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Baby Boomers Discover Cruises

Aug 18, 2007
Are Baby Boomers that much different from other cruise passengers? According to many cruise line executives this one group of guests has probably created more changes in cruise ship programming than any other travelers since Noah's Ark. The same group that made cell phones, BMW's and flat screen TV's a cultural phenomena is having a strong impact of how cruise lines go to market.

At a recent industry conference sponsored by Cruise Lines International Association, Marketing Chairman Dan Hanrahan (who is also president of Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises) pointed out that the lifestyle and interests of baby boomers has led to some unique new experiences on board for all passengers.

Baby Boomers, he said, tend to collect experiences as they get older versus physical possessions. So computer classes are often more popular than Bingo.

While at home, busy boomers dine out more often and therefore seek a wider variety of dining experiences on board a cruise ship. This has led to a movement from one or two main dining rooms with fixed seating times to more flexible alternative restaurants approximating the feel of a good bistro at home. Flexibility of dining times has led to a change in the old first and second seating system that has been around for 40 years. One cruise line, NCL threw out the concept completely when it introduced Freestyle Cruising a few years back and its new ships boast up to 10 restaurants touting an eat-when-and with-whom-you-choose option. Most other contemporary cruise lines offer a more limited version of this concept ranging from Princess Cruises Anytime Dining to Holland America' recently announced As You Wish open seating program in a section of their main dining rooms. Along with the dining hours and options, healthy lifestyle selections on cruise ship menus including spa cuisine has been a steadily growing trend.

Speaking of spas, cruise ships have witnessed a transformation from a small sauna and one massage table to elaborate complexes that offer everything from Thalassotherapy pools to hot stone massages. On board gyms have followed that trend with most ships now dedicating thousands of square feet and coveted ocean view space to their exercise facilities.

Ashore, Boomers seek excursions that are more action-oriented although soft adventure is the key here. They want adventure but in a comfortable environment. Cruise lines call it Culture in Comfort. Forget the tours buses, today's cruisers are more likely to be found river rafting in a cave or cycling down a volcano than buying t-shirts at a local shop.

Cruise ship casinos have evolved from afterthoughts to carefully planned and important centers of revenue. The rule of thumb is the larger the ship, the more extensive the casino. The notable exceptions are Disney Cruise lines (a corporate choice) and NCL America (Hawaiian law) ships that offer no casinos at all. But on the rest, you can find everything from the most popular slots to Texas Hold em poker.

Of course, Boomers need to stay connected, so internet cafes on the ships are an important asset to them. And while some of us don't especially like this idea, cell phones are beginning to work at sea as well as in ports where there is service. Busy boomers are used to instant gratification in their communications world and expect this to carry over to cruise vacations.

And last but not least are the musical proclivities of the boomer generation. They grew up on jazz, blue grass and rock and roll. The cruise lines keep this in mind when planning and selecting musical groups and live shows. In the mind of these travelers the only rap they are interested in is probably a sea weed wrap at the spa!

See you on board.
About the Author
Joe Ewart is a 30 year cruise industry veteran and a member of the Cruise Lines International Association Hall of Fame. He is CEO and editor of http://www.CruiseJungle.com an informaational cruise web site desgined for consumers.
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