Cougar Cruise gets ready to roar again
(CNN) -- A modern twist on the shipboard romance is making waves again.
The third International Cougar Cruise sets sail next month to the Bahamas -- a three-night trip that organizers are billing as "a weekend of fun, dining, dancing and partying!" for "younger men/older women!"
More than 100 people have signed up so far for the cruise, which aims to bring together "cougars" -- or women in their 40s and 50s -- who are interested in dating "cubs" -- or men in their 20s and 30s -- said Rich Gosse, who came up with the Cougar Cruise concept.
"It's just a lot of cougars and cubs who get together and party 'til you drop," Gosse said.
Co-sponsored by the Singles Travel Company and The Society of Single Professionals, the cruise -- hosted by the Norwegian Sky -- departs from Miami, Florida, on December 3.
Organizers don't have the money to buy out the entire ship, which can accommodate 2,000 passengers, so they take over part of a regular cruise, Gosse said. Singles who are part of the Cougar Cruise get special bracelets so they can recognize each other on board.
(Passengers must be 21 or older to take part, but ages are not otherwise enforced. In fact, several older men showed up on the first Cougar Cruise "to compete with the young bucks," Gosse said.)
Social phenomenon or myth?
Amy Luna Manderino, 44, will be one of those attending the nightly dancing and socializing on the trip. Crowned "Miss Cougar East Bay" in San Francisco, California, in September, she won the cruise as part of the event.
"I'm just going to have fun with a bunch of people who are there for the same reason. I don't have an agenda for the cruise, just have a good time and meet people," said Manderino, a professional dancer who lives in Berkeley, California.
She said character, not youth, is the predominant attribute she looks for in a partner, but said suitors of her generation are often stuck in old gender roles while men in their 20s don't have that problem.
"The whole phenomenon of older women feeling comfortable dating younger men is that we feel age doesn't matter and so do the younger men," Manderino said.
Indeed, high-profile "cougars" seem to be everywhere: Demi Moore is famously 15 years older than her husband, Ashton Kutcher, while fifty-somethings like Madonna, Katie Couric and Kim Cattrall all have dated younger men in recent years.
Never mind that a recent study dismissed the cougar craze as a myth. A researcher at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff examined the age preferences expressed in more than 22,000 singles ads on popular dating websites around the world and found few women seeking younger men. Meanwhile, the majority of men wanted younger mates.
But Gosse said the cougar phenomenon is going strong and has become very socially acceptable.
"We actually get too many cubs now, we can't find enough cougars for them. The demand for cougars [on cruises or at conventions] is inexhaustible," said Gosse, the executive producer of Cougarevents.com.
"The men almost always outnumber the women and sometimes by a 3 to 1 margin."
What it's like
Adam Lux, 37, worried about the women-to-men ratio when he signed up for the first International Cougar Cruise last year, but said he was pleasantly surprised that it was about 50-50.
He and a friend bought tickets to the Cougar Cruise after finding out about it online.
"We live in Utah and Utah is a little more quiet than the other states and we saw this and we just thought it's something different, something fun, we're going to just go and just have a good time and meet people," Lux said.
The marketing manager, who resides in suburban Salt Lake City, dates women his own age and those a few years older, so he doesn't consider himself a "complete cub" -- but enough of one to be interested in the trip, Lux said.
The cruise was a good format for a singles excursion because it kept everyone together, he said. In fact, there was so much interest in the group from the other passengers that Lux and his friend were offered money for their Cougar Cruise ID bracelets from people who wanted to join the activities, Lux said.
So is sex a big part of the Cougar Cruise? Not as much as people might think, Lux said.
"Don't get me wrong, just on any cruise there's a lot of hookups and there were quite a few ... [but] it wasn't all just about a hookup," Lux said.
"Obviously, people are not looking for marriage at the first encounter. They're looking just to meet people, have some fun, dance, party, whatever," he said. "But ultimately, people do want to hook up not only for the night, but many want to hook up for a lifetime."
The organizers don't follow up with Cougar Cruise passengers, so they don't know whether any have found long-term relationships or married after the trips, Gosse said.
Cougars and cubs interested in getting together on the high seas will have more chances to do so. The fourth International Cougar Cruise will sail in the Mediterranean in April, just in time for International Cougar Week, March 27-April 2, 2011.
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