Almost two million cruises were taken by British holidaymakers in 2017, with a record high of 1,959,000 cruise passengers reported in latest figures, released by industry body, the Cruise Line International Association.
This represents an increase of 0.5 per cent, against 2016.
The Mediterranean remains the most popular cruise destination for British travellers, representing 37 per cent of all sailings booked last year, despite a slight year-on-year decline overall.
Cruises in Northern Europe soared in popularity last year, seeing a rise of eight per cent against 2016 figures, making it the second most popular region for British cruisers, beating the Caribbean.
Northern Europe and the Caribbean attracted the youngest average age of cruisers, 52 years’ old, against an average of 56 for all British cruise customers.
The Caribbean, including the Bahamas and Bermuda, the third most popular cruise region, also saw an increase in numbers last year, of just over three per cent against 2016 figures.
Unusual cruise itineraries increasing in popularity with adventure-style ‘exploration’ cruises in the Antarctic, Arctic and Galapagos up three per cent.
Andy Harmer, senior vice-president and director of CLIA UK & Ireland, said: “In a step away from the traditional image of sunshine-soaked decks, we are seeing an increase in popularity of colder-climate destinations including Canada, Alaska, and Antarctica.
“Thanks to the array of unique excursion options in these regions, from penguin-watching to ice fishing, these destinations are drawing in both new and repeat cruise travellers.”
Long-haul destinations also saw a boom in cruise last year as British travellers broadened their horizons with more adventurous and unusual itineraries.
Africa and the Middle East cruise bookings were up almost 25 per cent on 2016; Asia, China, were up almost 22 per cent; South America and the Panama Canal saw an increase of nearly 25 per cent; and the fastest growth was seen by Canada and New England itineraries which were up by one-third, 33 per cent.
Closer-to-home, cruises from UK ports continue to be an important part of the sector.
Latest figures from CruiseBritain reveal that the number of passengers embarking at UK ports in 2017 increased to 1.1 million, up by six per cent year-on-year.
River cruising is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance, with new ships, new onboard experiences, and exciting new itinerary options.
Given the investment made in new river ships in recent years, it is no surprise that one-third of all river ships currently in service have been built in the past ten years, and more than a quarter of these, in the past five years.
With more on order for coming years, the sector’s new lease of life is set to continue.
Harmer commented: “We are delighted that the number of British travellers choosing to cruise continues to rise.
“There has never been a broader choice of ships boasting incredible onboard amenities, itinerary, or type of cruise, and with more than 27 new ships being delivered globally in 2018 alone, this is set to continue this year, into 2019, and beyond.”