While river cruising might not always come off as a travel style that lends itself to those traveling solo (it's hard to think of a river cruise ad that doesn't feature a couple gazing off into the distance from their balcony), there are ways in which river cruise lines have made and continue to try to make it easier for solo passengers to come aboard and have a good time while cruising.
For instance, for 2018, AmaWaterways has set aside more than 145 departures, including 24 wine-themed cruises, in Europe and Asia for which solo travelers can book a stateroom without having to pay a single supplement (this applies to all stateroom categories excluding suites, A+ and AA+ categories). Solo guests who book a base category stateroom (category E or D) on any departure will have the single supplement fee waived.
Additionally, on four of its ships — the AmaDolce, AmaDante, AmaLyra and AmaCello — AmaWaterways has a limited number of specially designed, single occupancy staterooms that feature a French balcony and require no single supplement.
"We are always excited to welcome solo travelers onboard and have continued to see tremendous growth in this market," said Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways. Solo travelers will be invited to an exclusive welcome cocktail reception and are often invited to dine at a designated captain's table in the main dining room.
New for 2018, British company Riviera River Cruises has set aside two November departures next year on which the single supplement will be waived, one on the Danube and one on France's Rhone River.
Tauck has a long-standing policy that its lower-deck Category 1 cabins never have a single supplement, and it offers a reduced single supplement on upper-deck Category 4 and 5 staterooms.
In some cases, the key to getting a good solo travel deal on a river cruise is to book early. In May, Avalon Waterways waived the single supplement on all of its 2018 Europe departures and select Mekong and Irrawaddy departures in Asia for a limited time, but now there are few remaining departures to which the deal still applies.
And this past summer, canal barge operator European Waterways waived the single supplement on many of its hotel barge cruises for the remainder of the 2017 season. So, solo travelers just need to keep their eye out.
Room for improvement
Despite these and many of the other single traveler offers that river cruise lines roll out throughout the season, the river cruise industry apparently still has some work to do. Earlier this year, the blog Solo Traveler and Australia travel insurance company World Nomads joined forces to launch the first Solo Travel Awards in an effort to recognize suppliers that are doing a standout job catering to the solo travel market.
Three of the five judges for the awards decided not to recognize the river cruise nominees as delivering what solo travelers need, and thus no river cruise line was awarded. The selection criteria included looking at things like whether and what kind of single supplement is applied, how limited and what kind of space is allocated to solo travelers and whether there are any special services provided for solo travelers before or during trips.
"There are still too many barriers for solo travelers despite the overwhelming evidence of the upside for the industry to serve this market," Solo Traveler said in a statement about the awards. "We're going to continue to advocate for the solo market and are looking forward to using the insight we have gained from our global community to help companies capitalize on one of the most important and emerging travel trends."