Norwegian Epic cruise ship unveils single cabins for solo vacationers

Norwegian Epic cruise ship unveils single cabins for solo vacationersNorwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, the Epic, made national television by serving as the setting for NBC's coverage of the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular on New York City's Hudson River, with appearances by Justin Bieber, LeAnn Rimes, a couple of cast members of Eclipse, and Nick Cannon. But there's one more newsworthy event on board the new cruise liner: cabins designed for solo travelers. They may make vacations cheaper.

Usually, when you want to take a cruise vacation alone, you have to shell out and pay as if there were two people traveling in your cabin. That's because until now, the short-sighted cruise industry cost itself business by designing cabin pricing to be "per person, double occupancy." If you wanted to go alone, you had to pay for yourself, and then either for a second, non-existent person (to compensate for the empty space) or pay a steep "single supplement." Either way, the cost keeps lots of people from cruising, either because they want to go alone or because they're the odd person out in a group.

The Epic's new "Studio" cabins change that. Rather than paying, say, $800 twice for the right to have an inside double cabin to oneself, solo guests on the ship pay about $1,000 for a Studio. That price is for now, but it will drop as the ship becomes less fashionable. No matter the price, it grants the right to have a specially designed single cabin to oneself. Suddenly, cruising becomes cheaper for a whole new group of people.

Unfortunately, solo travelers are still treated somewhat like second-class passengers -- there are no Studio staterooms facing the water, only inside, where frosted windows face the cobalt-lit corridors. Still, the new Studio staterooms are hardly steerage. Beds are full-size (although couples can't book them together, they can conjoin cabins), and the class of 128 rooms comes with its own bar and lounge, which on a frenetic, entertainment-packed ship like the Epic can be both boon and a welcome break.

I was on board the Epic for an inaugural journey this week. This image (above) is a rendering of a typical Studio cabin, which I can attest is mostly accurate.

It's been good year for budget travelers who want to cruise. Disney Cruise Line announced that its cheapest cabins on its Disney Dream, coming in January, will come equipped with funky new video portholes starring major animated characters.

The Epic will alternate on two Caribbean itineraries from Miami starting next week.

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