By Hannah Sampson The Miami Herald
For their next vacation, Jessica and Michael Hammer are heading to Sweden, where they will stay with friends and immerse themselves in the rhythms of daily life.
“We want to learn about the country,” said Jessica Hammer, a 31-year-old Coconut Creek, Fla., resident who works for a software company.
One place the couple won’t be found anytime soon: on a cruise ship, which they view as “a floating prison,” “generic and commercial” and “plasticky.”
Wielding craft beer and cocktails, speedy Wi-Fi and apps, celebrity chefs and Broadway shows, cruise lines are increasing their efforts to appeal to discriminating young adults like the Hammers, part of the millennial generation that accounts for an estimated $1.3 trillion in annual spending.
“Millennials love to travel; they love to show off their travel on social media,” said Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based travel agent networks CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “We have a great opportunity to get them as first-time cruisers, and we believe they will become lifetime cruisers.”
Earlier this year, the Cruise Lines International Association identified the growth of millennial passengers as a top trend for 2014. The trade group’s most recent market profile study, released in 2011, showed that the average age of a cruise passenger was 50 and only 7 percent were between 25 and 29.
While the cruise industry has long been moving away from its history as a grandparents’ getaway with assigned dinner seating at set times and limited entertainment, operators are finding even more ways to diversify options in entertainment, food, drinks, activities and itineraries.
“Cruising is adapting to this generation by adding features that will appeal to a lot of people — but are must-haves if you want to get a millennial on a cruise ship,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of the website CruiseCritic.com.
There is no consensus yet on where the millennial generation starts and stops, but most definitions include at least the 18-34 age range; the number of millennials is believed to be between 80 million to 95 million. The group is known to be tech-savvy, global in world view, careful about spending and hungry for new experiences, according to experts.
“Affordable adventures are a huge theme for millennials,” said Jeff Fromm, president of millennial-focused consultancy FutureCast and author of the book “Marketing to Millennials.” He said the group has a greater desire than any other generation to visit every state and continent, values experiences over status brands — and must be able to share those adventures quickly with their social networks.
That makes them ideal targets for cruise lines, which promote value, the ability to visit multiple destinations and diversity in options that can let young workers without much vacation time steal away for a quick weekend trip.
Lucy Garcia, a 30-year-old travel agent in Hialeah, Fla., who owns a Cruise Planners franchise with her sister, finds that she sells a lot of weekend cruises to fellow millennials — and goes on many herself. The length is a good option for first-timers, she said, as well as those on a budget.