Cougar Cruise: Older Love on the High Seas

Young men, older women take to the ocean to find love.

ByScott Mayerowitz <br/> Abc News Business Unit
September 16, 2009, 4:17 PM

Sept. 17, 2009 &#151; -- You've probably heard of "Snakes on a Plane." But what about Cougars on a Cruise?

Setting sail in a few weeks is a singles event being marketed at the "World's First International Cougar Cruise." And no, there will be no zoo animals aboard.

The "cougars" hitting the open seas will be the type more likely to prowl cocktail lounges than the wild frontier -- older women who prey upon young, virile men.

"When people go on a cruise, all of their inhibitions go overboard. If you want to meet somebody of the opposite sex, this is the best way to do it," said Rich Gosse, chairman of the Society of Single Professionals, which came up with the trip idea along with the Singles Travel Co.

The term cougar has risen from relative obscurity at the turn of the century to become an accepted, though much parodied, lifestyle choice for many, described by as: "An older woman, typically early thirties to mid-forties, who has abandoned traditional rules of romantic engagement and taken as her mission the seduction of as many game young men as she can possibly handle."

Gosse hopes to stock the cruise with the enough younger men to keep up with their older counterparts.

"These cougar women tend to look younger and feel younger and have higher energy than most women their own age," he added. "They just can't date men their own age. The men can't keep up with them. The men they date that are their own age: all they want to do is sit on a sofa and watch TV."

Enter the Cougar Cruise: three nights at sea with a stop in Mexico and maybe that chance and a December-May romance.

The entire cougar experience happens over just a quick weekend. The cruise leaves San Diego Friday afternoon, goes to Ensenada, Mexico, and is back in California by 8 a.m. Monday morning. Trip prices start at $258 total for somebody who wants a roommate and an inside cabin up to $582 for somebody who wants to best cabin all to themselves.

For the first voyage, there aren't enough cougars and younger men -- called "cubs" -- to fill an entire cruise ship, so the cougar cruisers will set sail with other vacationers on a regular Carnival cruise out of the Los Angeles are on Dec. 4. But the similarities end there.

Each night during the weekend there will be coordinated cougar-cub singles events, dancing and plenty of drinks to go around. There's even a "singles social director" to ensure that this cruise does become a true "Love Boat," Mrs. Robinson-style.

"It's like they say in Las Vegas: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Same thing on a cruise boat," Grosse said. "People don't have their bosses, their neighbors, their co-workers and their family looking over their shoulder. They can let the inner child out on a cruise."

Miss Cougar America Hits the Open Seas

Gloria Navarro is 42, divorced and into younger guys. She will be the "guest of honor" for this cruise, and honor she was given after being named Miss Cougar America at the National Cougar Convention this past August. Gosse is also that event's organizer.

Navarro, a California practice management consultant, who focuses on dental practices, said she plans to dance, eat, hang out by the pool and of course meet some "cubs."

"I'm proud to represent a new breed of woman who are strong, independent, successful and just looking for somebody who is going to be a little more exciting than your average 40-and-up man," Navarro told ABC News.

"I'm looking forward to getting dolled up in the evenings and going to the parties," Navarro said.

So what makes these cubs so appealing?

Navarro said they have a sense of adventure and have fewer issues than older men.

"I always say: Men are the same at every age whether they're in their 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s. They just accumulate more baggage along the way," she said. "For myself, I believe that the cougar-cub relationship is one of mutual understanding and respect."

And why are the cubs attracted to the cougars, usually women in the 40s and 50s?

"The younger men get the advantage of being with an experienced woman, who according to the cubs, know what they want. There's no game playing," Gosse said.

Navarro met a cub shortly after getting divorced two years ago, and "I've never looked back," she said. Right now, she is casually dating a 37-year-old who is "a little older than my typical cub." But she's open to meeting someone else on the cruise.

Ken Heit is director of sales for World Wide Cruises, American Express affiliated travel agency that has specialized in cruises for more than 20 years.

He said that while he has heard of singles cruises before, he had not seen any other cougar cruises. But it doesn't surprise him. There are niche cruises for music groups, art groups, churches -- even nudists.

"This should be interesting," he said.

Cruises Hurt by Recession

Like the rest of the travel industry, the cruise business has been hurt by the recession. Ships aren't going out to sea empty, but cruise companies have had to severely discount prices to fill rooms.

"Prices are starting to recover in the last couple of months. We've seen a little move back up but still not nearly up to where they were at this time last year," Heit said.

Heit said this the cougar cruise is "an usual concept," but added that a hip is a logical place to have such an event.

"It's a closed environment. There's no place to run or to hide," Heit said. "It's easy to meet people. It's kind of conducive for people to meet. It's not like at a hotel where you can say, 'I'm tired of this. I'm driving away.' There's no place for you to go. You're on a ship."

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