Research Study Reveals New Insights About First-Time Cruisers

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What makes cruisers tick? That’s exactly what the “From Shore to Ship” study aimed to find out – and the research team came away with good news for the cruise industry in the UK. 

“From Shore To Ship” Study Signals Growth for UK Cruise Industry

Cruising is booming in the UK. According to data published by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), travelers in the UK and Ireland took 2.3 million cruises in 2023 – up from a total of 1.7 million in 2022.

With over 300 CLIA memberships set to sail in 2024, which is the first time the global CLIA member fleet has ever surpassed 300, capacity for cruising will increase by 3-4%. But in order for the industry to keep growing successfully, decision makers needed to know more about attracting prospective cruisers. 

Three major travel brands, MMGY Global, Travelzoo, and CLIA, teamed up to learn how to reach first-time cruisers in a new study titled “From Shore to Ship: Attracting The Next Wave of Cruisers. The study, which was conducted online in February 2024, surveyed 2,000 UK-based adults who had never taken a cruise before. The findings, which were released on April 17, 2024, revealed four key elements that are important to potential passengers. 

First, those who have hesitated to book a cruise in the past largely did so due to concerns about the cost and overall value. Over 60% of participants reported concerns over not just the cost of the cruise itself, but also the cost of additional travel arrangements and add-ons like specialty dining experiences and shore excursions. That said, all-inclusive, transparent pricing is appealing to this crowd, and would make them feel more confident in their decision to book. 

Second, potential cruisers are extremely motivated by the ports of call on the itineraries. Over half of the respondents said the quality of the destination would be their primary motivation to book.

Cruise Ships Docked in Southampton, UK
Cruise Ships Docked in Southampton, UK (Photo Credit: Ben Gingell)

Third, potential cruisers are becoming increasingly conscious of sustainability efforts and their role in promoting sustainability as consumers. That said, there is a significant lack of awareness regarding how the cruise industry, as well as specific cruise lines, have worked to go green – and knowing about environmentally friendly efforts is a positive for first-time cruisers. 

Fourth, an important barrier for cruise lines to overcome is accessibility. While avid cruisers will sail time and time again, the majority of non-cruisers tend to see taking a cruise as a luxury, once-in-a-lifetime event. There are definitely opportunities to show potential passengers that cruising can be accessible and family-friendly. 

Younger Prospects Show Stronger Interest In Cruising

Stereotypically, cruising has always attracted an older crowd. In the UK and Ireland, the average passenger age is 56 years old, per data from Statista. But interestingly, the “From Shore to Ship” study revealed that there was solid interest among a younger crowd – particularly those between the ages of 18 to 34. 

This interest is largely driven by digital media, and influencers on social media. With the rise of TikTok and Instagram cruise influencers, which includes both crew members and passengers, cruises have begun to seem more mainstream, cooler, and exciting to younger prospects.

Cruise Passengers Visiting Cozumel, Quintana Roo
Cruise Passengers Visiting Cozumel, Quintana Roo (Photo Credit: Dennis MacDonald)

Just to name a recent example, Royal Caribbean’s world cruise onboard Serenade of the Seas went viral on social media shortly after it set sail at the end of 2023. Ship tours to videos detailing the drama unfolding on the ship went viral on TikTok and brought influencers onboard thousands of new followers. 

That said, there are also plenty of reasons to support why cruising is a good travel option for younger people, starting with affordability. Since the majority of cruises are all-inclusive, lodging (your cruise cabin), meals, and entertainment onboard are all included. This is often less expensive than traveling to different destinations by land, which includes paying for meals, hotels, and travel daily, at a minimum. 

Read Also: What Are the Best Cruise Lines for Families?

While add-ons like shore excursions or specialty dining are often extra, they are not mandatory to purchase and there are often multiple options available to suit a range of budgets. 

Additionally, many cruise lines only require a deposit upfront and offer payment plans or allow cruisers to make multiple payments over time on their own until the final payment is due shortly before the cruise. This is helpful for younger cruisers, who may still be establishing their careers, to budget and manage their cash flow better than other forms of travel. 

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