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A bride and groom pose for their wedding photographer as Mavi Marmara is escorted to Ashdod port
Reuters/Amir Cohen
Meeting cute.
ALL ABOARD THE LOVEBOAT

The cruise industry is trying to attract millennials looking for romance

By Zainab Mudallal

This article has been corrected.

The cruise industry is known for its outlandish amenities: on-board climbing walls, floating casinos, nightclubs, and ice spas. And for some time now, cruise companies like the clothing-optional SwingersCruise.com have catered to older swingers, naturists, and “cougars.”

But cruise lines—like hotel chains—are trying to find ways to encourage younger travelers to join the 22.2 million people worldwide expected to take a cruise in 2015. Seven new cruise ships are expected to enter the market this year.

The average age of a cruise passenger is down from 56 in 2002 (pdf), and 50 in 2011. But with the average cruiser still at the ripe age of 46, according to Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) latest industry profile, some cruise lines are trying new tactics to lure younger travelers looking for romance.

The Norwegian Epic, a 4,100-capacity ship, features studio cabins priced for solo cruisers, who also have access to the Studio Lounge, a place for singles to meet over drinks. “[The studio cabins] have been doing really well,” said Matthew Eichhorst, president of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, a cruise-booking site. “I see many other lines adding them in the future; they’re pretty hip.”

MSC Cruises, an Italian line, also provides condoms, pregnancy tests, lubricants, and the morning-after pill by prescription to its passengers.

SinglesCruise.com, a cruise company catering to single passengers, hosts cruises based on different age groups (pdf) including millennials, part of an effort to target younger cruisers, Jody Ryland, vice president of the company, tells Quartz.

But appealing to the millennial traveler is something many cruise lines have been struggling with, Monty Mathisen, managing editor of Cruise Industry News, tells Quartz. That’s because access to onboard internet continues to be slow and expensive, and itineraries are often too long for millennials, who don’t have a lot of vacation time, Mathisen said. And the add-on charges can blow the vacation budget for young people.

But millennials also offer the cruise industry an opportunity. In fact, that age group was the most interested in cruising, with 53% of them saying they would like to take a cruise within the next two years—more than “Xers,” “boomers,” or “matures”—according to the MMGY Global 2014 Portrait of American Travelers.

The idea of the high seas as a place to fall in love has for some time been embedded in literature and popular culture, and there’s some evidence that cruises actually do help spark lust and romance. A survey conducted by the online cruising agency Bon Voyage Cruises found that 14% of cruise passengers say they have found love on the waves, with 41% saying they are still with the partner and 12% eventually marrying them.

On the other hand, couples looking to rekindle their romance might consider avoiding cruises. Another survey, by Cruise.co.uk, found that one in five passengers have cheated on their partner during a cruise, with 80% doing so when their partner was onboard.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article, which referred to SinglesCruise.com as Singles Cruise, described the business as a charter cruise company and indicated that it began offering age-specific cruises last year. In fact, the company operates cruises on regular cruise line sailings, and it has been offering age-specific cruises for several years.)