Cruise Adviser

Where next for cruise? Royal Caribbean’s Stuart Leven on family cruise

In this section, several leading industry figures talk about what the future holds in 2018 and beyond, looking at changes in innovation, legislation, luxury and family cruise, the rise of river, meeting the needs of millennials and the latest destination hotspots. Here, Stuart Leven, RCL Cruises’ vice president, EMEA and managing director, writes about the future of family cruise

Compare the cruise industry and typical cruiser of a decade ago with the guest of today and the difference is striking. Gone are the stereotypes of older passengers, instead cruise holidays are now firmly in the realm of families wanting to enjoy a holiday catered to all ages with all their needs taken care of. Unpack once, wake up in a new destination each morning and be surrounded by so many activities the little ones won’t know where to head first.


The UK cruise industry is booming and is set to see a record breaking two million passengers this year – up from 1.9 million in 2016 and, along with that increase, passenger expectations are becoming ever higher. As ships become bigger and bolder, more advanced companies strive to design and build the most innovative and exciting cruise ships possible.

At Royal Caribbean, we aim to push every boundary to go beyond those expectations and this will be shown in our latest ship, Symphony of the Seas, which launches in April 2018. The world’s largest cruise ship, it has been designed with families in mind and features the latest entertainment technology. Robot bar tenders provide cocktails with 30 spirits and 21 mixers to choose from. Wearable technology allows for hands-free payment, to locate family and friends and to tailor onboard experiences.

Perhaps where boundaries are pushed most are the onboard activities. On-deck sky dive and surf simulators, zip lines and rope courses as well as self-levelling billiard tables all optimise our guests’ experiences at sea. Looking to the future, technology will also play a major role in making our customers’ experience as hassle-free, personalised and fun as possible. From an intuitive app that enables guests to sign up for shore excursions, order drinks and make dinner reservations, to banishing check-in lines with the help of facial recognition technology.

It’s this attention to detail, from our forward thinking, high calibre teams of architects and designers which drive the advancement of our cruise ships and in turn reach wider, younger more curious audiences who are eager to get onboard to experience extraordinary adventures for themselves.

While the average age of British passengers taking a cruise holiday is 55 years old – the lowest in six years – this year, our average adult age for new families booking Royal Caribbean cruises is 42, that’s 13 years younger than the industry average. Our research shows that the rapid industry growth is being driven by new, younger audiences entering the market buying into our increasingly advanced family-orientated ships and families now represent one in four guests on our fleet of 24 – soon to be 25 – ships.

We believe our success is down to what we call the ‘Generation Thrill and Chill’ families who make up a quarter of all guests. They want adventure, to be enthralled and excited as well as coming away relaxed, having enjoyed incredible service and feeling revitalised from their cruise holiday and it’s around this that we plan our family cruises.

Innovation and investment into meeting the ever-changing needs of both existing and new-to-cruise guests is pivotal. The cruise industry is changing at a rate of knots we’re set to steer it firmly into the family domain.

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