Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has released its biennial Cruise Market Profile Study, which again shows strong potential for growth. Following are the major fmdings of the study:

• The total market of 133.3 million Americans (individuals 25 years or older with a household income of $20,000-plus) is divided as follows: 22.4 percent, or 29.9 million, have previously cruised; 51.6 percent, or 68.8 million, are cruise prospects (defined as those who have never cruised, but have taken a paid vacation in the past five years); while 26 percent, or 34.6 million, are non-vacationers. Comparing those figures to the last study's, the total market has increased by 7.8 percent, while the cruise prospects have increased at a slightly lesser but nearly equal rate, 7.0 percent.

• This year, CLIA finds 74,648,000 people of the target population interested in cruising during the next five years (15 percent of the total, or 19,995,000 say they will definitely cruise in the next five years). Yet the market appears to be growing faster than the interest in cruising is: despite the 7.8 percent increase since 1996 in the overall target market, the number of people interested in cruising has increased by just 0.66 percent during the same period.

• Another interesting point: In 1998, the study indicated 22.4 percent of the target market had cruised, but the 1996 CLIA study put that figure at 24 percent.

• Demographics of prior cruisers and non-cruisers have remained relatively static since 1996. According to the new study, the average age of those cruising in the past five years is 51 and average household income is $67,900, while the average age of cruise prospects is 44, and their average household income $59,800.

• The study shows that cruisers believe travel agents take the hassle out of planning vacations, but also reveals that vacationers need more convincing that agents provide them with the best deal.