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21 May 2004

Cruise passenger numbers sail past one million

More than one million Britons took to the waves last year and spent their holiday onboard a cruise.

According to figures from the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA), cruise sales rocketed by 12 per cent last year, resulting in the highest number of cruise passengers since records began.

Although a cruise is still popular among older and more affluent travellers – a third of the rise last year was due to the success of the Ocean Village concept – the share of cruises sold for under £500 has nearly quadrupled during the last decade, indicating that the cruises are now popular across the generation board.

At the other end of the price scale, ultra luxury cruising experienced a 70 per cent increase during the past year and PSA stated that the luxury sector had trebled in popularity the last four years.

William Gibbons, director of PSA, said: “The sheer diversity of cruise holidays is helping to increase interest and demand for cruises.

“The industry is responding by introducing many more new ship launches and varied itineraries and styles of ships to suit different types of travellers.”

The PSA highlighted smaller ships, unusual destinations, ultra luxury cruises and themed voyages as having a particularly healthy affect on the industry.

Among the most popular destinations last year were Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea, including the three new EU nations – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Gibbons said: “It has been particularly interesting to see growth in specialist cruising last year.

“We will see it grow further, following the introduction of new ships, such as Celebrity’s Xpedition to the Galapagos Islands.”

SPA also said that the most famous introduction of the year – Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 – has stimulated huge interest in cruising this year and that it predicts a 10 per cent increase in ocean cruising for 2004.

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