Cruises are recruiting a younger, more affluent crowd and reinventing the floating holiday, says Kelli Armstrong.
The business of cruising has long been bursting with desirable destinations, but dispelling its reputation as a floating retirement home has proved challenging. Well it’s time to ditch your perception of senior citizens shuffling along the corridors to the evening cabaret or for a game of bingo — cruises are no longer just a tick off the bucket list for those headed for the nursing home.
In fact, an exciting new brand of sailing on the high seas is being marketed towards adventure-seeking, social media-sharing millennials.
This experience-driven generation are salivating for memorable interactions to stimulate the senses rather than flaunting career status or material possessions like their generational predecessors. Now that they’re reaching their earning potential, tourism has gone next level to tap into the experience economy.
With the UN estimating that 20% of all international tourists are young people (some 200 million travellers each year), cruise companies have turned creative in a bid to entice them on board.
To capture the attention of a generation of savvy adventurers who favour forking out for experiences rather than souvenirs, ships are focusing on high-tech offerings. Customers can expect intuitive on-board apps, rock climbing walls, zip lines, spin and yoga classes, surf simulators, high-speed internet, dance parties, hipster mixologists behind the bars, international DJs on the decks and plenty, plenty more.
For those whose idea of a good time is one big party at sea, Groove Cruises offers exactly that. They’ve successfully changed the cruising mindset with their four-day rage that sells itself as the “world’s largest floating dance music festival”. They’re currently offering seafarers trips from LA to Mexico or Miami to the Bahamas, but be quick — these floating festivals sell out fast, ensuring an at-capacity ocean indulgence.
Spearheading the technology movement is Carnival Cruise Lines with their ultimate “smart” ships, the all-new Ocean Medallion Class. They feature wearable medallions that unlock cabin doors, enable cash-free purchases and act as navigation devices. Carnival’s largest ship, the Regal Princess, will be the first to host the technology later this year. In addition to dining in celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s restaurant and meandering along a glass walkway hovering above the ocean, passengers can now have their every move anticipated. Or not. The disc can be stowed away for privacy.
And when it comes to indulgence, the premium offering from Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Edge, plans to make its mark next year with a travelling platform called the Magic Carpet. It will move between decks, creating an open-air extension off the pool area or an al fresco restaurant.
To satisfy guests they’re also rolling out smartphone-accessible digital assets on its fleet. An X-ray vision app enables users to “see through walls” to the ship’s usually off-limits areas such as the bridge, the galley and the engine room. With luxury interiors by design queen Kelly Hoppen and a rooftop garden attended to by a resident horticulturalist, this is the ultimate sailing vacation. Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Richard D. Fain, calls it “one of the most exciting, innovative and transformational ships I have ever been involved with.”
Australian escorted travel company, Wendy Wu Tours, has noticed an uplift in bookings from a younger demographic.
“We’ve seen an increase in interest to new rivers, such as the Brahmaputra in India,” says Nicole Black, Senior Product Executive. “Younger people are looking to travel the more off-the-beaten-path destinations, but with ease. Cruises along the lesser known routes like this open up new possibilities for different locations, travelling styles, types and demographics.”
Revolutionising the river cruise industry in Europe is U by Uniworld, a millennial-specific brand from Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Aimed towards a young and adventurous audience, the trendsetting cruising brand will set sail in 2018 with European river cruises geared towards the snapchat gen. “We are proud to be pioneering the way for aspirational travellers with this incredibly immersive and youthful product, not seen anywhere else in our market,” said Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld’s CEO.
Four seven-night itineraries with names like Rolling on the Rhine and Dashing up the Danube are priced around US$1,699 per week. As well as on-board activities like wine tasting and silent discos, cruisers will enjoy overnight adventures at some of the coolest cities in Europe: think Budapest, Paris, Amsterdam and Vienna. On shore, travellers are given the opportunity to embark on guided group excursions – everything from food market shopping with the ship’s chef to white water rafting and nightclubbing.
The social media-friendly adventures are aboard the all-black ships “The A” and
“The B”. Finished with contemporary interiors, stylish communal hangouts and roof deck lounges all laden with USB ports, these boutique sailing hotels accommodate up to 120 young guests.
Whether cruising’s new focus on design, tech and social smarts is about navigating the needs of millennials or simply keeping up with the times is debatable. The reality is that the travel landscape is changing to meet the needs of a changing world, and the reinvention anchors the point that there’s no reason to wait for the twilight years to hit cruise mode. So, are you on board?