Cruises have a reputation for catering to older vacationers. Or at least, they used to. In recent years, millennial and Generation Z travelers have taken the cruise industry by storm.
Why now? What changed? Here are some of the top reasons there’s been a spike in interest in cruises for young adults.
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Looking for Escape
Younger generations tend to spend money on experiences, rather than things, so they travel more as a whole. An impressive 84% of millennial and Generation Z travelers would rather take a dream vacation than purchase a luxury item, according to the 2023 Global Travel Trends Report by American Express.
Ports of Call Are Calling
Cruises that feature multiple ports of call seem to be a big draw for younger travelers who want to sample a slew of different destinations on one trip.
AAA travel advisor Melinda Hardaker, a millennial who has been on four cruises herself, said part of the appeal of cruises for young adults is the ability to explore multiple destinations “while only having to unpack once.”
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No Decisions Needed
A cruise vacation is easy to plan, with far fewer logistics to figure out than other types of travel. Young travelers appreciate the seamless experience cruising provides. You don’t have to book hotel rooms in each city you visit, figure out how you’re getting to your next destination or find your own shore excursions – it’s all included. The biggest decision is whether you should get the drink package or not.
Dining at Sea
Once upon a time, cruises were known for lackluster dining options and boring buffets. That time is long gone. Cruise lines have majorly upped their game in the dining sphere, featuring restaurants by celebrity chefs, hibachi grills, steakhouses, experiential dining options and more. Still prefer the main dining room? Get friendly with your server – they’ll wait on your table the whole trip, learning your preferences, dietary restrictions and tastes.
A Lot of Boat for Your Buck
Cruising is cost-effective. The price of your ticket will usually cover your room, meals in most onboard restaurants, onboard entertainment, use of the pool and room service. Some luxury cruise lines even include airfare. You will usually pay extra only for things like a drink packages, shore excursions and spa treatments.
Younger travelers who are looking for a vacation with a lot of value realize that cruises can be a comfortable way to travel for less.
Variety of Entertainment Options
There’s never a dull moment on a cruise. Entertainment options are packed in every corner of the ship, so you won’t have a chance to get hit by the doldrums.
“I’m big into musicals and performances,” said Hardaker. “So I always check out what’s happening on the ship while researching.”
Like most generations, millennials and zoomers love live music. Lounge singers, piano bars and band performances are common sights (and sounds) on cruise ships. And if you’ve got the nerve to get behind the mic yourself, don’t miss karaoke.
Some cruise lines even offer Broadway-scale performances. Royal Caribbean has featured shows like “Cats,” “Grease,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Hairspray,” and Norwegian Cruise Line has put on musicals like the new smash-hit “Six,” “Kinky Boots” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
There’s also more interactive entertainment options, like dance-offs, trivia tournaments and escape rooms.
Attractions and Recreation
Cruise ship attractions have gotten pretty amazing in the past decade or so. You don’t need to leave the ship to have a full day of fun. From roller coasters to trapeze schools, sea days are anything but boring. Younger travelers particularly enjoy Norwegian Cruise Line’s go-karts, Carnival’s aerial SkyRide recumbent bikes and Royal Caribbean’s surfing and skydiving simulators.
Many cruises also feature classes on topics like cooking, painting and dancing. You could leave your vacation with a new skill for samba!
Rise of the Cruisefluencers
It’s no secret social media has a lot of deciding power when it comes to millennial and Gen Z travel plans. The Global Travel Trends Report unveiled that among millennial and Gen Z participants, 46% reported traveling to a destination because of Instagram, and 29% said the same about TikTok.
Young cruising influencers like Smart Cruiser and Emma Cruises are part of the thriving #CruiseTok community on TikTok. Featuring reviews, cruise tips and travel footage, their posts are not only getting more young adults interested in cruising, but showing them how to do it like seasoned passengers. It also doesn’t hurt that cruises are great vacations for photo ops.
Cruises for Young Adults: First Time Tips
“Do your research,” said AAA travel advisor Cody Jette, a Gen Z cruiser who recently completed an Alaskan cruise. “While travel advisors can provide a plethora of information, it is best to play around with the cruise line resources and really get a full understanding of how it works.”
“Just breathe,” Hardaker added. “The ship is going to offer so many things for you to do, but don’t feel rushed or intimidated. I find that while cruising, I’m a more go-with-the-flow type. Make plans but don’t plan every day. Try something new and out of your comfort zone. Have fun!”
Read about another AAA travel employee’s first cruise experience.
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Featured image: Princess Cruises SeaWalk