Single travelers looking to explore Europe are increasingly turning to river cruises, such as this Scenic Cruises sailing on the Main River. Pictured: Marienberg Fortress in Würzburg, Germany.
Consumer interest in river cruising is soaring, based on trade surveys conducted by CLIA, American Express and others this year. Clients can’t get enough of river cruising for its easygoing style, onboard social aura, intimate ships and inclusive value.
Certainly couples are top prospects for river cruises. Increasingly, though, solo cruisers are also looking at European river cruises as a hassle-free, value-added way to explore the continent.
“Because of the small ship sizes, open seating dining and included touring, river cruises are perfect for solo cruisers,” believes Amber Blecker, owner, CruiseOne, Aurora, CO. River cruise passengers on European voyages are often like-minded people with similar interests.
What do solo travelers do when they want their own space, though? Many book a double occupancy cabin and pay the second fare for that cabin. That’s common.
The good news is that some lines sailing European rivers have a limited number of solo cabins for single travelers to book. For example, Scenic Cruises has one single balcony suite per ship. Six AmaWaterways ships offer single occupancy staterooms of 140 square feet.
“Viking has a small number of dedicated solo cabins on their ships,” according to Blecker. Viking Legend and Viking Prestige both feature single cabins. Tauck’s two new vessels, Savor and Inspire, launching in 2014 in Europe will each feature four dedicated solo cabins. Uniworld will have one dedicated single cabin on its newest ship, the S.S. Catherine, launching in 2014.
Viking encourages singles who wish to book into a double occupancy cabin to bring a friend and thereby avoid any single supplement. But for clients who wish to travel alone, nearly all lines have some reduced rates for the second fare. A-ROSA, for example, has Category C through F single supplements of that range from 20 percent to 100 percent.
Some lines waive the single supplement totally, either on certain sailings, for early bookings or during other promotions. A-ROSA waives the supplement for Category S and A staterooms. Avalon Waterways, which has hundreds of solo travelers sailing each year, waives single supplements on certain voyages.
Uniworld provides single travelers with reduced single supplements on multiple departures as well as waived simple supplements on 29 voyages in 2014. Among the waived supplement sailings are “Burgundy & Provence” on April 20; Castles along the Rhine on May 10, 17, November 2 and 9; Classic Christmas Markets on December 22; and “Venice & the Gems of Northern Italy” on April 6, May 4 and 11, June 22, July 6 and 27; and August 3 to name just a few.
Each line deals with it a bit differently, acknowledges Blecker, but “a smart agent can definitely help their client find an excellent value.” AmaWaterways has many designated voyages with no single supplement. For reservations booked and deposited prior on or before November 30, single supplements are waived on that line’s 2014 “Paris & Normandy” cruises on April 10; May 1 and 8; July 3, 17, 24 and 31; August 7, 14 and 28; October 16 and 23; and November 6 and 27.
Multiple 2014 AmaWaterways “wine-themed” voyages also have waived single supplements if the cruise is booked and deposited by January 31, 2014. A sampling includes “Enticing Douro” on March 25 and April 1, 2014; Paris & Normandy on March 27 and November 13 and 20; and “Provence & Spain” on November 20.
On Tauck, solo guests pay no single supplement on all Category 1 accommodations for all departures of the line’s 2014 European river cruises. It’s also reducing the single supplement by $1,000 on Category 4 and 5 cabins on certain sailings.
Usually the waived single supplements and any special pricing offers are time sensitive in terms of the booking date and also capacity controlled for many lines. Certain restrictions also apply, so ask at the time of booking.
Tauck has added a Solo Travel section and a Solo Travel Forum to its website to serve guests who might be thinking about going solo on their vacations. A Scenic Cruises’ spokesman told Travel Agent that river cruising is “probably one of best ways for a single to travel and not feel like they are being ignored. And probably it’s safer than an all-singles tour as there is no pressure to meet and mingle,” unless desired, of course.
River cruises, by their nature, are very relaxed socially. Unlike ocean cruising, the vessels typically sail during the daytime, so passengers often congregate in ever-changing groups in the lounge. There, they might engage in conversation, watch the scenic beauty passing by, have drinks or snacks, and gather when it’s time for the tour. Or, they can quietly sit or read if they so desire, something others are doing as well.
But Blecker says a river cruise’s flow naturally fosters socialization and “even the most ‘unsure’ new solo traveler will soon meet others and be included organically.” She also says the small group size for the touring also mixes up passengers even further.
Open-seating dinners afford another opportunity to comfortably meet others. Avalon Waterways says its tables are for two to 10, so solo cruisers have a lot of options.
“I’ve never felt any type of social stigma being a solo on a river cruise, and in fact it’s probably the easiest type of cruising for solos,” Blecker stresses.
Top 10 Solo River Perks
Why should solo travelers consider a river cruise for their vacation?
- Solo cabins, while limited in number, give singles their own space.
- Singles can book double occupancy cabins by paying a single supplement. Often that fee is reduced or waived on certain sailings
- Intimate ships create a social onboard aura.
- Onboard cruise directors will introduce solo travelers to fellow guests and assist singles in getting involved in activities.
- River cruises feature easy-to-join walking tours, often comprising small groups.
- Onboard entertainment fosters socialization, with such activities as a German band and bratwurst event, cooking demonstration, dance lesson, back-to-the-’70s party or wine tasting.
- Ships typically dock in city centers, conducive to independent exploring.
- Open-seat dining allows flexibility to sit with different people on different nights.
- Like-minded passengers have similar interests (culinary, wine, art, history, eco-sites, bicycling and more).
- River cruising is highly inclusive; it’s great value for money.
Open seating for meals on river ships, such as the Avalon Expression, makes it easy for singles to dine and feel comfortable not being a couple.