CRUISE holidays, once regarded as the preserve of more mature holidaymakers are gaining popularity among younger travellers.

Figures from the Cruise Lines International Association show that the average age of passengers has reached its lowest in 20 years.

In 2017, the average age is just over 55, compared to 58 just three years ago.

Princess Cruises, part of the US-owned Carnival group, said next summer there will be almost twice as many UK under-18s on its main Southampton-based ship than there were two years ago.

The firm is looking to attract more families with a complete overhaul of its kids’ clubs and a partnership with the Discovery Channel.

Royal Caribbean has also seen its average passenger age fall from mid-50s to 49.

The cruise industry is currently enjoying a boom but the interest of younger travellers bodes well for its long-term future.

Adam Coulter, editor of the cruise reviews and planning site Cruise Critic, told the BBC the trend was down to several factors which helped to steer holiday makers to cruising.

He said: “Cruises are also good value. If you’re a family, the kids’ clubs are included, as is all your food and entertainment. The childcare really is of a high standard and ships are so safe.

“Cruise lines have made massive strides in technology and internet connectivity, which appeal to a younger demographic. This includes making their WI-FI cheaper and quicker as they’ve realised people want to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. It’s all about the experience.

“There’s also a growth in theme cruising. Anchored, a ship-based dance festival, took place in June and was headlined by Tinie Tempah. These are common currency in the US – from Star Trek to music themes – but are just starting to really take off here.”

Cruise reviewer Sian Devitt added: “There certainly has been a developing trend that younger generations want to see the world by boat because of the wider inclusive offering that makes it more affordable rather than a standard holiday abroad.”

Alastair Welch, ABP director of Southampton Port said: “ The cruise industry is going from strength to strength and we are seeing many of the traditional stereotypes being challenged.

“An increasing number of millennials and Generation X choosing to take cruises, is testament to the extraordinary lengths being taken by the lines to deliver exceptional service and unique experiences.

“In Southampton we are fortunate enough to see at first hand the variety of cruises that cater to every demographic with their constantly evolving customer offer.”