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Cruise holidays more popular

[March 16th 2008]

Air passenger numbers may be down, but cruise holidays were more popular than ever in 2008.

Almost 1.5 million people took a cruise in 2008, an increase of 11% on 2007, according to new figures for the UK cruise industry released by the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA).

There was a 23% increase in the number of people joining their cruise from UK ports including the leading UK cruise ports of Southampton and Dover. The number of fly-cruise passengers also increased, but by a comparatively modest 4%.

“2008 proved to be another tremendous year for the UK cruise industry. The launch of P&O Cruises’ Ventura, Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, Fred Olsen’s Balmoral, and the first full year of service for Cunard’s Queen Victoria, along with ship launches from Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America and MSC, all contributed to a record number of passengers,” said PSA director, William Gibbons, speaking at the Seatrade convention in Miami.

“The decision by a number of cruise lines, including MSC, NCL, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean, to increase the number of British port departures contributed to an additional 110,000 passengers choosing to begin their cruise in the UK in 2008,” Gibbons adds.

Although the number of people taking fly-cruises didn’t increase by as much as numbers taking cruises from the UK it still comprises by far the biggest sector. In 2008 no less than 900,000 Brits chose a fly-cruise holiday, compared to 577,000 on ex-UK cruises.

Most popular cruise destinations were the Mediterranean and northern Europe, with increases of 17% and 24% respectively year on year. Mediterranean cruises make up 43% of the market with 634,000 passengers.

“Although the cruise industry is not recession proof it is better placed than many other travel sectors to weather the economic storm. However, with no new UK dedicated capacity planned for this year, we expect to see similar passenger numbers in 2009 as we did in 2008,” says Gibbons.

Next year promises more growth for the UK cruise industry with a number of new ship launches, including Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and P&O Cruises’ Azura, all dedicated to the UK market.

“Our research shows that people are still looking to go on holiday and the inclusive nature of a cruise, along with exceptional service and exciting destinations, means its future continues to look assured,” Gibbons concludes.

Written by: Nick Purdom

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