As we witness cruise lines incorporating technology on-board to simplify ship life, as well as promoting aspirational imagery over their social media channels, it’s becoming more apparent that they are appealing to a new cruising audience.

ABTA revealed in 2018 that the average age of a cruise passenger is 56, with some cruise lines attracting even younger passengers on-board. From digital in-room assistants to smartphone apps, technology has never been so prevalent in cruising and it definitely helps the younger demographic consider it as a holiday choice.

CLIA Cruise trends and industry insights

The latest CLIA Cruise Trends and Industry Outlook explains that Generation Z are set to become the largest consumer generation by 2020 and that ‘Instagrammable’ travel is driving interest in travel around the world. As Instagram feeds fill with diverse travel experiences and on-board connectivity constantly improving, people far and wide will develop an interest in seeking out those experiences for themselves.

Person on phone

Recent figures from market research firm, Mintel, showed that the highest level of interest in taking a cruise is from the younger generation, with 38% of those interested aged between 16-34. Andy Harmer, UK & Ireland Director of CLIA said,

There’s been a lot of innovation in the cruise sector in the last five years, to ensure it appeals to a wide range of customers […] One of the great things cruise lines have been investing in is Wi-Fi. It allows people to talk about their cruise experience in a way they weren’t able to.”

This is even moreso seen with the rise in social media, with bloggers, influencers and instagrammers taking to the high seas to offer their reviews and experiences online. YouTube channels such as Cruising with Ben and David has over 25,000 subscribers and the online community overseen by Emma Le Teace, Cruising Isn’t Just For Old People, has plenty of articles, videos and advice on cruising, as well as a dedicated Facebook group.

Young couple in a destination

Cruise lines beginning to beckon millenials

Cruise lines are beginning to change how they market themselves. There are even new cruise lines with a specific focus to attract a younger audiences.

In 2019, the millenial population (born 1981 to 1996) will match the size of the boomer generation (born 1946 to 1964), meaning that it’s an equal playing field for cruise lines to attract customers to them. Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO Frank Del Rio has said he is prepared to take the challenge, with plans to introduce 11 additional ships through 2027. He continued:

There’s no question that the power of Instagram and similar apps out there are alive and well and very, very relevant. Today people communicate through photos and experiences, and we want to make sure that our guests – on any given day, there’s over 50,000 guests on board our ships – we want to make sure that they get to experience and share those experiences with their friends.”

Aside from already established cruise lines, brand new cruise lines such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages main draw is to attract young and new-to-cruise. Features on-board such as vegan dining, a tattoo parlour, resident drag performers, brunch venues, boxing ring and wellness programmes illustrate just how differently the cruise line is marketing itself to the millenial audience. Branson even stated that the cruise line is looking to appeal to “younge at heart people that want a good time”.

Razzle Dazzle - Virgin Voyages

Tom McAlpin, Virgin Voyages’ President and CEO said:

We will attract first timers and what the industry needs is first timers. There is a whole group of people that won’t cruise because they don’t like the stigma or they don’t konw or trust the brands. But they’ll trust the Virgin brand.”

Virgin Voyages isn’t the first cruise line to attempt to market itself to a younger cruising demographic. River cruise line, U by Uniworld launched back in 2018 as a fresh approach to river cruising for those aged between 21-45. Though the age dropped off and the cruise line opened up to all ages, the tactics of the line still very much remain. The branding is contemporary and feels younger, experiences include silent discos and rooftop yoga, while your room comes equipped with Bluetooth speakers, USB charging ports and unlimited WiFi. The ships are even paperless, with WhatsApp and digital screens on the ship to communicate daily programmes, menus and information.

Guests on-board U by Uniworld

Changing times with technology

Where cruise ships may have once been behind the times, they are now definitely making up for it as more and more innovative facilities are calling ships their homes. MSC Cruises has launched the first-ever personal assistant at sea – Zoe. The in-room device is ready to answer hundreds of questions about life on-board, excursions, dining reservations and is constantly learning from unique customer queries to offer the best experience for guests on-board.

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas - The innovative Bionic Bar

Outside your cabin, Royal Caribbean’s Bionic Bar is the world’s only fully robotic bar, with robots built to muddle, stir, shake and strain all types of drinks. You order your drinks on one of the tablets in the bar then watch as the robots choose from 30 spirits and 21 mixers – with up to 1,000 drinks served here each day!

Keeping millennials in mind

With ships boasting facilities such as go kart tracks, ice skating, sushi making and wine tasting, activities on-board are a big market for attracting a younger audience.

Traditional cruising lifestyles are being challenged, with CLIA’s Andy Hamer’s saying that if cruise line’s don’t engage a younger audience, they won’t grow as they have done and it pays to attract a younger audience to ensure lines still have clientele in years to come.

So while the cruise lines have already done so much to appeal to these younger demographics, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down!

Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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