Those studios are unlike anything else in the major-line cruise inventory. At 100 square feet they're smaller than even the typical river cruise cabins. In fact, they're about the same size as the rooms in Formule 1 and other low-end French motel chains, although each does have a separate shower, sink, and toilet. Cabins provide a full-size bed, flat-screen TV, and small desk. All studios are inside, and some have connecting doors to others. For more personal space, studio occupants have access to a dedicated two-story "studio lounge" where you can mingle with other singles or get a cup of morning coffee or an evening drink.
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Pricing seems attractive to solo travelers. For summer seven-day cruises, studio cabins generally go for $150 to $200 more than the least expensive per-person rate for an inside cabin. Where the inside cabins start at $649 per person, the studios start at $799; when the inside cabins start at $799 per person, the studios start at $999. Those prices are the equivalent of a single supplement of 23 percent to 25 percent, a better deal than the 50 percent to 100 percent supplement most mass market cruise lines charge for single occupancy of a double cabin. Norwegian's studio cabins represent the best offering I've seen for travelers who really want to cruise solo.
Of course, you have alternatives.
-- Some other big-ship cruise line ships have at least a few cabins designed for single occupancy. Check with any of the big online cruise agencies for possibilities.
-- Carnival has a reputation for low single supplements. Several postings on the Website Cruise Critic (www.cruisecritic.com) report promotional single supplements that are often very low. And the high-end cruise lines generally charge small supplements -- or even none -- although even the no-supplement rates on these ships are far higher than you'd have to pay on a mass-market line. And some small-ship "niche" cruise line ships have single cabins.
-- If you're willing to share, many cruise lines or cruise agencies will match you with another single of the same sex, so you pay only the per-person rate. A few actually "guarantee" a match: If they can't find a match, you still get the per-person rate. Or if you prefer, you can arrange your own match through one of several travel-matching organizations. But many singles I know really don't want to share cabin accommodation with anyone, and the studio cabins represent an attractive option.
-- If you're willing to gamble on finding what you want, you can also wait until a month or so before you want to leave to check last-minute deals. I've often seen "no single supplement" or "reduced single supplement" deals on last-minute promotions. And I sometimes see per-person rates cut so much that even with a 50 percent supplement, single occupancy is a great deal.
Despite these options, many solo travelers will welcome Norwegian's new approach. If you're interested, contact Norwegian (www.ncl.com) or one of the big online agencies.
Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at email@example.com. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through www.mybusinesstravel.com or www.amazon.com