Cruise Research

of four

Demographics - Cruise Takers

The typical U.S. cruise passenger is a married baby boomer woman from Florida with a bachelor's degree and an income between $100,000 and $124,999.


  • According to the 2018 CLIA Cruise Travel Report, 47% of cruisers are baby boomers, followed by gen-X at 20%, millennials at 18%, and traditionalists (or the silent generation) at 15%.
  • However, 70% of millennials say they will definitely book a cruise again compared to 52% of gen-X, 49% of traditionalists, and 47% of baby boomers.
  • The average age of a cruiser whose trip lasts for 16 days or longer is 58.
  • The average age of a cruiser whose trip lasts for fewer than three days is 38.
  • For trips that last between six and eight days, the average age of a cruiser is 52.
  • In 2015, the majority of North American cruise passengers were between the ages of 35 and 54 (40.9%).


  • Women are more likely to take longer trips, as 56% of females would prefer a cruise that lasts between six and eight days compared to 53% of males.
  • However, men prefer shorter cruises, as 23% of men like trips that last between three and five days compared to 21% of women.
  • In 2015, the majority of North American cruise passengers were female at 50.9%.

Income Level

  • The majority of cruisers have an annual income of between $100,000 and $124,999, representing 18% of cruisers.
  • The second-highest income bracket for cruisers is between $70,000 and $79,000 at 13%.
  • Just 9% of people with incomes of $50,000 to $59,000 take cruises and only 5% of people who earn $500,000 or more choose to cruise.
  • In 2015, the majority of North American cruisers had an annual income of between $50,000 and $120,000 (50.9%).

Educational Level

  • According to a 2015 study, the majority of North American cruise passengers had a bachelor's degree at 34.9%
  • The next-highest educational level of cruisers was some college at 31.2%.
  • Master degree holders represented 17.9% of cruisers, compared to high school graduates at 11.5% and PhD holders at 3.6%.

Marital Status

  • Most cruisers are married, as 78% of cruisers travel with their spouses.
  • Just 1% of cruisers travel alone, but 32% travel with their children under the age of 18, 22% travel with their friends, and 17% travel with other family members.

Geographical Location

  • The majority of U.S. cruisers are from Florida at 17%.
  • Cruisers from California follow in second place at 11%, Texas is in third at 9%, New York follows at 6%, and Georgia rounds out the top five at 4%.
  • Cruisers from North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois each represent 3% of U.S. cruisers.

Research Strategy

The majority of demographic information on U.S. cruise passengers came from a report published by the Cruise Lines International Association in 2018. This report covered age, income level, marital status, and geographical location. There were also some insights into gender; however, the results were broken down by length of cruise rather than overall. There was no information on the educational level of passengers.

To find the gender and educational level of passengers, we continued searching for other market research reports published by sources such as Deloitte, PwC, and other consultancy companies. There were some reports on the reasons why people go on cruises and the cruise amenities that most satisfy passengers, but nothing on gender or educational level. We expanded our search to research paper repositories such as ResearchGate, ProQuest, and JSTOR, where we found a slightly older study published in 2015 that provided demographics of North American cruisers. Since it wasn't specifically about U.S. cruisers and was out-of-date by our standards, we elected to pass on this research initially to attempt one more research strategy.

We thought that perhaps travel agencies, travel blogs, or industry publications would cite cruise statistics for marketing purposes, which would lead us to the original surveys. After searching through sources such as CruiseCritic, Maritime-Executive,, Cruisable, TravelAgentCentral, and TravelPulse, among others, we only came across the number of cruisers per year, popular cruise destinations, cruise ship rankings, and demographic information for individual cruise lines (excluding gender and educational level). Therefore, we elected to expand our criteria to include the study from 2015 that included data on gender and educational level of North American cruise passengers. Since 77.1% of cruise passengers in the study came from the U.S., we assumed that the statistics presented in the paper mostly represent U.S. cruisers.
of four

Psychographics - Cruise Takers

The habits, hobbies, spending habits, and values of cruise consumers appear to vary a bit depending on the specific segment of consumer. Factors such as age and income play primary roles in differentiating these psychographics. Overall, however, American cruise consumers are looking for experiences that are customized/personalized to their habits and needs, they enjoy a wide range of hobbies from adventurous to leisurely, spend logically according to their income level, and value the feeling of being empowered and delighted. A deep dive into these findings and their associated nuances has been provided below.


  • Some cruise consumers are known for taking multiple vacations each year, sometimes four or more, according to Cruise Market Watch. This segment includes retired, upscale boomers and empty nesters.
  • Older cruise consumers are often looking for traditional experiences rather than experimenting. They are a fan of the tried and trodden path and are known as loyal customers who already have preferred cruise providers.
  • Upper-middle-class families are a segment of cruise consumers who are very busy and are often crunched for time. They spend a lot of time running errands related to their families.
  • The segment of cruise consumers who are looking to 'get away from it all' (known as 'Escapers') are considered a core group in the cruise market. They don't want any stress or complications or worries.
  • Lower-income cruise consumers are less concerned about trip destinations and available activities and are more focused on the idea of taking a trip overall. They are looking to internalize their experiences, rather than being interested in the outside world.
  • Cruise consumers often rely on expert reviews when comparing cruise line options and other hospitality services.
  • Among American travelers overall, they spend time doing thorough research, especially when preparing for a trip. They use the internet to help them plan and book their travel and aren't afraid to compare their options.
  • According to the Cruise Line International Association, many modern cruises are digital nomads who want to be able to work remotely during their travels.


  • Some segments of consumers enjoy making new friends and being social. This segment includes retired, upscale boomers and empty nesters.
  • Young professionals are another segment of cruise consumer that are upscale and motivated. They enjoy adventurous activities such as rock climbing, surfing, snorkeling, and parasailing.
  • The upper-middle-class family segment spends their time shopping, attending their children's sporting events, and other family-friendly functions such as birthday parties.
  • Consumers in the 'Escapers' segment enjoy leisurely activities such as lounging by the pool, relaxing, and casual exploration.
  • American millennial-aged consumers value fitness and expect to have quality fitness amenities onboard a cruise ship.
  • According to the Cruise Lines International Association, modern cruise consumers enjoy opportunities to 'check-out' and rejuvenate by focusing on wellness. This includes activities like visiting spas, oxygen bars, innovative fitness experiences, and access to healthy foods that can accommodate a wide range of diets.

Spending Habits

  • Some segments of cruise consumers are known for having a lot of disposable income. This segment includes retired, upscale boomers and empty nesters.
  • 'Escapers' enjoy all-inclusive experiences that are easy going. They are known for being a little price sensitivebut are keen on scraping together money for a trip they feel they deserve.
  • For lower-income cruise consumers (i.e. non-professionals), prices are a top priority. They tend to hop on deals when they deem them to be really good and they are being widely advertised.
  • Top-upper class individuals, who are noted as a segment that is able to afford a cruise, often have inherited wealth and have likely never dealt with financial struggle. Their spending habits are lavish and they don't consider prices.
  • Bottom-upper class individuals, who are noted as a segment that is able to afford a cruise, tend to have earned wealth. While they don't spend as frivolously as the top-upper class consumer, they are still able to spend freely.
  • Top-middle class individuals, who are also noted as a segment that is able to afford a cruise, tend not to squander money, but they are able to afford the 'finer things in life' for their families.
  • Bottom-middle class individuals are known as white- or grey-collar workers who can only afford extras on an occasional basis. When making large purchases (such as cruises) they carefully consider their options and the finances involved.


  • Some segments of cruise consumers value social causes and education, according to Cruise Market Watch. This segment includes retired, upscale boomers and empty nesters.
  • The young professional segment of cruise consumers value learning and new challenges. They have an intellectual curiosity and aren't afraid to test out different cruise lines.
  • The upper-middle-class family segment wants ways to maximize their leisure activities together as a family.
  • According to Deloitte, cruise consumers want to be empowered and delighted when dealing with a company. Empowerment, in this case, means the consumer wants to be in the driver's seat of their experience, but they want to be provided with opportunities that enable them to do things on their own terms. Delightful experiences, in this case, are those that surprise the consumer and exceed their expectations.
  • According to our previous research, a typical cruise consumer in the U.S. is a baby boomer with an income of over $70,000 per year. According to Experian's Audience Lookbook, individuals in this demographic tend to be ultra-conservative in their political views. They tend to be well-informed and have strong opinions.
  • Among American travelers overall, they tend to value family-time, flexibility, and would prefer to engage with a company that acts ethically, even more so than one that provides a good discount. They also value knowledge and think it's important to be well-informed.
  • According to Deloitte, American cruise consumers value consistency when it comes to meeting standards. They want to make the most of their experiences, be able to find important information easily, be able to customize their experiences, and have a convenient booking, check-in/check-out experience while cruising.
  • American millennial-aged cruise consumers value environmentally sustainable practices.
  • According to the Cruise Lines International Association, Generation Z is becoming attracted to the idea of cruise travel due to the fact that they value multiple-destination travel and unique experiences. A unique experience for them would be something like a music festival held on a cruise ship.
  • Digital nomad cruise consumers value remote, work-friendly environments that offer accommodations such as WiFi, desks, and cafes.
  • According to the Cruise Lines International Association, modern travelers are looking to travel in ways that are conscious and mindful.

Additional Information

    During the research, a publicly available report was identified that goes in-depth about cruise consumer psychographics. This report was not included in the findings above as it is significantly out-of-date (published in 2000). However, it has been linked here as a source for additional insights.
of four

Cruising Passengers - Preferences

Passengers from the US enjoy cruises because of the numerous distractions and activities available. However, some things that passengers do not like about the experience are institutional food, germs, small cabins, and extra prices. Customers usually take cruises during high season (i.e., spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere); people generally start planning for cruises half-a-year to a year in advance.

What People Enjoy About Cruises

  • Cruises are no longer associated with boredom, the elderly, and dullness. Generation Z and Millennials are attracted to cruises more than ever for the benefits and experiences they bring. The things that passengers from the US enjoy about cruises are onboard activities (e.g., surf classes, martial arts, holistic activities, and dance classes); the chance to visit exotic places; the opportunity for romance (for both singles and married couples); and numerous opportunities for socializing.

What People Don't Enjoy About Cruises

  • While US passengers enjoy many things about cruises, there are also aspects that they do not enjoy. These include: The institutional nature of the food (i.e., it is mass prepared); expensive excursions (Ex. $90 to $200 per passenger); small cabins; germs; costly extras (e.g., alcohol, spa time, private restaurant food, and movie tickets); and the first-come-first-serve nature of the dining areas.

When Do People Take Cruises

  • According to some reports, North American passengers prefer cruises to the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Bermuda. For those destinations, the best time to go is in spring and summer. Generally, customers know that the worst time to cruise is during the low season.

When Do People Research Cruises

  • Generally, people start researching cruises half-a-year to a year in advance to take advantage of fluctuating prices. People feel better prepared with an investigation of at least six months.

Why Do People Take Cruises

  • There are many reasons why people take cruises, but some more common ones are: Better value for the trip (Cruises visit multiple destinations; tickets start at $180/passenger, and a family of four can spend less than $2000 on a seven-day cruise); the enjoyment of nature on the open sea; the ability to get away from work and home life; and the family-friendly environment.

Research Strategy

We began our investigation by looking at travel industry databases and news sources. We were able to obtain opinion data for US passengers, despite scant information from official travel sources. We consulted a source with a global scope to confirm that information.
of four

Cruises - Growth and the Drivers of Growth

Between 2017 and 2018, the passenger volume of the United States cruise industry grew by 10%. The factors responsible for the growth of the United States cruise industry include the growth of river cruises, diversity of experience, access to otherwise inaccessible locations, adoption by younger generations, social media, and digital nomads. Further details on the growth and growth factors of the United States cruise industry can be found below.

Growth Rate

  • Between 2017 and 2018, the passenger volume of the United States cruise industry grew by 10%. However, between 2016 and 2018, the cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of the industry was 7.2% (calculations below).
  • In terms of revenue, it is expected that the United States will grow from revenues of $23.2 billion in 2015 and to revenues of $31.5 billion by 2020. This represents a CAGR of 6.31% (calculations below) between 2015 and 2020.
  • Between 2017 and 2018, the number of customers who took part in cruises of 14 days grew by 33% the biggest growth relative to the change in other duration.
  • Conversely, the number of passengers going on cruises of over 21 days reduced by 31% between 2016 and 2017, and then by a further 16% between 2017 and 2018.

Factors Driving the Growth of Cruising

Social Media and 'Instagrammable' Cruise Adventure

  • The growth of social media is one of the influential factors driving people to do more cruises as more and more people document their adventures in pictures and videos, which they then share on their social media feeds, particularly Instagram.
  • One of the notable effects is that it showcases these individuals in multiple locations during a single cruise trip.
  • In essence, those interested in cruising are looking for "instragrammable moments" they can share with their friends, family, and social media followers.

Adoption By Younger Generations

  • There's been an uptick in the number of younger people willing and interested in cruising as part of their next vacation. This is especially true for millennials.
  • The percentage of this cohort who will "definitely" book a cruise for their next vacation increased from 63% to 70% between 2016 and 2017.
  • Not only are they traveling on cruises more, "their share of the Premium and Luxury segments is higher than average for these segments."
  • Gen Z is expected to "become the largest consumer generation by the year 2020—outpacing even millennials."

Diversity of the Experience

  • In meeting the demands of the yearning public, cruise lines have developed multiple events and activities that make cruising more experiential.
  • So, cruising is no more about an achievement per se, from the angle that "Yes, I have ticked cruising off my bucket list," but more about genuine and sometimes personalized experiences that go beyond sight-seeing. In simple terms, travelers' bucket lists have become more goal-oriented.
  • For example, cruise lines are including activities such as culinary classes by Le Cordon Bleu chefs, technology lectures, and immersive theater evenings. So, it's not only fun but also an opportunity to learn new skills.

Access to Otherwise Unreachable Locations

  • The Cruise Lines International Association, Inc. in its 2019 'Cruise Trends and Industry Outlook' report that "Access is the new luxury."
  • This assertion is rooted in the fact that more travelers are interested in visiting places that are mostly inaccessible to other forms of travel.
  • As such, more cruise operators have reduced their frequency to familiar destinations in favor of inaccessible destinations such as Galapagos Islands, Polynesian islands, Papua New Guinea, Alaska, and Antarctica.
  • The fact that cruise lines are offering these new destinations is fueling the demand for cruises by travelers.

Working Nomads

  • In 2017, the number of Americans freelancing reached 57.3 million. It is expected that "the majority of U.S. workers will be freelancing by 2027;" the growth of freelancing has increased the number of digital nomads — people who work remotely and travel while at it.
  • The freelancing trend has also coincided with the rise of combining leisure with work.
  • Digital nomads are "opting for trips where they can work remotely which cuts down on time off and lost wages."
  • Cruise ships tick the box with access to WiFi and other pertinent resources and as such provide travelers, especially digital nomads resources they need to work and have fun at the same time.

Growth of River Cruising

  • This segment of the cruising market is growing mainly because "there is a huge generation of active baby boomers retiring and looking for better-sophisticated travel options closer to home."
  • Older travelers are also looking to circumvent long-haul flights while still seeking activities closer to the shore.
  • Younger travelers are also seeking "soft adventures" which has prompted cruise companies to add "itineraries on the Columbia and Snake rivers."
  • United States river cruise operators report that the market is growing and that they are unable to meet the growing demand.


United States Cruise Passenger Growth

In 2018, the total passenger volume of the United States cruise industry was 13.09 million. In 2017 and 2016, this figure was 11.94 million and 11.39 million, respectively. Between 2017 and 2018, the passenger volume grew by approximately 10%. Using an online CAGR calculator, we can equally estimate the growth rate of the cruise industry between 2016 and 2018 by entering the following variables.
  • Final value (2018 passenger volume): 13,090,800
  • Initial value (2016 passenger volume): 11,391,700
  • Period (2018-2016): 2
  • Growth rate: Unknown

Between 2016 and 2018, the passenger volume of the United States cruise industry grew at a CAGR of 7.2%.

United States Cruise Industry Revenue Growth

Statista reports that the size of the cruise line industry in the United States was $23.2 billion in 2015 and projects that the industry will reach $31.5 billion by 2020. Using an online cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) calculator, we calculated the growth rate, and subsequently the market size for 2018 using the variables below.
  • Final value (2020 market size): $31.5 billion
  • Initial value (2015 market size): $23.2 billion
  • Period (2020-2015): 5
  • Growth rate: Unknown
The growth rate of the cruise industry between 2015 and 2020 is projected at 6.31%.
The Statista values can also be found in this attached document as a screenshot.