A transatlantic crossing was once a necessity; a mode of transportation for getting from Europe to North America and back again. Now, transatlantic crossings are seen as the ultimate in relaxation: a cruise with few or no ports of call that allows you to unwind and relax from the hectic pace of 21st century living.
It has been relatively hard, however, for solo cruisers to enjoy this kind of voyage – but that’s all changing. In her most recent refit last year, Cunard Line added a total of 15 staterooms designed for cruisers sailing on their own to Queen Mary 2, carved out of space that formerly made up part of the ship’s casino and Art Gallery.
Unlike early staterooms dedicated to solo travellers – cramped, uninviting spaces that seldom featured window views or much in the way of space – Cunard’s new Britannia Single Staterooms aboard QM2 all feature oversized picture windows that let in views of the North Atlantic and the splendor of such cities as New York City.
Known as Category KB and KC, these solo oceanview staterooms feature a single bed, a sitting area, a writing desk that also doubles as a vanity area, a private bathroom with shower, and an in-suite refrigerator.
Of course, these new staterooms also include plenty of standard features found in the ship’s other Britannia class staterooms, like fresh fruit served upon request; a flat-panel interactive television set; terrycloth robes; complimentary room service, and 220V British 3-Pin and 110V 2-Pin (North American-style) electrical outlets.
What is particularly interesting about these new staterooms has nothing to do with their features and amenities, and everything to do with their popularity: They sell out. Quickly and consistently.
Ever since Norwegian Cruise Line made a point of courting solo travellers in a big way aboard the then-new Norwegian Epic back in 2010, other cruise lines have begun to realize the benefit in courting those travelling on their own, or those accompanying family and friends on longer voyages. The latter is a particularly interesting segment: Friends and family members that may have once been forced to share a stateroom (and, thus, personal space) over the course of a voyage now have the option to procure a space of their own while still managing to avoid the dreaded “single supplement.”
A ”single supplement” is typically charged to a solo guest wishing to occupy a stateroom or suite that is intended for double-occupancy. Some lines don’t add much of a fee, but for many lines, this add-on cost can be as much as 200 percent of your cruise fare; the equivalent of bringing another full-paying person with you.
With these new staterooms aboard Queen Mary 2, Cunard now offers single-occupancy staterooms across its fleet of three, including the smaller Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. Both of those ships offer oceanview and interior single-occupancy staterooms, making all of Cunard’s worldwide itineraries – including its massive World Cruise Voyages – accessible to those looking to travel on their own.
In many ways, a Cunard ship is perfectly suited to the solo traveller. Single-occupancy staterooms across the fleet are located on the same decks as many of the ship’s most popular public areas, providing first-hand access to bars, lounges and entertainment venues that are farther away from typical accommodations.
Cunard ships are also particularly social ones, with organized activities throughout the day that are conducive to meeting new people. Aboard Queen Mary 2, for instance, guests might enjoy a game of Pub Trivia in the Golden Lion Pub (always a great way to meet new people) before heading off to enjoy one of the many lectures and live music performances onboard, or take in the traditional afternoon tea at sea.
Since dinner is offered at set times in the Britannia Dining Room, it’s easy for solo cruisers to get to know their fellow shipmates right on the first day. Solo guests can request a large table that will remain theirs for the duration of the voyage, and solo guests are often paired at the same table in order to encourage socialization.
That doesn’t mean that you have to do everything onboard with other people; the main benefit of travelling by yourself is the opportunity to indulge in your own interests and pursuits unfettered by friends or partners who may not wish to do the same. Want to spend the day soaking in the Hydrotherapy Pool in the Canyon Ranch Spa? You can do that. Or, if you’d rather spend your day at sea browsing Queen Mary 2’s library – the largest at sea – you can do that, too.
While it’s great that Cunard offers solo staterooms on all of its ships and itineraries, it is particularly noteworthy that these rooms were added to Queen Mary 2 and are now available on all her transatlantic crossing itineraries. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, these staterooms aren’t likely to appeal to everyone: you do, after all, have to be willing to travel solo in order to occupy one of them.
But on the eve of Queen Mary 2’s 2016 refit, Cunard North America President Richard Meadows cited the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, which revealed that 24 percent of people surveyed travelled solo on their most recent international vacations, up from just 15 percent in 2013. Those numbers just refer to people on vacation; not those who travelled for business or other non-leisure purposes.
Adding the solo staterooms is a good move for guests, and an even better move for Cunard, as the cruise line seeks to court both first-time and experienced cruisers alike.
Times change, and personal situations change. Single travelers don’t want to give up their vacations because single supplements make them too expensive, or because facilities designed for solo travelers don’t exist. With Queen Mary 2’s most recent refit – and Cunard’s new solo-friendly direction – ocean travel for single travelers has taken a giant leap forward.