Cruise holidays have been big travel news recently. Not only are more people taking their first ever cruise, it’s the definitive way to holiday if you want to explore as many destinations and ports of call in a week or ten days – without the stress of airports or long car journeys.
Almost two million more people took a cruise last year compared to the total figure in 2010, representing a healthy increase in the global market of 10%. Britons love a floating holiday it seems – the UK is the second largest cruise market in the world, behind North America and the British love affair with sailing shows no signs of slowing down.
Both RCI and Interval International offer cruises through their holiday exchange programmes and another timeshare specialist that offers cruise holidays is Club La Costa. It has its own dedicated travel division, Club La Costa Travel, and cruise specialists are on hand to advise on finding the best cruise for their members. Bookings are now being taken for 2013 and for more information and to see the variety of itineraries and offers available, please visit http://www.clublacostatravel.co.uk/index.php/cruises Club La Costa Travel is a member of both ABTA and ATOL.
ICE also has an array of fantastic cruise benefits. One of the top five cruise distributors globally, it provides unique cruise product offerings through all of the major cruise lines at special prices (details at http://www.iceenterprise.com/products/cruise_travel.jsp)
Cruises were the most glamorous way to holiday until the commercial jetliner changed everything (goodbye Essex coast, hello Côte d’Azur) and although the thrill of jetting off to exotic unexplored destinations was something of a luxury for those who could afford it, cruises never really went out of fashion.
Today, cruising is celebrating something of a new golden era, thanks to a choice of ships and itineraries that has never been more diverse – or tempting. Modern liners have taken luxurious ocean holidays to a whole new level; ships have everything passengers could want or need onboard, including a new wave of signature celebrity chef restaurants and top brand-endorsed spas. These days cabins are more spacious and both the vessels themselves and international itineraries have been designed to offer a more “bespoke” cruise experience to a more specific passenger demographic, a trend that will continue.
Last year, the number of ocean cruisers topped 20m for the first time, according to figures from industry associations including the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the European Cruise Council, Passenger Shipping Association, International Cruise Council Australasia and industry analysts G P Wild (International) Limited.
North America accounted for the highest number of cruiser passengers, reaching 11.5 million. In Europe, 6.2 million Europeans, including more than 1.7 million Britons opted for a floating holiday, an increase of 9% on the previous year.
Christine Duffy, Cruise Lines International Association president and CEO, said: "We are delighted to see 10% annual global growth in cruise passengers last year, with milestones being broken all over the world as growth continues. This is the first time that European figures have passed six million and the first time Australian cruise passengers have topped half a million.
"The latest statistics clearly show that the cruise industry has proved resilient during difficult economic conditions and these results are a testament to the industry’s ongoing innovation and investment. As we continually improve operations, and add new and exciting innovations and itineraries, we’re confident our sector has huge potential for continued growth on a global basis."
William Gibbons, director of the Passenger Shipping Association, said: "British ocean cruise passengers exceeded 1.7 million for the first time in 2011 and are currently the second largest source of cruise passengers in the world. We’re looking forward to that growth continuing as new ships come on stream to satisfy demand."
In fact the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France have all seen and increase in cruise passengers and the increases average between 7%-15% in the past five years.
However it’s Australia that has seen the biggest growth spurt – up 30% in the past year and now over the half a million total mark for the very first time and the International Cruise Council Australasia says it predicts one million Australians will be taking cruise holidays by 2020.