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Young at heart: Age and ageism in the cruise industry

Cruise Advice

I was disproportionately irritated recently by an article in Spectator Life where a smug 20-something journalist dismissed the idea of a cruise honeymoon, referencing 'Hawaiian shirts, cocktails with paper umbrellas and doddery retirees' in an oh-so-heard- it-before intro to her thoughts about cruising before she saw the light.

Sure, she loved her cruise. But she didn't take back the 'doddery retirees' remark. The magazine prides itself on its 'affluent, mature readership' - presumably the rest of them aren't as sensitive as I am! But it has started me thinking about age and mindsets and the unfortunate propensity of marketeers to lump an age group together rather than looking for what people, whatever their age, might or might not have in common.

Interestingly, this mistake was made by U by Uniworld when they launched last year as a river cruise brand aimed at 21 to 45-year-olds. Hats off to them - they soon recognised what they had done, and have now opened up their product to all ages - but with a seriously 'young at heart' bias.

U by Uniworld - The B

First of all, the ships are black. And then, they are called A and B. How cool is that? They propose 'late nights, overnights and unique excursions, attractive to those who've been there, done that, but want to do it again, just a little differently'. And they boast about sexy, stylish ships and itineraries that focus on longer stays in each destination, allowing guests to connect with local people, experiences and each city's vibrant nightlife. They offer two meals a day, so guests have the opportunity to go and try out the local eateries, and one daily excursion is included.

What about Virgin? Their first ship will be grey. (Am I spotting a pattern here, or is colour irrelevant?). They have made no mistake with an upper age limit, but they have set down a lower one: this will be an adult only ship (minimum age 18), explaining it with the words: 'Let's face it, even parents could use a holiday from their little ones sometimes. That's why we've taken great care to design a place where you, your friends or your significant other can have the best possible experience, sans the unpredictability of kids. Just show up with your dreams, curiosity, and love of all things stress-free.'

Virgin Voyages cruise ship

I know some luxury cruise buyers who would be very positive about Virgin's 'no kids' stance, who are near apoplectic when a child appears on a cruise they have booked (you know who you are, C!), or who admit that whilst they love their own grandchildren dearly, they really don't want to be exposed to other people's. But P&O have adult only ships too - both Oriana and Arcadia have the 'exclusively for adults' designation. And P&O are definitely not targeting the same demograph as Virgin…

Frequent visitors to our website will know that we recently featured Becky's report on her cruise with Saga. Now whilst she definitely doesn't fit into the Saga Cruises age range, she came back amazed at the party atmosphere on board, with more fun and late nights than she had experienced on many a ship with no minimum age.

Socialising on board SeaDream Yacht Club

All of this leads me to wonder whether many of the cruise lines, particularly those looking for 'new' cruisers, are not trying a bit too hard. Are they influenced by a Facebook age, where you are constantly 'served' information considered to be typically relevant to you, your political affiliations, your background or your age group? Isn't the most important thing about travel in fact to meet people who are not like you? And if so, why should that be limited to your time ashore...?

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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