Figures released by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) show that a record 1.9 million holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland took an ocean cruise in 2016.

The growth comes at a time of sustained investment by the cruise industry and with global cruise fleet capacity set to increase by at least a third over the next ten years it means major source markets such as the UK and Ireland will have even more choice available to them.

As holidaymakers’ love affair with the traditional Mediterranean break continues to go from strength to strength, the cruise sector is reaping the benefits as travellers make the most of being able to visit multiple European hot spots in one cruise holiday.

Mediterranean fly-cruises remain the number one choice (458,000 passengers in 2016), with Western Europe itineraries from UK ports (272,000) now firmly established at number two. 2016 was also a good year for ultra-luxury cruises, with both a host of new ships being launched in the sector, and a record number of passengers opting to sail with one of the ultra-luxury brands. A near 9% rise in sales ensured that the total surpassed the 2012 peak of 28,450 and fell just short of 29,000.

The number of passengers starting their cruise holiday at home grew strongly in 2016 with UK cruise departures now accounting for 48% of the market. The 2016 comparison reflects a 9% rise in the number of passengers departing from the UK (912,000 passengers) which has been attributed to the convenience of travelling to the port, the wide range of ships now sailing from the UK, and the value for money that an ‘ex-UK’ sailing offers for holidaymakers.

Fly-cruises were also on the up in 2016 with a 2.8% increase as those travelling from the UK and Ireland choose to make the most of the new ports and destinations that cruise lines are visiting.

Andy Harmer, SVP membership and UK and Ireland director for the association, said: “The past year was an impressive one for the UK and Ireland cruise industry. The increase in passenger figures is a testament to the industry’s resilience to economic and political change and further demonstrates the value that a cruise holiday offers. Cruise lines are continuing to invest in new ships and new on-board and ashore experiences. Customers are becoming increasingly aware of the incredible experiences on offer, and this all points to continued growth for the UK and Irish cruise market in the year ahead.”

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