Vince Cook, CEO of Grand Circle Cruise Line, said that the cruise line will add more than 1,100 solo spaces on its 14 river cruise and cruise tour vacations in 2014, including 748 spaces on its five most popular river cruises.
The increase represents yet another step that Grand Circle Cruise Line is taking to serve solo travelers, who now represent one in four of all Grand Circle Cruise Line travelers—up from one in five just five years ago.
"River cruising holds great appeal for the solo traveler because it makes travel easy, safer, more informative, and lots of fun," said Cook. "Most cruise lines limit the number of cabins dedicated to solos on each departure, but we are adding more single spaces in order to make river cruising more accessible and affordable for this fast-growing segment of traveler."
Grand Circle Cruise Line will allocate a total of 1,160 additional cabins for solos in 2014, with about two-thirds of these cabins being made available on Grand Circle's five most popular vacations, including The Great Rivers of Europe, Romance of the Rhine & Mosel, Russia Revealed: Moscow to St. Petersburg, Old World Prague & the Blue Danube; and Eastern Europe to the Black Sea.
In addition to increased solo allotments, Grand Circle Cruise Line already offers a comprehensive program of options and savings for solo travelers, including free or reduced single supplements on all river and small ship cruises, free single supplements on all pre-and-post trip options, a free Matching Roommate program, a free online Travel Companion program, and more. Committed to offering travelers unbeatable value, Grand Circle's per diem costs are typically $50-$500 per day lower than other small ship cruise lines, and it offers a Solo Traveler Best Price Guarantee.
With ship capacity ranging from 50-250 passengers, a spirit of camaraderie is fostered onboard Grand Circle's ships and solo travelers easily connect with other passengers. In addition, Grand Circle's guides, known as Program Directors, and ship staff are trained to keep an eye out for solo travelers, introducing them to fellow travelers at the start of and during the cruise, ensuring solos have companions at meal time and, if desired, to venture out with on shore during their free time. Most important, Grand Circle's authentic itineraries connect travelers with local people and their cultures, by bringing them into homes, schools, markets, and communities where they can experience local life, cultures and customs.
In the past two years, 79,000 travelers have sailed with Grand Circle Cruise Line, including more than 19,000 solo travelers, 80% of whom are women. Grand Circle Cruise Line anticipates 40,000 travelers in 2014, including more than 12,000 solo travelers.
Cook says that the challenge facing the river and small ship cruise line industry is to offer programs that attract solo travelers. "The exorbitant single supplement fees, the cramped single cabins, and the couples-only mentality of many cruise lines have made travel by solos prohibitive over the years," he said. "We have seen significant growth among solo travelers as a result of the actions we have taken to make river and small ship cruising more accessible and affordable.
"We see enormous potential for growth in the solo traveler market," said Cook, "and our feeling is similar to that expressed in the film "Field of Dreams"—if you build it, they will come. Solo travelers are out there, and if you offer them the value, safety, ease of travel, and camaraderie they seek, nothing will stop them from traveling."