Ocean cruises top two million mark for first time

by Steve Hartridge

The number of ocean cruises taken by UK and Irish passengers topped the two million mark for the first time in 2018.

“By any standards, passing the two million mark in one year represents a significant landmark. It shows that cruising has become a mainstream holiday choice for the British & Irish,” said Andy Harmer, UK & Ireland director for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

The 2,009,000 ocean cruises taken represents a 2% year-on-year increase – and despite ongoimg concerns over Brexit CLIA is confident cruising’s popularity will remain robust in 2019.

“Cruising is a little bit protected in that bookings tend to be made a long way in advance, said Harmer.

“Plus British and Irish travelers have also showed a resilience and determination to keep taking their holidays. In addition, there is always something of a ‘halo effect’ around new ship launches. We are also encouraged by the fact that nine out of 10 cruisers in 2018 said they will take another cruise during the next year,” he added.

The average age of cruisers remains 57, with the over-50s the fastest growing demographic.

CLIA says there has been a growth in multi-generational families cruising, due to cruise lines adding dining, entertainment and other onboard options designed to appeal to a broader range of ages.

Added Harmer: “With cruise lines continuing to expand their offerings both onboard and ashore, creating extraordinary experiences not found on other types of holidays, and with the appeal of being able to explore fascinating destinations and only having to unpack once, cruise holidays have become appealing to a more diverse and often younger market.”

The average duration of a cruise – 10 days – remains largely unchanged, however there was a growth last year in both 14-day cruises – up 18,000 or 5% - and one-to two- or three-day ‘taster cruises’, which were up 24%.

The most popular of these introduction cruises were those leaving Southampton for the Channel Islands and European cities that could be experienced over a long weekend, such as Bruges, Amsterdam and Hamburg.

In terms of Brit and Irish cruisers favourite destinations, Europe dominates, with the Central and Western Mediterranean region, Northern Europe and Baltics comprising almost 70 per cent of all cruises taken.

Japan, South America and the Panama Canal all experienced a rise in popularity and exploration cruises were up 44%, with the Arctic, Antarctica and Galapagos leading the way.

Globally, the most popular region for cruising is the Caribbean, with 11. 3 million cruises taken, with the Mediterranean attracting four million cruises and Alaska on the rise with a million cruises taken in 2018.

Travel agents remain crucial for further growing cruise numbers, promised Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises vice president UK & Europe and CLIA Chair.

“We put a lot of effort into training agents, and inviting them to our conferences, and every CLIA member knows the importance of the trade to their business,” he said.

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