Anchors Aweigh!

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Who doesn't love the smell of sea air, the sound of the waves rushing away from the bow, the sight of the sun dipping below an endless, unbroken horizon? Okay, maybe those folks who got sick watching Titanic aren't exactly eager to set sail without a boatload of Dramamine. But they must be outnumbered. Interest in cruise ship vacations has led to an unprecedented boom in the industry, with an average annual growth rate of 7.9 percent since 1980, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. And that surge should continue. Most cruisers are newbies - nearly two-thirds of total passengers (63 percent) have only taken to the sea in the past ten years, and 35 percent stepped aboard for the first time within the past five years. Although only 11 percent of the U.S. population has ever shipped out, 56 percent of adults say they long for an ocean voyage. Next year, the CLIA projects that between 6.5 million and 7 million people will cross the gangway, as more vacationers baby boomers, especially - discover the joy of taking to the high seas.

Getting Their Sea Legs

- Recent cruisers - those who've taken a cruise vacation in the past five years - aren't just groups of rich grandmas: 46% are male, and only 28% are over 60-years-old. 45% are 40 to 59, and 27% are 25 to 39. Nearly three-fourths (73%) are married. Almost a third (31%) have children in the household, but they aren't packing the Game Boy: 63% say they don't vacation with their kids.

Source: CLIA

Frequent Cruiser Miles?

- Cruising is addictive: More than half (51%) of those who have taken a cruise at least once said they'd probably cruise again in the next five years. Even home-bodies are being reeled in: Almost half (46%) of non-vacationers indicated they were interested in cruising; nearly one in six indicated they would probably or definitely take a cruise within the next five years.

Source: CLIA

Sailing the Seven Seas

Number of passengers on cruises (excluding one-day sails) marketed or sold from the U.S. and Canada:

- 1980 1.43 million

- 1985 2.15 million

- 1990 3.64 million

- 1995 4.38 million

- 1998 5.43 million (post-Titanic)

Source: CLIA

Where Cruisers Live

Top cities passengers call home:

1. West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL

2. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL

3. Ft. Myers-Naples, FL

4. Palm Springs, CA

5. Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL

6. Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL

7. Jacksonville, FL-Brunswick, GA

8. Las Vegas, NV

9. Charleston, SC

10. New Orleans, LA

Source: The Polk Company

Living Large, Playing Hard

Recent cruisers (those who have taken at least a two-day cruise in the past three years) are big spenders. They're nearly four times as likely to spend $5,000-plus on a pleasure trip here at home, and six-and-a-half times as likely to spend $6,000 on a foreign get-away as the average U.S. household. Other things they index high for:

In the past 12 months Index

- Used motion sickness remedy 234

- Went downhill skiing 186

- Attended live theater 185

- Went scuba diving 171

- Watched ABC News Nightline 152

- Attended an auto show 145

- Read a book 138

- Went canoeing/kayaking 136

- Did a crossword puzzle 135

- Bought a lottery ticket 120

Note: An index of 100 is the average of all U.S. households. An index of 150 means households in this group are 1.5 times as likely to have that characteristic.

Source: Mediamark Research, Inc.

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