When many think of cruise holidays, they still envisage being surrounded by rich elderly holidaymakers playing shuffleboard and lounging on sunbeds. There are still a huge number of cruises that cater to an older audience, but as the variety of cruises on offer grows, the average age of passengers has begun to fall.

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)’s 2016 Cruise Review, the average age of UK cruise passengers had dropped by almost a full year to be just over 55, the lowest figure in six years, and internationally the average age has fallen to 46, the lowest it’s been in 20 years.

The cruise industry has always attracted the older generation, who typically have more disposable income and time in their autumn years to spend on a lengthy and leisurely cruise, but cruises are also a family affair. Nowadays there are a huge number of offerings specifically focused on a younger crowd, from wholesome family vacations, to theme cruises aiming to bring the high seas to a different genre of holidaymaker.

Trendy cruise trend: focusing on a younger market

Cruises being offered as a family experience are nothing new. Many cruise liners have family entertainment set up, with some longer voyages even featuring childcare. Disney Cruises are arguably the kings of child-friendly entertainment – with the company falling under the Walt Disney Company corporate umbrella, the company has the full range of Disney movie intellectual properties at its disposal. Kids can dance with Mickey, swim with Nemo, and have story time with Belle.

“Cruise options for single travellers have steadily been picking up pace.”

But at the opposite end of the spectrum, cruise options for single travellers have steadily been picking up pace. Norwegian Cruise’s vessel the Norwegian Epic in 2010 began to offer ‘studio cabins’, priced for solo passengers, with single patrons having access to the Studio Lounge, a place to mingle over drinks. Websites such as SinglesCruise.com have cropped up to capitalise on the rising number of single cruisers.

Embracing a younger, more liberated crowd, Italian company MSC Cruises offers condoms, lubricant, pregnancy tests and the morning-after pill on prescription to passengers. Of course you don’t have to be single for these to be of use. TheSwingerCruise.com caters to individuals of all ages looking for a more unconventional cruise journey no matter the age of passenger.

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Uniworld has also embraced a more millennial-focused way of thinking by creating a spin-off of its Uniworld River Cruises offering in U by Uniworld. Public spaces and on-board activities are specifically designed to appeal to a younger crowd. The upcoming Virgin Voyages have done the same with the launch of the Scarlet Lady in 2020, which features facilities such as a tattoo parlour.

Targetting specific markets with themed cruises

Themed cruises are increasingly being provided by major liners to cater for predominantly younger crowds. “Nowadays there are many themed cruises to suit all tastes and interests,” says CLIA UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer, “Fans of Strictly Come Dancing can take a themed sailing and mingle with stars from the show. Walking Dead fans can meet their favourite actors as they succumb to a zombie apocalypse on a floating Walking Dead cruise. And for an out-of-this-world experience, cruise guests can travel to the final frontier on Star Trek themed bashes.”

“Nowadays there are many themed cruises to suit all tastes and interests.”

And of course music lovers have long had cruises catering to them, with concerts taking to the waves. According to Harmer the number of music-themed voyages is rising every year, with many cruises becoming veritable music festivals at sea. “A recent trend is for organisers to charter cruise ships and sell tickets for ‘festival cruise’, with impressive electronic DJs or rock band artist line ups,” he says. One of the largest of its kind, the KISS Kruise draws in massive crowds every year, and in 2019 is setting sail for its ninth outing on the Norwegian Pearl. Around a dozen support acts join the headliners – KISS – for a five day ocean-bound rock bonanza.

Cruise providers are identifying that a wider array of people are now not only able to afford cruises, but are seeing them as an ideal inclusive package holiday. It makes sense for these companies to cater to a broader demographic. “There are over 50 cruise lines in the industry and each have a unique offering for their guests,” comments Harmer. “With so many different types of cruises on offer, there truly is a cruise for everyone. The cruise industry aims to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“Cruise lines aren’t only trying to attract a younger crowd; they are trying to attract all types of holidaymakers, from families and couples, to solo travellers and groups of friends, whilst always ensuring that they keep their loyal guests happy too.”