The UK cruise industry is bucking the trend and continues to grow despite 2009 being one of the most challenging years on record for the wider holiday market.

Figures released today at The Travel Convention in Barcelona show an impressive 5% increase in the number of British holidaymakers taking a cruise this year compared to 2008.

William Gibbons of the Passenger Shipping Association said a record 1.55 million Brits will take a cruise in 2009 and predicted further strong growth in the years ahead as consumer interest in cruising remains at an all time high.

“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. The two key drivers remain value and quality. The all-inclusive nature of cruising and the very high standards of quality, innovation and customer service have made cruising a compelling and mainstream holiday choice.”

Mr Gibbons continued: “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 – P&O Cruises’ Azura, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Eclipse. We will also see Cruise & Maritime introduce a second ship, Ocean Countess, and Royal Caribbean International providing a year-round service from Southampton with Independence of the Seas. US companies are also making a commitment to the UK and ex-UK market including Holland America Line who, for the first time, is introducing full length cruises out of Dover. There’s now a sustained interest and excitement in cruising which will be reinforced next month with the introduction of the largest ever cruise ship by Royal Caribbean International with Oasis of the Seas”.

A number of factors have contributed to the projected record number of passengers in 2009 including 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.

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