Although all cruises are great - they are better when shared with loved ones
I have sailed a solo cruiser on a cruise ship, and I have to tell you it isn't a picnic, despite how great it sounds. And I am not typically a brooder who cannot bear my own company. I just find cruising to an experience that is best shared with others. Dining, watching shows, discussing vacations options, sharing memories - these are all things best accomplished in groups of two or more. Being the "odd man out" is not a situation I relish for a week in the Caribbean.
That is why I am thrilled that NCL has decided to make their Studio Staterooms available to singles on a "no singles supplement required" basis. For those who do not know what a singles supplement is, it works like this; most cruise ship staterooms are built for two people, aka "double occupancy." The bed can be configured as one larger bed or two single beds, but either way the room is sold to two people, each one paying a full cruise fare. Unlike hotel rooms, if you want a cabin all to yourself you have pay the "singles' supplment", which is basically the fare for the person who will NOT be sharing that cabin with you.
But the Norwegian Epic, which will debut in May 2010, has an entire category of cabins called "Studio Staterooms" that are perfect for singles. All they have is a large bed and a bathroom, there is hardly any room for just lounging around. This is fine for one person, but would get a little crowded for two people. Originally NCL planned to sell these staterooms like any other single cabin - to two people (double occupancy), but just last month they announced the cabins will be sold to singles for the simple rate of $799 per cabin for one person.
But these Studio Staterooms are special, so named because they resemble a New York studio apartment, they all share a common public area only accessible to the Studio residents. This shared area will have a bar, snacks, big screen televisions, DVD players, etc. All of the Studios look out into this area through one-way glass. Only the Studio residents can access the public area through a magnetic strip key-card reader.
The beauty of this arrangement is two-fold. It makes it easy for singles to find other singles, and it makes it even easier for them to have a reason to meet and talk. They are essentially roommates - at least for the shared living room. But here is the other side of the story which I suspect is under-reported; it also separates the singles from the rest of the population, in all honesty - for their own good.
During my one cruise as a single I believe I was the only male onboard without a partner. I was there professionally (writing an article), but the only contact I had with other people was at dinner at my assigned seating table. I am sorry to say it was a pretty boring group of people. I even tried the singles' party and there was no one there I would want to meet again. To be honest, they were all ladies in their 60s whose sole question was whether I could fox trot. This was in 1996, mind you. Things have changed a great deal.
Outside of that party and my dinnermates, if I started a conversation with a woman she almost immediately mentioned her husband would be back any second now - as if I was trying to suggest something contrary. If I spoke to a man he generally kept it amiable and short. The staff couldn't be bothered with me. It was just a very lonely experience and the point is this - a single man on a cruise ship is generally "the odd man out," in every sense of the term, when everyone else is couples.
Why didn't Carnival agree to book another "Cougar Cruise?" The organizers of the cruise all said it was a resounding success - by their standards. In fact, contrary to my original intuition, there were far more "cubs" (younger men) on the cruise than there were available cougars (is that a redundant term?, in any case...). here is what I suspect...
With more than twice as many young men as Cougars these generally younger guys were looking for one thing, in one place; older women wanting sex. How do yo think that went down with the rest of the ship's population? I was an innocent single in my one experience, just looking for a little polite conversation, and I was treated like a Lothario just for being onboard a cruise ship alone - without even trying. Can you imagine the reaction these young men face when they tell the "civilians" they they are "onboard for the Cougar's Cruise, but there aren't enough cougars?"
That's why Carnival doesn't want the group back. I can only imagine how many cat fights and other embarassing events happened or were more likely narrowly avoided. Single people only belong on cruise ships when there are other single people to for company onboard - who are easy to find.
Therefore I give major mega-kudos to NCL for inventing the "Studio Stateroom." This is like inventing the first year-round singles group cruise. They may not have planned it that way, but in any case I think it is a great idea. Singles now have a place just for singles during an entire cruise, and that is a good thing for the singles and for the rest of the passengers.