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.