A Surprising Millennial Travel Trend: They Love Cruises | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

A Surprising Millennial Travel Trend: They Love Cruises


The cruise industry is on the cusp of a groundbreaking transformation, courtesy of millennials — the dominant force propelling this change. Born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, millennials bring their distinct preferences and desires, prompting cruise lines to adapt and cater to their needs. Join us as we explore this remarkable shift in the cruise travel landscape.

The Rise of the Millennial Cruise Vacationer

According to the 2023 state of the cruise industry report by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), there's an exciting trend taking shape. While individuals over 60 years old still constitute a significant portion of cruisers, gen Xers and millennials are not far behind. In fact, people aged 20 to 59 now make up over 50 percent of those aboard cruise ships. The report highlights millennials as the driving force behind the future of the cruise industry, with 88 percent expressing their enthusiasm for taking another cruise in the next few years. Gen X follows closely at 86 percent. Moreover, there's a surge of interest among millennials and gen X travelers who have never cruised before, with 73 percent considering a cruise vacation. Among millennials, the interest level stands at 77 percent, while for gen X, it's 73 percent.

Social media plays a crucial role in both charting this trend and propelling the rise in cruise interest. Platforms like Pinterest have witnessed a significant increase in searches for "cruise vibes" and "luxury cruise" among users aged 18 to 24, rising by 145 percent and 95 percent respectively over the past year. On TikTok, videos featuring the hashtag #cruisetok have garnered over one billion views, showcasing the immense popularity and impact of user-generated content. Millennial cruisers turn to these platforms for inspiration and recommendations, shaping their travel decisions.

Adapting to Millennial Voyagers

Cruise lines have swiftly adjusted to the changing preferences of their younger audience. For example, Celebrity Cruises enlisted the expertise of Gwyneth Paltrow and Nate Berkus to curate health, wellness, and design experiences aboard their Celebrity Beyond ships. Royal Caribbean introduced "The Mason Jar," an eatery serving brunch, invoking a sense of the uniquely millennial "artisanal hipster" stereotype.

Virgin Voyages, known for its adults-only cruises, boasts Michelin-star cuisine, on-deck yoga and free Wi-Fi, catering to millennials looking to work remotely while enjoying their cruise. Carnival Cruise Line has even considered incorporating office-like spaces onboard, recognizing the growing trend of flexible work favored by younger generations. Additionally, shorter cruises offering affordability and convenience have gained immense popularity, allowing younger workers with flexible schedules to take advantage of their ability to work from anywhere.

Flexible Work and Increased Interest in Off-Peak Booking

A sea of change is underway in cruise booking trends. Traditionally, the wave season spanning from January to March experiences a significant influx of bookings, but things are evolving. Analysis of booking data, based on pixel fires from our cruise client ad campaigns, reveals that during the 2022 wave season, cruise booking were 16 percent below the average monthly bookings for the year. However, overall demand in the cruise industry has seen a remarkable increase, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 100 to200 percent. So, why the shift?

It's possible that flexible work arrangements, favored by millennials, are shaping this trend. According to a recent study, 84 percent of millennials say remote work is important versus 66 percent of gen Z, 75 percent of gen X, and 68 percent of boomers. With millennials being the most likely to seek remote work options, they now have the freedom to book cruises during off-peak periods and enjoy a workcation at sea.

Capitalizing on the Trend: Tips for Travel Brands

Use targeted video: A 2018 study revealed 85 percent of millennials admitted to making a purchase after watching a video advertisement, significantly more than the average consumer. Create short, engaging videos that showcase the best parts of your cruises. Use data to target your ads to millennials who are most likely to be interested in cruising. This could include targeting people who have expressed interest in travel, or people who live in areas where cruises are popular.

Make it personal: Millennials are used to personalized experiences, and they expect this same level of personalization from the brands they interact with. According to SmarterHQ, millennial brand loyalty increases by 28 percent if they receive personalized communication.

Make it easy to book: Millennials are looking for value and convenience, so make it easy for them to book a cruise. Offer online booking and payment options, and make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

As millennials set sail in increasing numbers, cruise brands have adapted to meet their desires. From shorter voyages, focusing on experiential aspects of cruising and better Wi-Fi, the cruise industry has embraced this vibrant generation with open arms.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA. 

Whitney Burbank is lead of industry solutions and travel at VDX.tv.