The typical booker of cruises has traditionally been aged 50 or over, and travelled to destinations such as the Bahamas, Hawaii and Mexico. But all that is changing – cruise passengers are getting younger and cooler because cruise companies are working harder to attract them, and the experiences on offer are more wide ranging, affordable, hedonistic and adventurous. Jenny Southan reports
Earlier this year, luxury cruise line Uniworld announced it is launching an entirely new brand called U by Uniworld, which is squarely aimed at people aged between 21 and 45. In fact the age limit is strictly enforced, so the stereotypical white-haired OAP won’t come close to being in sight, but it will be “all aboard” for hipster Millennials.
The U by Uniworld European river cruises will meander through countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Slovakia, but unlike the sedate pace taken by their grandparents, guests on these cruises will be able to experience silent discos, big screens that display live social media posts (wifi is free, of course), painting classes on the deck (with wine), mixology and cooking workshops, and morning yoga sessions.
There will be two free meals a day with menus that encompass German street food, suckling pig buckets, healthy vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian cuisine, and two bars serving craft beer, cocktails and speciality coffee. There’ll also be a gym for keeping in shape.
Once at port, travellers will have longer periods on land, where they can go off and explore the city (one of the benefits of river cruising). A particularly innovative touch is the partnership U by Uniworld has forged with social dining company VizEat, which enables you to book dinner in someone’s home. Ships will also dock overnight or depart late so cruisers can go clubbing.
When U by Uniworld launches in April 2018 with two ships (A and B, each with a modest capacity of 120 people), trips will include “Rolling along the Rhine” from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, and “the Danube Flow” from Regensburg to Budapest. Prices will start from US$1,699 for a week.
U by Uniworld says: “Think of us as a boutique hotel that moves seamlessly throughout Europe, with meals, transportation and activities all built in. Pack and unpack once while we take care of all the details in between.”
An article in The Independent reported: “The A and B ships, although fashioned like floating upmarket boutique hotels, include studio rooms with a bunk bed and single bed, sleeping three, to help Millennials keep costs down. Solo travellers can also avoid paying a singles supplement by requesting a roommate when booking.”
Royal Caribbean has also been looking to tap into the youth market by hiring an “Instagram intern”. Described as the “World’s Largest Floating Dance Music Festival”, the Groove Cruise takes partygoers on bacchanalian voyages from LA to Mexico, and from Miami to the Bahamas.
According to Cruise Lines International Association, a record number of people are expected to go on cruises this year – 25.8 million, up from 17.8 million in 2009.
At the same time, data from Adobe Digital Insights has shown that the number of hits on cruise websites has also surged 98 per cent since the beginning of 2014, indicating a huge amount of interest in this type of holiday.
There are 26 new cruise ships on order for 2017 (both river and ocean vessels), with a combined capacity of 30,000 passengers.
By 2026, there will be 97 new ships on our seas and rivers, hosting a total of 230,788 people.
With US$6.8 billion being invested in new ocean vessels in 2017 alone, it’s easy to see how the industry is booming.