Earlier this month, the 29th annual Virtuoso Travel Week wrapped up in Las Vegas. One of the key emerging trends from the symposium was the changing face of the cruise industry. No longer the stronghold of rich retirees with endless vacation time, today's new seafaring adventures are geared towards younger travellers.
Millennials – those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – are driven by experiential voyages and actively seek out travel that combines authenticity, personalisation and convenience. More and more, millennial travellers are finding their sea legs, with results from the Virtuoso Travel Week concluding that the average age of cruise passengers drops every year. From boutique river cruises to floating music festivals and on-demand charters, these are the latest trips capturing the interest of cruising's younger devotees.
In the age of location-independent professionals and remote workers, Nomad Cruise offers a skill-sharing journey across the Atlantic. Founded as a way to combat the loneliness that can exist for digital nomads, passengers on this cruise have to apply to be accepted. The online application involves a simple form and is one way that the company ensures everyone coming aboard the 268-metre Pullmantur Monarch is part of the nomad community.
The next trip departs from Spain's Gran Canaria on September 25, coinciding with the end of the European summer. From the port of Las Palmas, the ship sets sail for seven days, with guests getting involved in workshops, inspirational talks, problem-solving classes, networking events and jam sessions. Docking at Sint Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba before sailing towards Panama, this 14-day cruise is aimed at those who want to enjoy ocean views and tropical sunsets while simultaneously garnering business tips and nomad hacks. After arriving in Colón, guests can join a pre-organised meet-up to trek through rainforests, witness the Congo culture or explore some of Panama's pristine islands.
Trips cost from €700 (Dh3,091) per person in an inside shared cabin, including meals, snacks and selected beverages, but excluding service charges; www.nomadcruise.com.
Ride-sharing on the sea
Crossing the Adriatic from Split to the summer-party resort of Hvar is now much easier thanks to Uber's on-demand speedboat-hailing service. Having previously launched similar pop-up innovations in Boston, Miami and Istanbul, the Croatian option is the first time that UberBOAT has been available for an entire season, with point-to-point sailing around four main tourist spots (Split, Split Airport, Hvar and Dubrovnik). Users can also opt to hail nearby boats for private, day-long sailing adventures.
The service is all about convenience, something that resonates well with the instant-gratification tendencies of young travellers. Customers simply download the Uber mobile app, drop a pin to discover the nearest boat, then follow directions to the pick-up point or closest pier. Uber says that the service will continue "throughout the season as long as weather conditions are optimal". With early September marking the end of the Croatian summer and temperatures averaging around 23°C, now is the ideal time to set off on an island-hopping adventure exploring some of Croatia's 1,200 islands.
A boat that can carry eight passengers, from Split Airport to Hvar, costs €394 (Dh1,741). Guests can use the split-fare feature to share the cost with other riders. For island-hopping, prices are based on mileage and time, but costs about €840 (Dh3,711) per day; www.uber.com.
Vegetarian millennials number more than vegetarian members of any previous generation, so it's perhaps no surprise that this year finally sees the advent of the world's first all-vegan cruise. The recently renovated MS Columbus departs from Tilbury on September 25 for a meat-free voyage from London to the Norwegian fjords. These trips are all about huge buffet spreads, four-course dinners and cooking demonstrations. Food aside, days are spent practising early morning yoga, exploring the thermal rooms and attending talks by influential speakers, authors and nutritionists from the vegan world. On deck, the outdoor jogging track makes the most of an ever-changing vista filled with waterfalls, mountain farmlands and the stunning wilderness of Norway's west-coast valleys.
The ship docks for about five to eight hours in four locations – just enough to get a taste of each. Disembark to discover Eidfjord's Vøringsfossen waterfall, travel on one of the world's steepest railway tracks in Flåm or take an eco-friendly electric-car tour of Geiranger.
The seven-night cruise costs from £499 (Dh2,373) per person for a voyager inside cabin, including taxes, meals and selected soft drinks; www.vegancruises.eu.
Making its voyage along the border between Namibia and Botswana, the Zambezi Queen meanders down the Chobe River – a world of sophisticated elegance surrounded by some of Africa's densest concentrations of wildlife.
Reaching the 14-room vessel is a mission in itself that involves a journey of planes, automobiles and boats. A world away from crowded safari game drives, this river excursion gets guests up close and personal with nature. Visit in September or October to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of wildlife outside your window. As the ship sails down sunlit waters, get ready to spot countless buffalo, antelope, leopards and lions, but make sure you're prepared for the intense heat of the midday sun.
Entering one of the world's most remote destinations, passengers have front-row seats to the Chobe National Park, where the star attraction is the estimated 120,000 African elephants. Farther down the river, disembark to meet village elders in Ijambwe, try river fishing or trek to a 2,000-year-old Baobab tree in this undiscovered region.
Back on board, tuck into African meals cooked by the Namibian crew and wonder at the sunset from your suite's private balcony.
A two-night sailing expedition costs from US$1,200 (Dh4,408) per person in a standard suite based on double occupancy, including meals and taxes. The next available departure is September 13; www.zqcollection.com.
Billing itself as the world's largest floating dance-music festival, the Groove Cruise is a bi-annual celebration taking place aboard the Inspiration, a 250-metre vessel that holds a whopping 2,500 passengers for fist-pumping, Fomo-inducing 24-hour music-based fun. Attendees are there to see some of the biggest names in EDM: Ferry Corsten, 3Lau and Andrew Bayer are among acts playing the next cruise, which departs on October 6 from Los Angeles to Ensenada, Mexico.
Spin between six stages, make for the water park, lounge by the pool or soak in the hot tubs. For a dose of something slightly more highbrow, check out the art gallery or Shakespearean Library. Not for the faint-hearted, this cruise is non-stop revelry that takes full advantage of the ocean's lack of noise-disturbance restrictions. Add to that panoramic views from the middle of the ocean, exclusive Q&A sessions with some of the artists performing and a private clifftop estate gathering when the cruise docks in Ensenada.
Groove Cruise costs from $999 (Dh3,669) per person in a double inside guarantee room, including taxes, but excluding service charges. If you're cruising solo and want to avoid the 200 per cent single supplement, you can be paired with a fellow solo cabin-mate; www.groovecruise.com.