The travel sector has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Hotels are largely empty, airlines are cutting flights left and right, and cruise ships remain under a no-sailing order from the CDC until July 24.

But even when ships are allowed to set sail once again, what will the market look like? Will passengers feel safe boarding cruise ships for their future vacations, even beyond the coronavirus pandemic?

CivicScience surveying in late May found that U.S. adults who’ve been on cruises before are much less likely to say they’ll cruise again than they were in February, just prior to the pandemic. Even with the CivicScience survey question making no mention of coronavirus, a substantial proportion of cruise-goers ‘jumped ship.’

Meanwhile, returns were even worse when gauging interest among those who haven’t yet taken a cruise. 

Future Cruise Ship Passengers May Skew Younger, More Male

In the February survey, women were more likely than men to say they would go on a cruise ship again. Now, both sexes are roughly equally likely to say they’d go again — each at a much lower rate.

Meanwhile, in February, men and women who hadn’t previously been on a cruise ship had similar interest levels in setting sail. In May, men were far more likely than women to be interested in a first-time cruise.

Interest in returning for another cruise decreased among all age groups — but not nearly at the same rates. For example, Gen Z (18 to 24) became only 9% less likely to want to sail on a cruise ship again after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the same time period, Millennials (25 to 34) became 30% less likely to want to cruise. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers fell somewhere in between. 

A similar pattern emerged among those who haven’t yet taken a cruise. Baby Boomers who have never gone on a cruise became a whopping 63% less likely to express interest in the idea after the onset of the pandemic. 

Among previous cruise-goers, interest in taking another cruise was remarkably egalitarian among income brackets prior to the pandemic. In the May survey, though, interest in another cruise sank in the lowest and highest income groups while actually holding astoundingly steady among the middle income cohort. 

Among those who haven’t yet taken a cruise, interest levels — which had been roughly even — fell more among higher earners.

This last finding may be of great concern to cruise ship companies, because one’s likelihood of taking a cruise increases steadily alongside their household income.

While it’s clear that interest in taking cruises has taken a big hit during the coronavirus pandemic, not all potential cruise-goers are reacting in the same way. Younger men — as well as those who may earn less on average than previous cruise-goers — say they’re still intrigued by the prospect of a cruise. It will be interesting to see whether the cruise ship industry can find a way to tap into this potential customer base to stay afloat.