Cruising Without Kids

Main pool deck on a Viking Ocean ship. Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises. | GoNOMAD Travel
The main pool deck on a Viking Ocean ship. Viking Cruises photo.

Between Baby Boomers and Millennials, Many Adults Want Childless Cruises

By Jill Webb

Cruise ships are notorious for being a great option for a family getaway, but lately, there’s been a spike in cruise patrons wanting to get away from families– specifically, the kids.

Chris Gray Faust, managing editor of Cruise Critic. Photo from Aubrey Dunn. | GoNOMAD Travel
Chris Gray Faust, managing editor of Cruise Critic.  Aubrey Dunn photo.

On Cruise Critic, a website catering to the cruise-goer community, a poll was put out in March 2018 asking readers if they were interested in adult-only cruise ships. Out of 1,509 votes, 57% responded that they would rather not cruise with kids.

The recent influx of adult-only options sparks from cruises taking the liberty to explore new options. One of the first children-less retreats was when Viking Ocean Cruises launched an adult-only cruise, Viking Star, in 2015, said Chris Gray Faust, managing editor of Cruise Critic.

Options for everyone

The founder of Viking Ocean Cruises, Torstein Hagen, is very familiar with the river cruises due to starting out strictly as a river cruise line. River cruises are known for being more geared towards adults, with less onboard attractions and facilities for children.

“Even though they're not adult-only per say, there's usually not that many children on [river] cruises,” Faust said.

Adults dine on the deck of the Viking Longship in Budapest. Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises. | GoNOMAD Travel
Adults dine on the deck of the Viking Longship in Budapest.

One of the reasons why adult-only cruises are gaining popularity is due to the appeal to a different audience than the typical multigenerational family.

All Types of Travelers

“Cruising is a great vacation for all types of travelers and I think that’s why there’s now a more diverse offering,” Faust said. “If you think about people that travel, families are a large segment, but they’re not the only people out there traveling.

There are also gay couples traveling, people travel together with their friends.”

While adults do love to travel with their children, they also enjoy traveling with other family members or friends they don’t get to see often.

“A lot of people are delaying marriage later, or not getting married at all, and they want vacation experiences either to travel with friends or with other family members,” Faust said.

Even for solo travelers, adult-only cruising can be a beneficial way to finding cruise-goers to hang out with that are not swept up in looking after their children.

“I think that as cruising has expanded for everyone, you’re seeing more options for everyone,” Faust said.

Cruising for millennials

A modern restaurant on one of U by Uniworld's ships. Photo from Stacy Royal. | GoNOMAD Travel
A modern restaurant on one of U by Uniworld's ships. Photo from Stacy Royal.

Even in the niche of adult-only cruises, there are different demographics to be catered to. From baby boomers to millennials to gen-Xers, there are different desires across the board.

Viking Ocean is a definitely a boomer-focused product at this point, but then you’ve got something like U by Uniworld, they just debuted this month,” Faust said.

U by Uniworld is taking an innovative approach to cruising. Originally geared towards millennials, it’s now open to everyone over 18 years old.

“Even though it’s not the millennial cruise line anymore, it’s definitely more of a millennial experience with a more hip trend,” Faust said.

On U by Uniworld’s website, they note how they cater to millennials by having late-night and overnight stays in ports and by scheduling excursions later in the day for those who sleep in.

They also give you more room to do as you please, granting a less-strict cruise culture for millennials who value exploring on their own terms.

U by Uniworld cruisegoer takes a photograph of her drink. Photo from Stacy Royal. | GoNOMAD Travel
U by Uniworld cruisegoer takes a photograph of her drink. Photo from Stacy Royal.

Between eating and photographing it for social media, millennials love their food.

“If your ideal vacation includes a glass (or three) of local Rosé and an Instagram-worthy meal, you’ve come to the right place,” according to U by Uniworld’s website.

Some of their excursions have a heavy emphasis on food, exploring vineyards, breweries, bar crawls, local cafés and all the other stops a foodie would love.

“It’s kind of exciting that you see this type of diversity for all ages,” Faust said.

Virgin Voyagers, a newer cruise line, has ships in the works to be constructed by 2020. They are also locating towards targeting the millennial demographic.

Even if you don’t want to leave the kids at home for a week, you still have opportunities for some peace and quiet on family cruise ships.

O’Gills Pub on the Disney Fantasy is exclusive for adult guests. Photo by Matt Stroshane. | GoNOMAD Travel
O’Gills Pub on the Disney Fantasy is exclusive for adult guests. Photo by Matt Stroshane.

According to Faust, a lot of mainstream cruise ships are designating areas for adult-only spaces.

“I was recently on a Disney Cruise, and big chunks of the ship were set off for adults,” she said. “There was an adult-only pool, adult-only nightclubs, there was adult-only restaurants. So, you could feasibly be on the ship and not be around a ton of kids.”

Faust noted that the crew members are sticklers when it comes to these areas. 

“They were strict about it,” Faust said. “They were actually telling parents with children to leave the adult-only areas.”

These spots appeal not only to childless cruise-goers but for parents as well.

“At times, they wanna have a break too,” Faust said. “I think that cruise lines are recognizing that.”

A calmer atmosphere

Quiet Cove Pool on the Disney Dream is reserved exclusively for guests 18 and older. Photo by Todd Anderson. | GoNOMAD Travel
Quiet Cove Pool on the Disney Dream is reserved exclusively for guests 18 and older. Photo by Todd Anderson.

A big reason people are opting for an adult-only cruise is not that they hate kids, but because they want to be able to relax.

Faust said Cruise Critic sees a lot of users on their forums discuss not liking the way children sprint through the hallways, hog the hot tubs, push all the buttons on the elevators, and anything that just screams a child who had too much sugar.

“I think what people don’t like is when they see a lot of rambunctiousness, and you're just not gonna get that on an adult-only cruise,” Faust said.

People don’t mind children being around, they just want a calmer atmosphere.

U by Uniworld offers Paint and Wine activities for their guests. Photo from Stacy Royal. | GoNOMAD Travel
U by Uniworld offers Paint and Wine activities for their guests. Photo from Stacy Royal.

“A lot of people I’ve seen who don’t wanna sail with children are actually moms who wanna get away,” Faust said.

“They are very protective of their time to be with their adult friends.”

With new sailing options and designated adult spaces, cruises are showing they are adapting to a new type of cruise culture.

“It shows that cruise lines are being savvy, that there’s not just one type of cruiser anymore,” Faust said.

Cruising is working its way towards being the type of vacation to suits everyone. With so many options out now, it’s possible to find a cruise that really works for your needs.

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Jill Webb

Jill Webb

Jill Webb is a journalist who is always seeking out new and exciting places to write about. She is especially interested in telling stories about people from places that are typically ignored by the mainstream media. She is from Port Jefferson, NY.