The Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) has today announced another record year for the UK cruise industry with nearly 1.5 million passengers taking a cruise in 2008 – an 11% increase on 2007. The latest statistics reveal a 23% increase in the number of people joining their cruise in a UK port while the number of fly-cruise passengers increased by 4%.

Speaking at the Seatrade convention in Miami, William Gibbons, director of the Passenger Shipping Association, said: “2008 proved to be another tremendous year for the UK cruise industry. The launch of P&O Cruises’ Ventura, Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, Fred Olsen’s Balmoral, and the first full year of service for Cunard’s Queen Victoria, along with ship launches from Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America and MSC, all contributed to a record number of passengers. The decision by a number of cruise lines, including MSC, NCL, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean, to increase the number of British port departures contributed to an additional 110,000 passengers choosing to begin their cruise in the UK in 2008.”

2008 saw 577,000 passengers take an ex-UK cruise with 900,000 Brits choosing to take a fly-cruise. The Mediterranean and Northern Europe, including the UK, proved to be the most popular destinations seeing increases of 17% and 24% respectively year on year. The Mediterranean has a 43% share of the market with 634,000 passengers and Northern Europe 18%, with 265,000 passengers.

Looking ahead, Mr Gibbons said: “The world of today is a very different one from that of 12 months ago. Although the cruise industry is not recession proof it is better placed than many other travel sectors to weather the economic storm. However, with no new UK dedicated capacity planned for this year, we expect to see similar passenger numbers in 2009 as we did in 2008. Further growth is expected next year with a number of new ship launches, including Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and P&O Cruises’ Azura, all dedicated to the UK market.