The number of Brits taking cruises this year increased by 5% despite the downturn in the economy, according to the latest figures from the Passenger Shipping Association.
More than 1.5m Brits took a cruise this year compared to last – and this trend is expected to continue next year with a projected 6.5% increase to more than 1.6m passengers.
The positive figures, released at this year’s Abta Travel Convention, currently taking place in Barcelona, prove the cruise sector appears to be bucking the worldwide industry trend.
William Gibbons, of the PSA, said: “The difficult economic climate has made this year a very testing time for our members but the exceptional value offered by a cruise holiday has been reflected in continued record growth. “
Gibbons pointed to a number of factors which has led to this year’s growth in cruising.
These include: P&O Cruises’ Ventura and Fred Olsen’s Balmoral both being in service for a full year.
MSC and Costa Cruises also introduced new large ships and there has been investment in the ultra luxury sector with new ships from Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea.
Thomson, Island Cruises and Royal Caribbean have also shown strong growth as the popularity of fly-cruises continues.
Gibbons added: “This trend will continue into 2010 when we forecast a 6.5% increase to 1.65 million passengers.
“This significant growth will come about with the introduction of new ships dedicated to the UK market.”
A number of new ships will enter the market next year, including the largest ship ever built, Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas (pictured).
Other ships include P&O’s Azura, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Eclipse.
US companies – keen to exploit a growth market – are repositioning ships to Europe.
These include RCI’s year-round service from Southampton with Independence of the Sea; and Holland America Line which for the first time is introducing full length cruises out of Dover.