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Cruise Ships Now Depend on Parents Bringing the Kids Along

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In the summer of 1951, a passenger aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth had plenty of things to do. There was shuffleboard, deck tennis, books to borrow from the library. The Berlin Philharmonic performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in the ballroom; waiters served poached turbot with sauce Dugléré; and a fella could set down his highball just long enough for a spin around the dance floor with his wife. Cunard’s marketing office had just launched a new tagline: “Getting there is half the fun.”

And it was—for adults.

Yet as the ads here illustrate, if there’s one thing more startling than the growth of the $38 billion cruise industry, it’s the comparatively recent takeover of the seas by kids. Cruise lines carried 1.6 million passengers under 18 last year, and while it’s probably no surprise that the likes of Carnival boarded over 700,000 children on its ships in 2012, even grown-up carriers like Norwegian report that “intergenerational travel groups” now make up to one-fifth of their rosters. How did passenger ships go from floating adult playgrounds like the one in this 1951 ad to the literal playgrounds they are now?

“Historically, family travel meant loading everyone in the car and driving an hour to the beach,” said Michael Stone, president of travel consultancy Gestation. As a kid in the postwar years, Stone was lucky to travel on the old Cunard liners—but only because his father was a travel agent. “There might be one or two other kids on the ship,” he said. “There was little to do but run around. There weren’t playrooms. We never went to dinner.”

And so it went for many years—until everything changed. Fast. Disney World opened in Orlando in 1971, drawing millions of families to central Florida. One year later, retired cargo shipper Ted Arison bought a mothballed Canadian ship and started Carnival Cruise Lines, which trumpeted informal, budget-friendly cruising out of Miami. By 1983, Disney had taken notice. Inking a deal with Premier Cruises to drop costumed characters aboard ships leaving Port Canaveral, Disney launched the Big Red Boat, which Stone helped to market in its early days. Somewhere amid these new business ventures—and the falling away of old social formalities—“the idea of families started to come into the travel psyche,” Stone said.

There’s no better proof of that than Disney Cruise Lines, which in 1993 nixed the Big Red Boat deal to set sail on its own. The House of Mouse was the first carrier to design ships with kids in mind, including extra large suites for families, “Youth Clubs” and teen-only spas. It’s essentially the junior equivalent of the adult distractions that Cunard hawked in this ad 63 years ago. And while today’s dad still has his arm around mom’s waist, it’s not to do “the stroll” but to take one instead—with the children.

By Robert Klara, AdWeek

For more cruise news & articles go to http://www.cruisecrazies.com/index.html

Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more


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I think it's great that parents can now feel good about bringing their children with...there are plenty of ships to choose from that have so much for the kids to do. Personally, when I do get to cruise, I like to go on a ship without so many children onboard since we have experienced kids operating the elevators, going up and down for hours, and running up and down our hallway at night, etc. I'm a mom and grandma, so I love, love, the children, but when I get a chance to vacation on a nice cruise ship, I Iike it to be a little more adult, like on a ship like Celebrity. There's something for everyone today...which is so great! If I my children were young, and I wanted to take them on a cruise with me, I would choose Disney or Carnival...lots for them to do there, and Disney seems perfect since they have things just for the adults, too.

Wondering how much more money that the lines bring in when they have many children onboard. I've never checked the prices for the kids.

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There's been a big shift in the way people travel over the last decade or do. I think because both parents work and the kids are in day care and school, family time has become precious. As a result, mom and dad - who used to leave the kids home with grandma while escaping on their own - are now taking the kids along, and that includes cruises, too. To cut down on the cost, kids sail at a reduced fare in the same cabin with the adults. To attract more families, "Kids Sail Free" promos have appeared in the past couple of weeks, as well. Really, all you have to do is look at the newest super mega ships and the number of activities for kids and families to see how mainstream cruiselines are aiming their ships directly at families.

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