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Who You Are Cruising With

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Honestly, there is no way to specifically identify the demographic of every cruise line, on every itinerary, though I do think it’s a question cruisers wonder about before they cruise, or even before they consider which cruise to book.

However, I believe there are some generalities which can form pretty good guidelines to serve an aid for those asking themselves these questions. There are exceptions to every rule, and certainly exceptions to every generality. Yet, generalizing will at least assist in you learning something about the people you’re likely to find yourself on a ship with.

Families and multi-generational groups have become one of the most targeted audiences of some of the mass market contemporary cruise lines, in both their advertising, and their on board programming. That is really because they feel they can supply enough variety in entertainment, culinary offerings (and flexibility), and programming to make these “groups” happy. And they can do so at very palatable costs.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines are probably the biggest “players” in this particular share of the marketplace.

For a long time Carnival’s tag line has been “The Fun Ships”. Whereas years ago that was inferred to mean “party ships”, today, when they refer to themselves as Funship 2.o, that is meant to imply something much different. They want to be known as the cruise line that deliver fun to everyone, from singles to families, to multiple generations. And with each new ship, or ship upgrade, they admittedly do a pretty good job of delivering on what they promise.

They don’t set out, or promise to supply culinary excellence equal to what one might find in expensive restaurants. But they supply enough quality and diversity in their various food outlets, to make their target audience happy most of the time.

Royal Caribbean cruise lines owns the largest cruise ships in the world, in Oasis and Allure (Of The Seas). While always a “player” in this “family and multigenerational sector, with these two ships they expanded their programs in an attempt to capture even more of that market. Their ships (in my opinion) are visually much more dazzling than those of their competitors, with some activities, like “Flo-riders” and ice-skating rinks, which no one else has.

With regard to the culinary experience, I feel they are very similar to Carnival Cruise Line; acceptable though not stunning offerings, combined with plenty of choices to attempt to satisfy a broad audience.

Norwegian Cruise Line can also be considered to carry similar demographics. Yet, in my experience, the spectrum of the demographic onboard is not generally quite as broad. Norwegian’s directive has been increased focus on “Freestyle”. It originated with “Freestyle Dining”, touting guests could dine when they wanted, with whom they wanted, in no formalized dining format, and plenty of different restaurants to choose from. That is now expanding to enhanced entertainment programing to match the flow that “freestyle dining” creates.

There are lots of different types of restaurants on Norwegian’s ships, with about half of them carrying a surcharge (above the cruise fare) to dine there.  So, while you will certainly find some families, and multi-generational groups on board, you’re likely going to find more couples, and friends sailing with each other on these ships, because of the complications for the family/multi-generational audience to calculate the various additional dining charges.

On Norwegian’s newest ship, The Epic, and their soon to debut Breakaway, they also feature solo cabins (with a shared living room area) which do make these ships more attractive to single cruisers.

The “Traditional” cruise experience – or at least the closest thing many people these days think of as the more traditional cruise experience – is  found on Princess, Holland America and Celebrity cruise lines.

Though all three have changed and updated their versions of the “traditional” cruise experience to the times, and demands from their passengers, they maintain enough similarities to address a different target audience than Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.

However, due to similar pricing structures ( a bit higher normally, but on occasion can be found lower) are still considered mass market cruise lines – though in a “premium” sector.  As they are still in that mass market category, you will find the presence of some of the same demographics of the cruise lines discussed already;  some families and some multi-generational groups.

Holland America and Princess both were at one time considered the “grand parents” cruise lines.  Over the years they’ve both tried to broaden their audience.

In large part due to the old “Love Boat” television series, Princess Cruise Line was better able to escape that identity than has Holland America.

At first, they became attractive to honeymooners as well. And, over the years have been able to expand that base to include at least more of the population in between the two extremes. Princess also became sort of the “king of Alaska cruising”. And as Alaska began to attract attention as a popular destination Princess was able to further expand their demographic.  One is most likely to still find a generally older demographic than that in the Royal, Carnival, NCL category, but perhaps a more broad representative of age groups than them.

Holland America has made many attempts over the years to attract younger cruisers. And, to some extent they have on their Caribbean sailings, one can generally expect an older crowd on Holland America ships sailing on other itineraries.

I don’t say that to demean older people in any way. Certainly those on cruises are often still blessed with good health and their desire to travel is a good thing. I admire their desire for adventure, and have had many great conversations with some very experienced travelers.

Celebrity Cruise Line originally began with a goal of providing a traditional cruise experience, with a real focus on “culinary excellence for the masses”. While there have been several versions of what interpretations of that means over the years, they at least attempt to still deliver some semblance of that focus.

The newest of Celebrity’s ships, the Solstice Class ships, are beautifully done, and offer very sophisticated ambiance and appeal. That ambiance does in fact attract an apparently more sophisticated passenger base, or at the very least one that likes to think that way about themselves, and act accordingly.

Again, you are going to encounter some families, and multi-generational groups, but a more likely majority of the demographic is going to be middle aged, and middle and upper passengers; many looking for above average food offerings.

The luxury lines, Crystal, Regent, Seabourn, and Silversea offer all inclusive pricing, at some fairly “luxurious” per Diem costs. As a result you’re going to encounter a well heeled crowd, with average ages running almost exclusively 55 and above. They are normally well traveled, and most have very interesting stories to tell. At one time I’ve sailed each of these lines, and despite what one might expect one won’t find any sort of apparent “attitude” from fellow passengers. The majority are very social, and interesting and enjoyable company.

Cunard cruise line, is kind of a niche line within the luxury category. They sail much larger ships than the other luxury brands, and do offer what is likely the closest thing to the truly “traditional cruise experience”.  Their age demographic would be very similar to the other luxury lines.

The hottest trend in cruising is now River Cruising. However, since I have no personal experiences yet with these, I am offering no opinions or information on who’s on board. Which is also true of some of the other niche cruise lines, like explorer cruising, etc.

The bottom line is that though one might think it  more comfortable to be with folks of similar demographics to yourself, no matter of people’s ages or socio-economic status, if you’re open to it, you can and do meet some really fun and interesting people on cruise ships.  And it’s easy to avoid the nut cases, like me, who you might run into.

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –









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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time October 3, 2012 at 5:45 am

Interesting break down on the various cruise lines and what they represent and offer to their passengers, and it rings quite true.

Currently the trend is for more all inclusive lines, ie: everything included in the price, liquor – bottom shelf varieties, wines, ok, not rated above 85 points, shore excursions, mediocre ones, gratuities and the like, with more cabins called suites, than not, and butler service if one has a balcony – these ammenities vary between the cruise lines.

Some lines offer a “concierge level”, one that I covet. For a higher price and for that price, there are extra perks and the like. MSC calls their newly introduced level, Yacht Club, which offers a seperate dining room and menu, with liquor and better quality mattress and towels.

Azamara Club Cruises has or will enter the all inclusive arena next year, P&O will have one ship slated to be all inclusive, Hapag Lloyd will be probably the one offering the most for its all inclusive price, and will once again try for the English speaking audience.

It never ends, and that is a good thing.

Cunard polishes and fine tunes its three magnificent ships constantly. One problem with Cunard, they sorely need a new ship, smaller that the Queens, to be based in the US year round, larger than the MAC ships, able to introduce new passenergers to Cunard, while sailing Caribbean and Laskan waters. It worked well for them (Cunard) in the 1980’s and 1990’s, with SAGAFJORD, VISTAFJORD and the COUNTESS AND PRINCESS.

One area, the niche lines, such as Disney, if you want to hear “Its a small world afterall” and “when you wish upon a star” and have dinner with a mouse, go for it. Disney is special, and serves a vast age audience well.

There is a wonderful world of cruising pleasure to be had by all.

Comment from Don Me
Time December 5, 2012 at 6:56 am

I have read in the past of passangers living on a cruse ship. If this is so do they get special rates, and is it possible to shuffle between different ships for different ports?

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