Reeling Them In: Top Cruise Hooks to Entice Millennials

Young travelers walk along the Seine River in Paris
U by Uniworld, a new river brand for Millennials and Generation Xers, launches next spring with experiential, local experiences along France's Seine and other European rivers.

Travel agents know that Millennials, those potential travelers 18 to 31, aren't like other clients. Millennials typically vacation just a bit differently. Based on Travel Agent's discussion with several travel experts, here's a synopsis of top points of emphasis to help you close the sale. 

Showcase “Authentic” Experiences

Much as Mature travelers or Boomers collected increasingly bigger cars, homes or vacation homes as they became increasingly more successful over time, Millennials strive, in contrast, to acquire more “experiences.” Getting the latest car or stepping up to a bigger home isn’t as important as collecting incredible new experiences and coming home “changed.” 

“Although everyone likes bragging rights, Millennials love the opportunity to ‘show off’ with unique experiences while on vacation,” says Rosemarie Reed, vice president of sales and marketing, CruiseOne, Dream Vacations and Cruises Inc.

The more unique the experience the better. “For them, posting real time, more artistic type photos and videos in exotic destinations on social media means everything to their vacation experience,” Reed adds. 

Tap into Their Love of Adventure

Travel Experts conducted a recent survey of travel advisors and discovered that, presto, “adventure travel” is the number one vacation choice of Millennials. They love activities such as climbing a mountain, heading out by Zodiac to see penguins in Antarctica, or running a famous marathon in a far-flung destination.

One new agent resource? Check out Travel Agent University’s new Learning Burst, "Understanding the Adventure Cruiser.” 

Indulge Their Culinary Side

As with all generations, nothing draws people onto a cruise ship like food. Although what’s on a cruise ship today for dining is a world apart from "The Love Boat" era.

Some good Millennial selling points? Some ships have sushi, sashimi and raw bars. Many have specialty dining from Asian to Pacific Northwest cuisine, from French, Mexican and Italian fare to tapas and gourmet burgers. 

Princess Cruises in Alaska

Many main dining rooms also offer “anytime” dining without set hours or pre-selected dining companions. Special main dining room like Princess Cruises’ Chef’s Table Luminiere (a Princess ship is shown in Alaska waters above), combine a galley tour, chef interaction and a chef’s exclusive meal in a private, elegant space.

Cruise buffets also now offer healthy fare, international dishes and cooked-to-order pasta or Mongolian cuisine, for example. Some lines offer vegetation and vegan dishes. On the luxury side, exclusive restaurants for suite guests are a perk for culinary buffs. 

Culinary centers also offer cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes where Millennials can create dishes and taste their creations. And there are culinary-focused shore trips too. On a luxury line, Millennials might ask the butler or concierge to set up a private cooking lesson with one of the chefs. 

Help Them Meet the Locals

Younger travelers highly value cultural activities that aren’t static. In other words, they want in-depth experiences and particularly one-on-one interaction with the locals.

They want to get to know a local family or learn how they support themselves through agriculture or a local trade. Millennials want to learn about customs, how people live, what their lifestyle is like, and how they interact with children and elders.  

Talk Eco-Friendliness

This group cares about the carbon footprint they’re making as they journey across the globe. They also want to get to their vacation destination in an eco-friendly way.

In the recent MMGY Global 2017 Portrait of American Travelers,” 69 percent of Millennials said “a cruise line's eco-responsibility record is an important factor in what cruise I choose,” while only 48 percent of both mature travelers and Boomers said the same.

So talk about new technologies such as LNG propulsion systems on soon-to-be-launched ships and use of sustainable resources onboard. One resource is, which shows what the cruise industry is doing on this front. 

Don't Overlook Global Rivers

Millennials often want to be right in the center of the action, not simply on the fringes. So river vessels that ply interior waterways can be a draw. River cruising – once the bastion of mature travelers – has transformed rapidly with active options, wine-and-culinary activities and more time in ports.

Millennials love being downtown and heading out independently for dining, local experiences and nightlife. Beyond the plethora of river options across the globe, U by Uniworld, a new brand designed just for Millennials and Generation Xers, launches this coming spring. 

“Millennials are embracing cruising and value the cultural experiences and social aspects that it provides,” says Scott Koepf, senior vice president of sales, Avoya Travel. “Promoting immersive programs unique to the traveler’s interests or educating them on innovative concepts such as U by Uniworld are great opportunities for introducing younger generations to cruising.”

Stress Wellness, Fitness and Self-Discovery

Younger travelers who've never cruised may bring along "misperceptions" – such as thinking it’s all about the midnight buffet (gone on most ships, frankly) and stuffing one's self from morning until night. So talk fitness. Outline all the options such as robust onboard fitness centers, wellness programs and active shore excursions.

Talk about how a personal trainer can help them set up a fitness regimen or improve their work-out. Definitely mention any shipboard ropes courses, running tracks, circuit training stations, rock climbing walls and basketball courts.  

Oceania Cruises Sirena Fitness Area Spinning Pilates Copyright by Susan J Young Editorial Use Only

Also talk about spinning or Pilates classes. For example, Oceania Cruises' Sirena's "fleet" of spinning machines and Pilates balls for guest use are shown above.

Small oceangoing ships may have fold-out marinas with watersports play and guests can access snorkeling gear or paddleboards, among other toys.

River cruise ships often bring along bicycles for guest use in touring a destination, and some ocean lines offer yoga at scenic sports ashore or fitness-focused hikes or climbs.  

Indulge Their Love of Wine

From wine-themed sailings to wine-tasting sessions both onboard and ashore, Millennials can easily indulge their interest in viniculture and savory vintages. When ships call at major wine-themed destinations in France, Spain, Italy, other parts of Europe or the U.S., cruisers can head out on either shoreside excursions or their own independent exploration.

See our recent story on Croatian wine options, for example. Or, perhaps suggest Millennials hire a private car and driver for a "just for me" wine tasting experience, perhaps in Bordeaux, France or Livorno, Italy, or head ashore at night to local wine bars to savor regional vintages.

Cruise lines are also increasing offering wine-and-food pairing dinners, sailing with well-known sommeliers and vintners as VIP guests. Talk about those or wine-themed ship venues in your promotions.

Address Connectivity

While it's still not a perfect world for techies afloat, it's definitely improving, thanks to enhanced bandwidth at sea on some ships, free Wi-Fi on some lines and more Internet connectivity packages. These and other steps are helping Millennials stay better connected while at sea. 

When companies make major announcements or introduce new techie products, be sure to promote these to your clients on social media. For example, Carnival Corporation will debut its high-tech, proprietary Ocean Medallion technology on a Princess ship next month and is undertaking enhanced shipboard WiFi.

Royal Caribbean International is expected to make an announcement on new technology this month.  

Showcase the Global Experience

Millennials would just as soon try out  the new Vietnamese restaurant tucked away in a tiny strip mall a try, then head for a chain restaurant. Similarly, they’d often prefer to Vietnam or Myanmar, countries in South America, or remote islands in the South Pacific to see something new and different. 

In other words, they would probably be interested in experiences offered on exotic cruise itineraries or expedition cruises.

Keep in mind that 63 percent of Millennials in the MMGY survey said Asia was an area they’d be interested in visiting while cruising, versus only 39 percent of boomers and 26 percent of mature travelers. So these travelers are less likely to shy from foreign travel. 

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