Traveling on your own in a world of doubles Surcharge: 'Single supplements' mean the person who travels alone can pay 15 to 100 percent more than advertised prices.

February 23, 1997|By Christopher Reynolds | Christopher Reynolds,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Going solo in a double-occupancy world always has been a frustration for the frugal traveler, and industry veterans say there are no dramatic improvements in view.

The problem is the "single supplement" assessed by tour operators and cruise lines. That can be anywhere from 15 percent to 100 percent more than the prices displayed in industry ads.

Unlike previous generations of cruise ships, the ever-larger vessels delivered in recent years have virtually no single cabins. Older cruise ships, many now facing retirement, routinely were outfitted with at least a handful of singles, even if they were located in the least desirable areas of the ship. But clearly, double-occupancy (or more) in all cabins is more cost-efficient.

Single travelers can take some encouragement: If you're flexible, many tour operators and cruise lines offer double-occupancy rates, often called "guaranteed share" rates, to travelers willing to be paired up with a stranger of the same gender and smoking habits.

Carnival Cruise Lines' seven-day Alaska cruise fares (excluding air) begin at $1,099 per person, double occupancy. To be guaranteed a single, you must pay twice that. Many travelers opt instead for the company's guaranteed share program: Pay the double-occupancy rate, and let the line try to match them with a roommate. If no roommate is found, the line assigns a single room for the price of a shared room.

Resources for singles

Here are a few possible resources for solo travelers:

Among tour operators cited by travel agents and others for maintaining relatively singles-friendly policies are these companies: -AESU Travel (which aims for students and young people), Backroads, Brendan Tours, Contiki Holidays (which aims at the 18 to 35 market), Cosmos and Trafalgar Tours. (All of those companies sell trips through travel agents; some sell only through travel agents.) Another company popular with singles 50 and older is Saga Holidays, which sells only direct to consumers through its toll-free line at (800) 343-0273. In investigating any tour operator or cruise line, lone travelers should ask not only about single supplements, but also about "share" programs and singles-oriented trips.

Travel Companion Exchange, P.O. Box 833, Amityville, N.Y. 11701; (800) 392-1256 or (516) 454-0880: A survivor in a field where start-up businesses die young, this is the granddaddy of singles-matching travel services. Founder Jens Jurgen bought another singles service in 1982 and created this one, which lets prospective travelers pair themselves off through newsletter listings, follow-up correspondence and phone calls. He charges $99 for an eight-month membership (or $48 for a year's subscription to his bimonthly 44- to 46-page newsletter, which includes six back issues). The company counts about 2,000 active members and 3,000 more who subscribe to the newsletter but do not list themselves in it. Jurgen sends out sample issues of the newsletter for $6. A similar service, Golden Companions (P.O. Box 5249, Reno, Nev. 89513; [702] 324-2227, fax [702] 324-2236), targets lone travelers age 45 and older.

Crystal Cruises, (800) 446-6620: It's a luxury company, but for those interested in high-end travel, authorities agree that the company's modest 15 percent single supplement makes it a standout among cruise lines. (How exclusive are the company's rates? For a 12-day San Francisco-Alaska itinerary this July, double-occupancy rates begin around $4,650, excluding airfare; for a single occupant, about $5,350.)

Club Med, (800) 258-2633: Remember, this company has diversified since its most wild-and-crazy single days, and now has tailored many of its resorts to please families, others for couples, still others for singles. At the 114 Club Med villages on six continents, single supplements vary from nothing to 40 percent, depending on location and season (most resorts keep single supplements at 20 percent from May through mid-December). Club Med also generally extends a $150 discount to travelers over 55.

Connecting (P.O. Box 29088, 1996 W. Broadway, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6J5C2; [800] 557-1757 or fax [604] 737-7791) is a different sort of membership organization, founded in 1990 by director and publisher Diane Redfern. Redfern says her main goal is not to pair off travelers, but to facilitate hospitality for visitors to new cities and "create a network for travelers helping each other. Dating and mating is not the intention." Memberships run $25 (U.S.) for the first year, and include an annual copy of the Single-Friendly Travel Directory, which includes tour-company, lodging and travel-industry contacts but not listings for travel companions.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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