As cruise lines create increasingly sophisticated options for families (read: go-kart tracks, extreme waterslides, and kid-focused tours and classes), several new and existing lines are going in the completely opposite direction. They’re instead focusing their efforts on adult passengers by instituting 18-and-over policies.
When Virgin Voyages launches the first of its three cruise ships in 2020—the 2,860-passenger Scarlet Lady—it will require that the kiddos stay ashore by instilling an adults-only policy onboard.
“Let’s face it, even parents could use a holiday from their little ones sometimes; to relax, order a glass of wine and dedicate all of their attention to the voyage at hand . . . sans the unpredictability of kids,” Virgin Voyages wrote in a statement on its site.
Last month, Viking Cruises took a similar stand against kids when its river cruise division introduced a new adults-only policy requiring all passengers booked on river cruises after August 1, 2018, to be at least 18 years of age at the time of sailing, making the entire line, including both river and ocean cruises, bona fide adults only. Previously, Viking’s minimum age on its river cruises had been 12, and Viking’s ocean cruises have had an adults-only policy since launching in 2015.
In truth, Viking hadn’t exactly been known as the river cruise line of choice for families and younger travelers so, according to the company, this was just a matter of making its adults-only reputation official.
“Viking has always offered experiences that are designed for travelers who are 50 and older . . . it’s what we’re known for. Increasingly our guests have told us how much they appreciate an environment where they can travel without children,” stated Viking’s senior vice president of marketing Richard Marnell. “In addition to marketing what Viking is, we believe our guests also appreciate knowing what Viking is not.”
But Viking wasn’t the first river cruise line to go adults only. Earlier this year, U by Uniworld was launched as an adults-only river cruise line with ships that feature rooftop lounge areas and itineraries that include activities such as pub crawls and silent disco parties—amenities for the “young at heart,” according to U by Uniworld, but definitely not for those younger than 18.
The no-kids approach is resonating with what travel experts say has been a growing number of passengers who prefer to travel totally children-free.
“There has been an increase in the demand for adult-only cruises,” said Nancy Yale, president of Virtuoso agency Cruise and World Travel.
Yale pointed out that a good number of passengers are seeking a quieter cruise experience and are more interested in cruise itineraries that offer more time to explore the actual ports, rather than having the focus be on over-the-top onboard amenities.
“Many people are requesting child-free sailings,” confirmed Michael Kempinski of Northstar Luxury Cruise & Travel Planners.
Kempinski said that while there currently aren’t any other ocean cruise lines besides Viking that are truly and totally kid-free (that will change when Virgin Voyages sets sail), there are several upscale and luxury ocean lines that don’t make courting kids a top priority, including Oceania Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, and Silversea—lines that often have a note in their kids policy section that they do not provide for the care, entertainment, or supervision of children or that have children’s programs during a very limited time of year, such as summer months or holiday periods. In other words, these are cruise lines where the percentage of kids on board is likely to be much lower than on very family-friendly cruise lines such as Disney and Norwegian Cruise Line.
In an environment where there appears to be more people seeking the serenity of a kids-free cruise, Viking’s move to go fully adults only is not that risky and may be a potential competitive advantage, according to Anthony Adler, president and CEO of Cruise & Resort, Inc.
“It is a point of differentiation from the larger lines that helps it stand out,” said Adler. “Giving potential passengers the knowledge that they will avoid screaming children around them might be the reason they choose Viking over one of its competing lines.”