aThink of cruise holidays and an entire host of pictures spring to thoughts. Endless buffets. Crushed velvet upholstery. Sex on the seashore (the cocktail, clearly). His and hers dressing robes. Jane McDonald. And, most of all, tons and many older individuals, from well-heeled fiftysomethings to time-rich retirees. Millennials? Not a lot.
That could also be altering, although. Last July, the Cruise Lines International Association revealed that the typical age of cruisegoers had fallen to a sprightly 46, its lowest determine in 20 years. (In the UK, the quantity is a extra mature 55.) While these figures could not appear significantly dramatic, they’re nonetheless encouraging for an trade that has been largely reliant on the gray pound.
Various cruise corporations are working arduous to coax youthful holidaymakers on board. Last month noticed the maiden voyage of what’s being known as the primary line aimed squarely at millennials. U by Uniworld, which presents river cruises by way of varied European cities, together with Amsterdam, Budapest and Frankfurt, made headlines when it introduced that its ships would solely settle for 21- to 45-year-olds. That higher age restrict has since been eliminated – Uniworld’s CEO, Ellen Bettridge, suggests the U line is as a substitute for individuals with an adventurous mindset – however the enchantment to youth stays.
A pool get together on the Anchored cruise
On board U’s two vessels, you’ll discover silent discos and mixology periods, whereas the black-tie meals related to P&O et al have been changed by a extra informal eating expertise that includes brunch and small plates. It is virtually Dalston on the Danube.
Uniworld isn’t the one established cruise model chasing youthful clients. Next 12 months, the German agency Amadeus is launching cruises alongside the Rhine, the Danube and the Seine with onboard “celebrity influencers”, who will doc the journey on social media. The Regent Seas Explorer presents spin courses and designer purse shops, whereas MSC’s Seaside class kinds itself within the method of a Miami South Beach apartment, and has a teppanyaki grill and the longest zipline of any cruise ship on the planet. Then there are the floating festivals similar to Anchored and Groove Cruise, the latter boasting EDM artists together with Deadmau5 and Benny Benassi.
Those festivals construct on one other unlikely pattern: the theme cruise. Various these cruises emerged initially of the last decade, that includes bands similar to Paramore and Weezer, comedian e-book conventions and, bizarrely, the solid of the Saw horror movies. Even competition large Coachella briefly acquired in on the act, with a lineup that featured Pulp, Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
On board the SS Coachella. Photograph: Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images
One lesson discovered from these theme occasions is that the cruising itself isn’t essentially the primary draw. “With something like Anchored, people didn’t necessarily know they were going on a cruise. This just happened to be a floating festival at sea,” explains Adam Coulter, the managing editor of the web site Cruise Critic.
Uniworld has equally tried to minimize the cruise little bit of its millennial-friendly cruises, with Bettridge describing the U as a substitute as a “floating boutique hotel that you can hop on and hop off”. It presents common stop-offs at European cities, with the boats sitting in dock till the wee small hours for the advantage of late-night revellers. The boats are smaller, encouraging nearer contact between passengers. There can also be much less of an emphasis on the mass group actions – the “herding around”, as Coulter places it – of conventional cruise traces. Instead, holidaymakers are inspired to discover, with bicycle excursions, journeys round meals markets and visits to breweries or the seashore.
Twenty-seven-year-old Nina, from Canada, was on U’s first cruise. “I have done a lot of megaship cruises and this river cruise definitely has a different feel to it,” she says. “There are fewer individuals and also you get to work together extra. I’m an lively particular person, so I significantly appreciated how lively the excursions have been. Lots of biking, for certain.
“The age group did play a factor in our decision-making,” she provides, noting that the typical age of passengers on her boat was “late 20s and early 30s”.
The Weezer cruise
The new type of cruising may compete with extra conventional package deal holidays for youthful clients, Coulter believes. “You’ve got a ship that’s going to, say, Mykonos, Kos or Santorini in the middle of high season, when you can’t get a hotel room for love nor money.” A cruise ship, with lodging, meals and even some booze included within the value, may begin to look tempting.
How tempting stays to be seen. U’s least expensive holiday is £1,469 for eight days – lower than many cruises, however nonetheless a major outlay for many youthful individuals. The scrapping of the higher age restrict suggests they don’t seem to be fairly able to throw themselves at this type of package deal holiday.
Yet even when the millennial cruise proves to be little greater than a passing fad, it’s having an impact on the broader trade. Coulter notes that some options – extra time in port, much less emphasis on group actions – are being adopted by the larger traces, that are additionally racing to incorporate eye-grabbing expertise similar to indoor skydiving tunnels and large HD screens.
Perhaps most crucially of all, web entry – previously some of the retrograde elements of the cruise expertise, sluggish and infrequently laughably costly – has lastly sailed into the 21st century, with reasonably priced superfast wifi on many traces. Perfect, Coulter notes, for the “generation that wants to post selfies and put stuff on Instagram. They want their friends to know they are on a cruise.”