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Cruisers keep cruising

5 min read


Spring Break is upon us and summer is just around the corner, so many Americans are planning vacations — and many will book cruises. In 2011, an estimated 10.5 million Americans took cruises, according to Cruise Lines International Association. This was over half of the 19.4 million global cruise passengers that year.

Cruises are a popular choice throughout the year because of the wide variety of destinations, themes and cruise ship types attract many types of consumers. Traditionally cruises were thought of as a vacation option only for seniors; however, cruise lines have expanded their offerings to include activities for families, specific themes and exotic ports of call. Despite recent industry challenges, cruises continue to be popular with all ages.

Who is most likely to go on a cruise? Where do they live?

Multi-day cruisers

Multi-day cruises are the most popular options; people can spend three, seven, 14 or more days exploring a variety of places on vacation with just one “hotel” room. People who live in near Anchorage, Alaska, on the Big Island of Hawaii, in the Western U.S., and along the Eastern Seaboard are the most likely to take cruising vacations.

Residents of ZIP codes 10996 (West Point, N.Y.), 28543 (Tarawa Terrace, N.C.), 66442 (Fort Riley, Kan.) and 92135 (San Diego, Calif.) are nearly four times more likely than the average American to take a multi-day cruise vacation.

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Who is most likely to take a multi-day cruise? Esri has developed the Tapestry Segmentation system that classifies U.S. residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.

As expected, cruise vacations rank high with senior residents of Silver and Gold and The Elders neighborhoods. These residents differ by their affluence, age, housing choices and preferred activities. Conversely, residents of Military Proximity neighborhoods are young; two-thirds of the households are married couples with children.

Military Proximity neighborhoods consists of those who depend upon the military for their livelihood; most of the labor force is in the Armed Forces, while others work in civilian jobs on military bases. The median household income is $38,795; the median age is 22.5 years.

Silver and Gold neighborhoods are comprised of wealthy seniors. Most have retired from professional careers and moved to sunny climates. Their median household income is $68,518. More than 60% live in the South, mostly in Florida; 25% are in the West, primarily in Arizona and California.

The Elders are retired seniors that live in senior living communities primarily in warm climates such as Florida, Arizona and California. Approximately 80% collect Social Security benefits; 48% receive retirement income.

Consumers least likely to take a cruise vacation include residents of Home Town neighborhoods which are a mix of singles and families who live in settled, low-density communities. These residents are content to stay close to home, so their neighborhoods rarely change. Although people may move from one single-family house to another, they seldom cross county lines. They are content to pursue quiet activities such as playing board games, going fishing and watching TV. The median age is 33.9 years and the median household income is $28,501.

Foreign cruises

Many people opt for multi-day cruise vacations to experience several new countries all in one vacation. Americans most likely to take a foreign cruise live in almost the same places as those who take cruises over multiple days — they live near Anchorage, Alaska; on the Big Island of Hawaii; in the Western U.S.; and along the Eastern Seaboard.

Residents of ZIP codes 23604 (Fort Eustis, Va.), 58704 (Minot AFB, N.D.), 73503 (Fort Sill, Okla.) and 85613 (Fort Huachuca, Ariz.) are nearly five times or more likely than the average American to take a cruise vacation. All of these locations are military bases.

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The Tapestry segments that are most likely to take a foreign cruise overlap with those most likely to take a multi-day cruise. Residents of Connoisseurs, Military Proximity, The Elders, and Silver and Gold neighborhoods are at least twice as likely as the average American to take a foreign cruise. Residents of Tapestry senior neighborhoods The Elders and Silver and Gold are the traditional, expected cruise vacationers. Residents of Connoisseurs neighborhoods are younger, but have the income to indulge in a luxury cruise vacation if they wish. Military Proximity families are much younger and less affluent, but enjoy activities with the family.

Southern Satellites are one-fourth as likely as the average American to take a foreign cruise. Most of the households in these rural Southern neighborhoods are comprised of married‐couple families who live a simple life in the country and prefer to stick close to home. They work in the manufacturing and service industries and have a median household income is $36,759.

Why this matters

The cruise industry is battling recent negative press due to some high-profile mishaps. Knowing who their core audience is and where to find more like them is key information to combat this temporary downturn. Cruise lines need to market to their core audience and prospects to ensure that this temporary glitch is overcome and ships will continue to fill up.

Understanding the demographics and interests of the core consumer base is also critical to help cruise lines understand the preferences of their passengers and providing those services and activities. Repeat customers are an additional, essential revenue stream that cruise lines must continually engage. Knowing about the types of consumers who aren’t cruising can also help cruise lines to understand who they are, what they want, and then develop messaging and promotions to attract these consumers.

More information about Esri’s data can be found at or to learn more about Esri in general, go to

Pam Allison is a digital media, marketing strategist and location intelligence consultant. You can visit her blog at