It's All Aboard The Ship
Aiming Younger, Cruise Lines Keep Piling On the Fun
By Meghan Collins Sullivan
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 20, 2004; Page F01
While there may be a significant group of closet "Love Boat" die-hards out there, the image of Cruise Director Julie McCoy is quietly fading away.
Anyway, it would be kind of hard to spot her from the top of the rock-climbing wall. Or to hear her announcing the shuffleboard tournament over the noise of the helicopter flying you to the glacier for your ice-climbing excursion.
"People always used to think cruises were for people older than them," said Dan Hanrahan, senior vice president at Royal Caribbean, the No. 2 cruise line. Even if you were 65, "you'd think it was for someone older."
Killer volleyball games and against-the-current lap pools are the $13 billion industry's way of suggesting that cruises simply aren't all deck chairs and dining-room ice sculptures anymore. And while ships continue to cater to the core baby boomer crowd, the eldest of whom will soon enter their sixties, cruise lines are having some success in attracting the younger set. The average cruise customers have dropped in age from nearly 50 to their early forties over the past five years, according to Royal Caribbean's data.
"We've seen the biggest increases in younger families," Hanrahan said, adding that young couples and singles have also joined the cruise crowd.
"There's a real interest in introducing cruising to the younger set," said Terry Dale, president and chief executive at Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), whose 20 members make up 95 percent of the industry.
Many ships have incorporated mock nightclubs where the underage set can meet and dance the night away, virgin daiquiris in hand.
TV commercials are careful to show that Dad can still sack out by the side of the pool while the rest of the clan goes in-line skating. That is, when they're not gambling in the casino or watching an outdoor movie or skateboarding. But cruising has also become almost as much about being off the ship as being on.
Ann Adams, 38, a consultant at Allstate Insurance who took Carnival Cruise Lines' Western Caribbean cruise, visited a baboon sanctuary at a stop in Belize. "They definitely had a good mix of excursions, and the descriptions give an indication of how strenuous they are," she said. Some cruises allow golfers to take lessons on board, then tee off at a fancy local golf club when the ship arrives at port.
CLIA's Dale says offshore excursions are only getting more challenging and exciting.
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