Travel agents have hailed the introduction of single cabins on P&O Cruises’ new ship Azura a breakthrough.

The ship, to launch in April 2010, will have a record 900 staterooms with private balconies, including 18 for single holidaymakers – the first in P&O’s fleet – and the first Indian restaurant at sea.

London-based Mundy Cruising marketing manager Jamie Loizou said: “Few cruiselines cater for singles and most charge extra.”

Phil Nuttall, managing director of The Cruise Village in Blackpool, said price would be vital. “This is positive but it needs to be affordable,” he said.

Steve Phillpou, managing director of Gills Cruise Centre in Cardiff, added: “There’s a goldmine out there and no cruiseline has realised it until now.”

P&O Cruises managing director Nigel Esdale confirmed a single supplement would not be charged, adding: “We will price cabins according to demand.”

Esdale added the company had learnt from teething troubles earlier this year when sister ship Ventura launched. “We now have more experience of operating a ship of that scale and have taken those lessons on board,” he added.

Other features of Azura, aimed at the adult market and carrying up to 3,597 passengers, will be Indian fine dining restaurant Sindhu, created by Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar, an open-air cinema and wine bar created with help from TV wine expert Olly Smith.

The ship will increase the group’s capacity by 25% and will be the seventh ship dedicated to British passengers.

Dingle said the sector could weather the downturn, but added: “We are seeing some rebasing of our booking curve maybe people are waiting longer to book.”

The ship will take bookings from spring next year.

Single cabin on P&O Azura