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Do solo cruisers actually have a "supplement"?


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I am a solo cruiser and always plan to be so I am naturally interested in matters that affect solo cruising. I constantly see people writing about how expensive or even unfair solo supplements and various cruising policies related to solos are.  The more I think about it, I wonder if solos are actually preferentially treated by the cruise lines.  If so, I'm sure it is unwittingly.

 

To begin with, there is the "solo supplement" of up to (usually) 100% "extra".  Some are even more sometimes [I'm looking at YOU Celebrity].  However, these supplements up to 100% are not supplements.  You get the exact (or pretty much) same cabin as the couple who paid the same amount for that cabin (timing and promo differences aside).  They are not charging solos more.  It's not the cruise lines problem that a solo cruiser can't find a cabin mate or decides they prefer to travel solo.  So there should be absolutely zero beef about this even though it is probably the most oft gripe about cruising solo on Cruise Critic.

 

As an extension of the previous comments, solo cabins are available on certain cruise lines, often at prices well below a non solo cabin.  A couple cannot book these so the supplement can come down quite a bit to even 25-50%, sometimes  more.  Granted there is less space but how much does one really need on a cruise when alone.

 

And how about the gratuities.  It takes them nearly as long to clean a one person room as it does a two person room.  The same can be said for waiting on two vs. one.  Very similar time wise though there is some additional services for a couple.  However, it's clear to me that solos definitely get the benefit of doubt on this one.

 

Too tired to think any more but please chime in with any thoughts you have that are more favorable or unfavorable toward solo cruisers.

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BTW, I forgot to mention that all of that solo supplement is in the face of the fact that cruise lines much prefer two people to occupy a cabin instead of one, for obvious reasons of more gratuities for the crew, more on board sales, excursion sales, expanding cruising demand, etc.  So they are arguably doing solos a favor by limiting the supplement to 100%, which is all they would get on the cruise fare with two. But they don't have any extra onboard revenue to show for that accommodation.

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It's good to hear from someone who understands reality.  Getting the full fare for a cabin (whether  it is occupied by one or two people) is basic common sense for a cruise line interested in staying in business.

 

Hotels charge by the room, car rental companies charge by the car - not based upon whether one or two people might be using the room or riding in the car.  It is simply tiresome to continually hear people whining about individuals being made to pay for taking up space meant for two people when only one wants the whole space for himself.  It is not the cruise line's problem that you are single -- so why should they lose money?

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I long ago resigned myself to the solo supplement for cruising. I can't, however, go so far as to say solos are "advantaged" by it. Some thoughts of my own on that topic are that solos do not consume the daily food for two people and (at least pre-COVID) were somewhat more likely to eat in the buffet rather than MDR (no extra service needed).  In addition, many older solo cruisers are more likely to take ship-based shore excursions rather than go off on their own as a couple might (so more $$ per passenger for excursions, one of the cruise lines' biggest profit centers).

 

What I can't agree with is the mass-market cruise lines that are "packaging" their services such that solo cruisers are not only asked to pay the normal solo supplement but, because these "extras" are now bundled into the per-cabin price, they are now also paying double for wifi access, drinks package, gratuities, etc. (Also speaking of Celebrity here).

 

Several top-tier cruise lines often offer reduced solo supplements. If it was such a loss-leader, I'm not sure they'd do it. As a result it has sometimes been cheaper for me (or at least no more expensive) to sail on a luxury line vs. a mass market one.

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31 minutes ago, navybankerteacher said:

Hotels charge by the room, car rental companies charge by the car - not based upon whether one or two people might be using the room or riding in the car.

 

Not strictly true -- at least not the hotel part. Many more hotels than cruise ships offer single rooms. Perhaps less common in the US where we have so many chain hotels with cookie-cutter rooms, but true nonetheless. 

 

Also, hotels do often offer what is called a "double room for single use". Which basically equates to a certain % reduction in the room cost when occupied by only one person. I suspect the philosophy is that it is better to have the room occupied by one person than sitting empty.

 

A couple of examples:

image.thumb.png.efe28648a738f378f3aeb1d9894606f0.png 

 

image.thumb.png.82da16e32ecab3d113b4d4879b46cbdb.png

 

 

 For those who say cruise lines are not in the same situation and rely on onboard spend, I point to the restart cruises that are going out with fewer than 50% of passengers onboard. Are they losing money?  Cruise line CEOs who for years said they could only make a profit at 110% occupancy are suddently saying they can sail at much, much lower rates....

 

 

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9 minutes ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

Not strictly true -- at least not the hotel part. Many more hotels than cruise ships offer single rooms. Perhaps less common in the US where we have so many chain hotels with cookie-cutter rooms, but true nonetheless. 

 

Also, hotels do often offer what is called a "double room for single use". Which basically equates to a certain % reduction in the room cost when occupied by only one person. I suspect the philosophy is that it is better to have the room occupied by one person than sitting empty.

 

A couple of examples:

image.thumb.png.efe28648a738f378f3aeb1d9894606f0.png 

 

image.thumb.png.82da16e32ecab3d113b4d4879b46cbdb.png

 

 

 For those who say cruise lines are not in the same situation and rely on onboard spend, I point to the restart cruises that are going out with fewer than 50% of passengers onboard. Are they losing money?  Cruise line CEOs who for years said they could only make a profit at 110% occupancy are suddently saying they can sail at much, much lower rates....

 

 

Yes - some hotels, and some cruise ships, have single rooms. And many ships do not look for that 100% (so called) single supplement when they let one person occupy a double cabin. 

 

Also, hotels do not have to look to in-house (similar to on-board) spending to operate profitably — so let’s not compare turnips to strawberries (I tire of the apples to oranges cliche). And, the fact that they can sail at less than full occupancy - is irrelevant — their fixed costs: staffing, debt service , etc. are such that sailing partially filled remains better than keeping ships tied up.  
 

The fact remains :  their business model is largely built around two or more passengers per stateroom and they have very little incentive to let one person occupy a room which can hold two — no matter how inconvenient that model might be for the person who sails alone (spoken by one who has done a fair amount of solo sailing).

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32 minutes ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

Not strictly true -- at least not the hotel part. Many more hotels than cruise ships offer single rooms. Perhaps less common in the US where we have so many chain hotels with cookie-cutter rooms, but true nonetheless. 

 

Also, hotels do often offer what is called a "double room for single use". Which basically equates to a certain % reduction in the room cost when occupied by only one person. I suspect the philosophy is that it is better to have the room occupied by one person than sitting empty.

 

A couple of examples:

image.thumb.png.efe28648a738f378f3aeb1d9894606f0.png 

 

image.thumb.png.82da16e32ecab3d113b4d4879b46cbdb.png

 

 

 For those who say cruise lines are not in the same situation and rely on onboard spend, I point to the restart cruises that are going out with fewer than 50% of passengers onboard. Are they losing money?  Cruise line CEOs who for years said they could only make a profit at 110% occupancy are suddently saying they can sail at much, much lower rates....

 

 

 

They are losing money on an accounting basis for sure.  Lots of it.  Absolutely no doubt.  For what it's worth (maybe not that much), I am a CPA/MBA.  However, they are probably at least breaking even on a cash flow basis or even making a positive cash flow so it would make sense for them to sail, but they will record losses on those sailings.  Quite frankly, if they didn't sail, they would book way more losses.

 

I could go on and on but I will focus on the one major aspect of non-cash expense.  If a ship cost $800M to build hypothetically, my guess is that they will have to depreciate that cost at about $1.5 per a one week sailing.  That is an accounting "expense" but all of the cash on it went out years ago.  So for every sailing, even if they broke even, they would have had a positive cash flow of about $1.5 million.

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Solo supplements vs hotel rooms. To me they are not the same as a cruise bundles in food and drink, but the hotel is just the room, maybe breakfast, so to me not a reasonable comparison.

 

Rcl will not let solos book gty cabins is my biggest gripe. Why wouldnt a solo be allowed to book the lowest deal that 2 pax can book without having to book a fake 2nd pax. This makes the supplement higher than 200%. 

 

With double pts offer, I'm going to push to the 340 loyalty pt levels on rcl to get the solo supplement perk of 150%, though I hear like other discounts it's not always that much, but will help.

 

I too dont like the bundled perks prices where I pay extra for drinks or whatever rate for 2. Carnival is doing some bundled cheers and wifi rates, though I took 2 cheers rates, it does kinda bug me im paying for 2 of us to have cheers, me and my invisible buddy.

 

I'll often tell my steward not to bother cleaning twice a day, so less work for him. 

 

Solo cruising is a mixed bag. .. 

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Here in the UK my experience with almost 50 cruises is I have never been required to pay 100% solo supplement. With P&O the supplement has been up to 70% and the two occasions when I had a dedicated single cabin without supplement the price was almost the same as a double for single occupancy. My other cruise line Marella charges between 30-40% but only on designated cabins (approx 30 to 40 on a 2000 passenger ship) and the %age has been creeping up in the last couple of years.

 

I don't mind paying the supplement as I normally have a double room in hotels

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

Are they losing money?

 

7 hours ago, CarelessAndConfused said:

 

They are losing money on an accounting basis for sure.  Lots of it.  Absolutely no doubt.  For what it's worth (maybe not that much), I am a CPA/MBA.  However, they are probably at least breaking even on a cash flow basis or even making a positive cash flow so it would make sense for them to sail, but they will record losses on those sailings.  Quite frankly, if they didn't sail, they would book way more losses.

 

I could go on and on but I will focus on the one major aspect of non-cash expense.  If a ship cost $800M to build hypothetically, my guess is that they will have to depreciate that cost at about $1.5 per a one week sailing.  That is an accounting "expense" but all of the cash on it went out years ago.  So for every sailing, even if they broke even, they would have had a positive cash flow of about $1.5 million.

While I am not an accountant, I've got my views on this.  Depreciation is almost nothing to the cruise lines, since they pay virtually no taxes.  It may make the  corporate earnings report look better by increasing profits, but it doesn't do anything for the company physically.  The figures that have been bandied about are a misquote of an RCI executive.  He said that ships could "sort of break even" (on an EBTIDA basis) at capacity levels between 33-50%.  So, those cruises, including projected onboard spending revenue, would cover the operating cost for the voyage, but the company is still paying for the corporate overhead, and the mortgage on the ship.  So, yes, in every real sense the ships are losing money operating at reduced capacity.  The real question is whether they are losing less money than when not operating at all.  If the reduced capacity cruise revenue exceeds the cost of supplies (food, liquor, general supplies) required for the cruise, the additional fuel to move the ship, and the additional cost of increased crewing, then they will be losing less than remaining non-operational, but they will still be losing money.  Feel free to poke holes in this non-accountant's ideas.

Edited by chengkp75
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10 hours ago, navybankerteacher said:

It's good to hear from someone who understands reality.  Getting the full fare for a cabin (whether  it is occupied by one or two people) is basic common sense for a cruise line interested in staying in business.

 

Hotels charge by the room, car rental companies charge by the car - not based upon whether one or two people might be using the room or riding in the car.  It is simply tiresome to continually hear people whining about individuals being made to pay for taking up space meant for two people when only one wants the whole space for himself.  It is not the cruise line's problem that you are single -- so why should they lose money?

If they are selling “the cabin”, they should also not be able to charge extra for third and fourth passengers which is often times as much as the first two. It doesn’t always double the price but except for specials, is significant.

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1 hour ago, 2wheelin said:

If they are selling “the cabin”, they should also not be able to charge extra for third and fourth passengers which is often times as much as the first two. It doesn’t always double the price but except for specials, is significant.

If, in fact, they do charge #3 and #4 the same fare, you would have a point -- but I have rarely seen that  rather a much lower fare is quoted - and I have seen "third and fourth free"  ads.

 

  In any event #3 and #4 do consume some food - and possibly limit other sales due to absolute capacity limitations.  So there is some additional cost to the line.

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Many of the so-called mass market cruise lines use a business plan that relies on "maximizing onboard revenue" to feed their bottom line.  This creates a big economic incentive (for the cruise lines) to do their best to fill every available berth (to the maximum capacity limit allowed by safety).  Am empty berth is "opportunity lost revenue" which is revenue lost that can never be recovered.   Where does this leave singles?  While a cruise line may well give you a good deal if they have extra capacity (i.e. a cruise is not selling well) they will likely want you to pay more to help make up what is lost from that empty berth in your cabin.   For singles this sucks (for lack of a better word) but economically it does make sense.

 

The formula for the high-end all-inclusive luxury lines is somewhat different since they derive nearly all their revenue from the cruise price with little dependence on maximizing onboard revenue.  When you run the numbers it would seem that this kind of line would be able to sell a double cabin to a single at something less then 200% and still be made economically whole.  

 

Hank

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11 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

What I can't agree with is the mass-market cruise lines that are "packaging" their services such that solo cruisers are not only asked to pay the normal solo supplement but, because these "extras" are now bundled into the per-cabin price, they are now also paying double for wifi access, drinks package, gratuities, etc. (Also speaking of Celebrity here).

 

Several top-tier cruise lines often offer reduced solo supplements. If it was such a loss-leader, I'm not sure they'd do it. As a result it has sometimes been cheaper for me (or at least no more expensive) to sail on a luxury line vs. a mass market one.

 

If the model is the cruise is constantly sold out, and you easily have demand for 2 people in each cabin, why on earth would you want to sell it to 1 person, for less? Sure you can give us reasons that suit you, but why would the cruise line? It is a direct loss of revenue. Revenue is far more important to them than the "costs" of a 2nd person. 

 

Lots of people are also quick to point out how they beat the system and found a good deal for a solo cruise. That can happen. Anything can happen, especially if the demand allows it. NCL also sells "solo cabins". In my experience, they are not much of a deal. I have certainly not seen a price that is 50% of of a normal fare. 75% is the sweet spot, with sometimes it being more. Remember, there are only so many of these cabins, which are also some of the tiniest rooms there are.

 

Believe me, if given the choice, I'd absolutely love true solo pricing. I'd probably be booking one right now. Imagine what would happen to a major cruise line's business if they let everyone book a solo cabin at the price of a single person.

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Cabins are priced "per person" BASED ON DOUBLE OCCUPANCY..  so that is why people feel it's a "supplement" charge.    They should do like hotels do...and price each cabin for "up to 2 people"!

 

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40 minutes ago, Joebucks said:

Imagine what would happen to a major cruise line's business if they let everyone book a solo cabin at the price of a single person.

 

I wasn't suggesting singles should be par with double occupancy.

 

But as not all cruises sail "fully occupied" without substantial last-minute discounting, I'd be willing to bet that some cruise lines could do better offering a, say, 150% solo supplement on cabin categories and/or cruises that are not selling well and end up doing better than offering some of the last-minute "fire sale" prices I've seen....

 

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31 minutes ago, cb at sea said:

Cabins are priced "per person" BASED ON DOUBLE OCCUPANCY..  so that is why people feel it's a "supplement" charge.    They should do like hotels do...and price each cabin for "up to 2 people"!

 

 

As already pointed out in my post #5 above, it is not true that all hotels price for "up to 2 people".

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People seem locked into comparing cruise cabins with hotel rooms. I don't think it's an accurate comparison. Closer would be comparing cruise cabins with AI resort rooms, which almost always are sold as"based on double occupancy".  Many land tours I've seen are sold on the same basis, with supplements required for singles.  Just sayin' - it's not just the cruise lines that do this.

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12 minutes ago, mom says said:

Many land tours I've seen are sold on the same basis, with supplements required for singles.  Just sayin' - it's not just the cruise lines that do this.

 

I agree that land tours require a solo supplement -- but it is rarely 100%.

 

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1 hour ago, cb at sea said:

Cabins are priced "per person" BASED ON DOUBLE OCCUPANCY..  so that is why people feel it's a "supplement" charge.    They should do like hotels do...and price each cabin for "up to 2 people"!

 

Sure, and then they could add an $80 per day resort fee (not shown in the booking information) a $10 per day "safe" fee (to use the cabin safe,  a Tourism Improvement Fee (called TIF in Niagara Falls CA), etc.  Lets not even start comparing cruise ships to hotels or we might give the "suits" a few ideas.

 

Hank

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While I don't mind paying some supplement, this would be my "perfect world" scenario:  a cruise line would discount the solo price by the amount the cruise line has in it's accounting for per person meals.  Say Cruiseline ZZ puts down $100 per person for 7 days of food, discount the cabin price for a single by that much.   I've stayed at hotels in Europe on a single basis (like cruisemom42), "European Plan" (aka no meal plan or maybe just breakfast) and I've stayed in hotels on a single basis on a meal plan - I wasn't charged for 2 meal plans.  

 

I've had too many vacations, cruises included, squashed because I would have to pay full board for 2 people.   Sigh. 

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Companies don’t set prices by figuring out how much something costs and then adding on something for profit. They set prices at whatever they can get away with charging. It doesn’t matter how much a single passenger cabin costs vs double occupancy. Cruise lines often charge a 100% supplement because people are willing to pay it. 
 

No better proof of this than current prices. (Some) cruise lines are sailing with strict per person limits well below the ships capacity. There is almost so difference in cost to the cruise line for two passengers in two cabins vs two in one. Yet I still solo prices with the typical supplements. 

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Posted (edited)
On 7/15/2021 at 8:40 PM, CarelessAndConfused said:

As an extension of the previous comments, solo cabins are available on certain cruise lines, often at prices well below a non solo cabin.  A couple cannot book these so the supplement can come down quite a bit to even 25-50%, sometimes  more.  Granted there is less space but how much does one really need on a cruise when alone. 

 

And how about the gratuities.  It takes them nearly as long to clean a one person room as it does a two person room. 

 

 I've found it to be quite the opposite.  Oftentimes a solo can book a regular cabin for less than a solo cabin, even with the supplement, and get better accommodations.  As far as space, the most draconian example I've seen is NCL's 100 sq. ft. inside cabins.  I don't feel I need to be subjected to claustrophobia just because I don't have a cruising companion.

 

 Not necessarily.  I go out of my way not to inconvenience the room stewards, and keep my space tidy.  And there's just less stuff strewn about with one person.  

 

On 7/15/2021 at 9:04 PM, navybankerteacher said:

It's good to hear from someone who understands reality.  Getting the full fare for a cabin (whether  it is occupied by one or two people) is basic common sense for a cruise line interested in staying in business. 

 

Hotels charge by the room, car rental companies charge by the car - not based upon whether one or two people might be using the room or riding in the car. 

 

 I think I have a pretty good grip on reality, but I still don't have to like paying a 100% supplement.  

 

 I've never seen rental car rates based on the # of people in the car.  Don't think it's a valid comparison.  Cruise lines also specify occupancy in their fares.

 

 

Edited by Host Kat
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Of course no one likes to pay more than he would like to pay  - but why should a cruise line get less for a room just because someone wants to have that room for himself?

On 7/16/2021 at 12:52 PM, Roz said:

 

 I've found it to be quite the opposite.  Oftentimes a solo can book a regular cabin for less than a solo cabin, even with the supplement, and get better accommodations.  As far as space, the most draconian example I've seen is NCL's 100 sq. ft. inside cabins.  I don't feel I need to be subjected to claustrophobia just because I don't have a cruising companion.

 

 Not necessarily.  I go out of my way not to inconvenience the room stewards, and keep my space tidy.  And there's just less stuff strewn about with one person.  

 

 I think I have a pretty good grip on reality, but I still don't have to like paying a 100% supplement.  

 

 I've never seen rental car rates based on the # of people in the car.  Don't think it's a valid comparison.  Cruise lines also specify occupancy in their fares.

 

 

 

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