The numbers of New Zealanders taking a cruise holiday has reached a record high, with 42,886 Kiwis heading to sea in 2010, according to new figures released today.

The latest International Cruise Council Australasia statistics show that New Zealand cruise passenger numbers rose 36 per cent last year, compared to 2009.

Over the past five years, Kiwi cruise numbers have swelled by an impressive 62 per cent, from 26,510 in 2006 to almost 43,000 last year.

Announcing the figures in Auckland today, Council General Manager Brett Jardine said the 2010 results reflected growing interest in cruising worldwide.

“Cruising is booming all over the world and New Zealand is very much part of this growth story,” Mr Jardine said.

“These latest figures show that New Zealanders are responding enthusiastically to the expanding range of cruise holiday options in local waters and overseas.“

Mr Jardine said the record 2010 passenger numbers equated to one per cent of the New Zealand population taking a cruise holiday, up from 0.7 per cent in 2009.

“This is an impressive figure for New Zealand, where the cruise market is still very young, and we look forward to building on it in future years,” he said.

Mr Jardine said that while 2009 had seen a drop in New Zealand passenger numbers due to a short term capacity fall, the latest figures had put the country’s cruise industry firmly back on its growth path, representing a solid 10 per cent increase on 2008 passenger numbers.

The Cruise Council statistics reveal that 54 per cent of passengers cruised in local waters last year, with 42 per cent (18,153 passengers) opting for a South Pacific holiday, nine per cent (3862) sailing in Australian waters and three per cent in New Zealand.

Further afield, Europe was the biggest drawcard attracting 20 per cent of New Zealand passengers (8390) while Alaska appealed to five per cent (2281).  Six per cent of passengers (2372) chose a river cruise.

While overall numbers grew in 2010, the biggest growth in passenger numbers came in the South Pacific (49.4 per cent increase) and Europe (49.8 per cent), while Alaska almost doubled (98.7 per cent rise) albeit from a smaller base.

In other trends, the statistics show a rise in the popularity of shorter cruises with voyages of seven days or less accounting for 25 per cent of passenger numbers, up from 13 per cent in 2009.  Meanwhile cruises of 15 days or more decreased to around 15 per cent in 2010, down from 26 per cent in 2009.

Mr Jardine said the Council estimated that New Zealanders spent around 461,000 days cruising last year, based on passenger numbers and cruise duration data.