Cruise Report: Shun Valentine's Day and run away to sea

 

Valentine's Day is looming. However, if you feel like opting out, you might celebrate your independence by booking a holiday on board a cruise ship. Shared dinner tables, cocktail parties, deck games, group shore excursions and even professional dance partners can make a cruise the ideal holiday for a solo traveller.

Unfortunately, it can also come with a cruelly high price tag. With a dearth of single cabins on most ships – P&O's new ship Britannia, will have just 27 single cabins out of 1,837 – the alternative is to pay for a double cabin at a supplement, sometimes as much as 100 per cent, but usually about 70 per cent, which is bad enough. Solo passengers aren't encouraged by most cruise lines, even though a recent survey by the online cruise agency bonvoyage.com found that on average lone cruisers spend more than twice as much on extras (on average £495 per cruise) as people sailing in a couple or group.

One company, Holland America Line (0843 374 1300; hollandamerica.co.uk), has a Single Partners Program. Here you pay your fare based on the per-person-price for two sharing and if they can't find you a room mate of the same sex, you get the twin cabin to yourself with no extra charge. Pot luck, but could be interesting. Single fares start at £743 for a one-week cruise to Norway from Dover on 3 May.

Most lines have periodic "no single supplement" offers but they are snapped up fast. So keep a watch on the cruise lines' websites or get a travel agent to keep an eye out for you. Currently Swan Hellenic (0844 417 1939; swanhellenic.com) has no single supplements aboard Minerva, sailing for 17 days from Barbados on 29 March to Tenerife, from £1,999 including flights. Book by 28 February.

Ramblers Worldwide (01707 386767; www.cruiseandwalk.co.uk) has five cruise-and-walk holidays this year carrying no supplements for single occupancy of twin cabins with sea views, if booked before 28 February. For example, sail for 12 nights, on a round trip from Harwich down to Porto aboard Fred Olsen's mid-size, traditional ship Black Watch on 20 May for £1,250.

Norwegian Cruise Line (0845 201 8900; ncl.co.uk) has come up with "The Studios" on its three newest ships. Norwegian Epic has 128 cleverly designed, one-passenger cabins with wide beds. Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Gateway have 59 similar studio cabins on board. The studios are grouped around their own private lounge with a bar where the occupants can meet and mingle over coffee or a drink. A one-week Caribbean cruise aboard Getaway on 22 August from Miami costs from £1,601 in a Studio cabin, including flights.

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