Press Release | April 15, 2019

UK and Ireland cruise industry hits two million passengers for the first time

CLIA reveals figures from 2018 Cruise Review

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has announced that the number of ocean cruises taken by UK and Irish passengers last year reached over two million for the first time. The UK and Ireland cruise industry hit a record 2,009,000 in 2018, surpassing the two million mark a year earlier than predicted and up two per cent from 2017.

The announcement is part of the CLIA Cruise Review industry report, which outlines annual global cruise travel figures including how many cruises were taken both globally and in regional markets.

Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director, said: “2018 was an impressive year for the UK and Ireland cruise industry. Surpassing the two million mark is a significant milestone, as it illustrates how cruise has become a major player within the UK and Irish travel sector.

“As only the second European market to reach over two million cruises and the fourth globally, this figure demonstrates the continued strength of cruising as a mainstream holiday choice in the UK and Ireland and is a testament to the industry’s resilience to economic and political changes.”

Global Figures

Playing a significant role in international tourism, growth in cruising continues with an almost seven per cent increase from 2017 to 2018, totalling 28.5 million passengers globally.

Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director, said: “CLIA and its cruise lines are committed to marrying the industry’s growth opportunities with sustainability, to ensuring this growth is managed responsibly to ensure real benefits for destinations we visit, local communities and our guests.

“The water around and below us, the air above us, the communities around us, the people who work for us; all are critical factors when it comes to planning sustainable growth strategy for the cruise industry. With opportunity comes responsibility, and we are working as an industry to meet those responsibilities.”

European Figures

In 2018, European ocean cruise passenger numbers grew by 3.3 per cent against 2017, to 7.17million; following a two per cent growth the prior year.

Strong growth was seen in cruise passengers travelling to the Eastern Mediterranean, up 8.5 per cent to 746,000 passengers, which illustrates a beginning of a return to confidence in the region. Other areas seeing significant growth, from a smaller base, include the Canary Islands, up 9.6 per cent; and the Baltics, up 9 per cent.

The central and western Mediterranean region remains the number one destination for European cruise passengers, and saw growth up by 1.2 per cent, equivalent to 2.27m passengers. Northern Europe was up 4.8 per cent in 2018, to 1.43m passengers.

Andy Harmer added: “CLIA and its members are wholly committed to continue the responsible growth trajectory for the cruise industry. Sustainability lies at the heart of all we do, and no industry has a stronger interest in protecting oceans and destinations. Each day, across the cruise industry, individual cruise lines are working to improve upon this record through strategic partnerships, new technologies, and bold sustainability commitments.”


For further media information contact Charlotte Humphrey, CLIA public relations executive / 020 3903 5453

Notes to Editors:

CLIA has three over-arching sustainability strategies: leadership, stewardship and partnership.

  • For leadership, CLIA cruise lines are already leading the shipping sector in making a first-ever industry-wide emissions commitment at the end of 2018, to advance sustainability on the seas, to reduce the rate of carbon emissions across the industry fleet by 40 per cent by 2030. This is an important first step in working towards an emission-free maritime sector.
  • Many examples of stewardship for the cruise sector’s sustainability work, such as onboard wastewater and sulphur treatment plants, pioneering hull coatings, hull design and air lubrication systems. Plus, due to advanced waste management and recycling systems, there is zero waste-to-landfill from some of the biggest cruise ships in the world.

Beyond the pure environmental concerns, the cruise sector is also leading the way on labour convention, including work in gender diversity in the marine division of our ships – which accounts for 15% of the people working onboard – up to and including women who are ship captains.

  • Forging meaningful partnerships is a key step in the sustainability arena, and CLIA cruise lines are working with leading NGOs, including WWF and GSTC among others. CLIA is working with destinations all over the globe, including sensitive ports of call such as Dubrovnik, Santorini and Barcelona, to ensure that cruise tourism is working for resident communities, destinations and visitors.

For an overview of work being done by CLIA and its cruise lines:

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