The Gen Z crowd might try and call the shots when it comes to family vacation decisions, but Baby Boomers have their say as well, with skip-gen cruise vacations trending upward, although multigen bookings aren’t anywhere near slowing down. In fact, cruises are abuzz with all sorts of families—whether it’s the traditional kids and parents, or grandparents traveling solo with the grandkids (and leaving those pesky parents behind). And why not—on a cruise ship, the “are we there yet?” gets tossed out the porthole, especially when you consider the inventive attractions cruise lines keep adding to their fleets.
Waterslide Fun on Steroids
Remember when waterslides were the big kid-friendly thrill on board a ship? I had a conversation with a cruise industry expert the other day who told me we’re bound to see a rollercoaster on a ship sooner than later. Ok, we’re not quite there yet, but cruise lines are so innovative, so forward-thinking, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched, and families have come to expect ground-breaking, outside-the-box thinking from cruise lines. Says Maureen Leesman, Cruise Planners franchise owner, “I am very impressed with the creativity of onboard activities. For my clients, the onboard offerings play a large part in the cruise selection. For the many families that have not cruised before, the destination is less important than keeping everyone occupied while on the ship.” And cruise lines are continually upping the ante with their onboard offerings, because, as Leesman says, “they are definitely selling points for cruise lines.”
Leesman notes that, “Royal Caribbean is one of the best cruise lines for families thanks to the onboard activities.” Speaking to that, Royal Caribbean just reimagined the Mariner of the Seas and beginning June 2018, passengers will be able to experience The Perfect Storm, a duo of racing waterslides; a glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience; a new escape room; and the brand-new Sky Pad, a virtual reality, bungee trampoline. For the latter, passengers will strap in and don their virtual reality headset to transport them to another time and planet to bounce over moon craters or compete in intergalactic games. Royal Caribbean International’s president and CEO Michael Bayley, says, “With the new Mariner of the Seas we invite travelers to weekend like they really mean it and make the most of a quick getaway than they thought was possible.” That quick getaway that Bayley refers to is a 3- or 4-night Bahamas cruise from PortMiami to Nassau and CocoCay, the line’s private island destination.
For families looking for longer Caribbean cruises, say five or seven nights, the Disney Magic and the Disney Fantasy are good options—the ships will feature Star Wars Day at Sea and Marvel Day at Sea programs during several departures from January through March 2019. On these cruises, fans can expect themed activities, unique F&B offerings, an over-the-top fireworks display, and character meet and greets. Early 2019 will also see Disney Cruise Line expanding its 2-month season from San Diego to Baja and the Mexican Riviera. Cruises are on board the Disney Wonder and range from two to seven nights. During the week-long sailings there’s ample time to get a more in-depth feel for the destination, where active families can opt for cliff diving or ziplining in the jungle.
Kids’ offerings have also been amped up on board Princess ships, with the kids and teens clubs going through a total reimagining. The revamped program, Camp Discovery, was created in partnership with Discovery Consumer Products, as part of the cruise line’s Discovery at Sea program. Separated by age group—The Tree House (ages 3 to 7); The Lodge (ages 8 to 12); and The Beach House (ages 13 to 17)—the spaces seek to merge education and fun, and the decor and activities fit each age group’s unique vibe. Guests will find the new spaces on board Grand Princess, Caribbean Princess, Majestic Princess, Regal Princess, Sea Princess, Star Princess, and Island Princess, and this month sees its debut on Crown Princess. The new center designs will continue to launch individually through 2019: Sun Princess (July 2018), Ruby Princess (October 2018), Royal Princess (December 2018), Coral Princess (January 2019), and Emerald Princess (April 2019). For clients headed to Hawaii, recommend 15-day cruises that sail to four islands on the newly glammed up Star Princess, which features not only the new Camp Discovery, but also “many of the signature product innovations our guests have come to love, including the Princess Luxury Bed and revamped Sabatini’s,” says Jan Swartz, the line’s president.
Hawaii sailings will run through April, and then Star Princess heads to Alaska for the summer season.
Toss Out the Generation Gap
In its 2018 Cruise Industry Outlook, CLIA looks beyond the multigen market segment and points out that skip-gen cruising is “projected to be highly popular in 2018 and beyond, with grandparents and grandchildren traveling together without their parents.” So we asked Leesman if, in fact, she was seeing more skip-gen bookings, and she said that although she’s finding multigen travel quite popular, “I’ve [also] noticed more interest in skip-gen with grandparents who want to enjoy some time with the grandkids while parents are working on their careers.”
Consider the possibilities: Maybe a milestone celebration that brings the Millennials and Boomers together sans parents, or a grandma/granddaughter cruise.
Disney Cruise Line: disneycruise.disney.go.com
Princess Cruises: princess.com
Royal Caribbean International: royalcaribbean.com
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: uniworld.com
Families Take to the Rivers
You might not automatically think of Uniworld when you’re planning a cruise vacation for a family, but Uniworld offers highly popular family cruises. Certainly, part of Uniworld’s family cruise popularity can be credited to its roster of kid-friendly amenities: dedicated family hosts—one for ages 4-12 and another for teens 13-17, specially designed excursions, craft workshops, cooking and language classes, special kids table and kids-only movie nights. Clients may still find some availability on this year’s family cruises, which include Enchanting Danube and Munich, the Remarkable Rhine, the Seine River on a June sailing, and Gems of Italy-Milan to Venice. And come winter, there are some festive family choices: the Parisian Royal Holiday—when the chateaux along the River Seine and the City of Light are at their holiday best, and Classic Christmas Markets: Nuremburg to Frankfurt.