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Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Aren't Passing Up "Cougar Cruise"

Carnival Cruise Lines apparently turned away its second International Cougar Cruise, or a singles group cruise for about 300 older women and younger men. "We have decided not to have any future groups on our ships booked on this theme," Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz told the Miami Herald.

The first cruise went off without a hitch last month, but Rich Gosse, executive producer of CougarEvents.com and chairman of the Society of Single Professionals, said he is already looking forward to a Mexican Riviera cruise in May on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas and one to the Bahamas with Norwegian Cruise Line in December.

"We assume this group will follow our guest conduct policy just like any other guests," Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez told the Herald. "We have no reason to think otherwise."

For those of you living under a rock, a cougar is a woman usually at least in her late 30s who dates younger men who are typically in their 20s. A quintessential couple would be actress Demi Moore and actor Ashton Kutcher, who share a 15-year age difference.

At least one analyst is guessing that Carnival's refusal to host the event is based on its family image and a desire to seem less interested in hooking up and partying than G-rated fun. "They want a fun, family experience on board and this type of business and the negative attention that they got as a result of it was disruptive," said Stewart Chiron, a Miami cruise expert.

Social events on the last cruise had events for cougars and cubs (younger men) included a hot tub party, group cocktails and shore activities. Gosse said that more younger men signed up for the cruise than older women.

While one can respect Carnival's family-friendly stance, I can't help but wonder why they agreed to the first cruise last month. I never heard of any negative attention -- or any attention -- the cruise may have gotten, so by denying the cruise organizers now, Carnival probably received more notoriety and attention than before.

I'm also left wondering if the company saw the older woman-younger man pairing as more distasteful or titillating than the traditional singles cruise. I think Carnival's communications team really screwed up here, by not only seeming like hypocrites, but also seeming prejudiced against older women getting their groove back. (And who usually plans cruises anyway? I'm going with women in their 30s to 50s.) Apparently Carnival's Fun Ships aren't that fun.

Since Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, who haven't crafted their image for families with children, will also be benefiting from Carnival's decision with a full ship in the midst of a recession.

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