to attract single cruisers." But small ships, she said, "not only offer good options and programs but they also have this small, cozy environment that makes it easy to meet people."
Among lines that Brown and Michael Hannan, owner of San Marin Travel in Chino Valley, Ariz., cited were Crystal Cruises and Silversea, both of which charge single travelers as little as 25% extra for solo status. Examples: On Nov. 9, Crystal's Serenity sails from Lisbon to Miami on a 10-day trip; fares start at $2,995, and the single supplement is about $750. On July 15, Silversea's Silver Wind sails from Lisbon to Copenhagen; fares for the eight-day voyage begin at $3,506 with a single supplement of about $880. (These were based on availability and may no longer be offered.)
Consider an itinerary that's not the hottest ticket going. Some of the more offbeat, less popular routes or a repositioning cruise just may have extra space that the line will give away for a song.
Well, maybe not a tune per se, but it least you won't be humming "Song of the Volga Boatmen."
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