Record Number of British and Irish Set Sail On a Cruise

Set sail with Disney
The Disney Dream docks at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. Photo credit: David Roark

A record number of 2,009,000 holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland set sail on an ocean cruise last year – exceeding the two million mark for the first time ever.

The ground-breaking statistics were released on Monday April 15 by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), based on research into cruise figures and statistics from 2018 including the total number of passengers, top destinations, and the average age of cruise passengers.

CLIA’s annual Cruise Industry report also revealed that family cruising is a growing trend and cruises to the Canary Islands and Baltics are becoming increasingly popular.

MSC Cruises
Lego Experience – Photo credit: MSC Cruises

The number of ocean cruises taken last year by people from the UK and Ireland reached over two million for the first time, hitting an all-time record and up two per cent from 2017. The UK & Ireland is only the second European market to have reached over two million cruises and the fourth globally.

The CLIA report also showed the average age of cruise passengers is 57, which has been attributed to the growth in the number of families choosing to go on a cruise.

Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director, said: “Surpassing the two million mark is a significant milestone as it demonstrates the continued strength of cruising as a mainstream holiday choice for the British & Irish.

Fred. Olsen Balmoral in Cadiz
Fred. Olsen Balmoral in Cadiz – Photo credit: Fred. Olsen

“With cruise lines continuing to expand their offerings both on board 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 report also showed the average cruise duration was 10.1 days, indicating that British and Irish travellers enjoy longer cruises, with the number of 14-day cruises taken last year increasing by five per cent to reach a total of 397,000. The popularity of ‘taster cruises’ also grew significantly, with 149,000 passengers taking one to three-day cruises in 2018 – an increase of 29,000 on 2017 – suggesting that new-to-cruise guests like to ‘try before they buy’ when it comes to a cruise holiday.

Cruises in Europe remain the most popular choice, with the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Baltics making up nearly 70% of total cruises taken, and the market is still dominated by the ‘Big Three’ – the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Caribbean.

Holland America Line Nieuw Statendam
Holland America Line Nieuw Statendam – Photo credit: Holland America Line

Last year also saw a significant increase in the number of cruises taken in exploration destinations, such as the polar regions, the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica, with bookings growing from 22,000 in 2017 to 32,000 in 2018, an increase of 44%.

Cruises in Asia and South America also experienced a healthy growth. The number of cruises taken in South America and Panama Canal grew by 29 percent to 26,000 and in Asia and China the number grew by 41 per cent, from 45,000 in 2017 to 63,000 in 2018.

Harmer added: “Thanks to the large deployment of incredible ships offering an amazing choice of itineraries in European destinations, as well as the number of cruises sailing from the UK, our love of cruising Europe still reigns supreme. “Increasingly, however, British and Irish travellers are looking further afield for their holiday for a unique and authentic experience, and this can be seen by the growth in far-flung destinations that such as the polar regions, South America and Asia.”

Author Bio:

Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.

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