By Mark Stillman
The number of people leaving UK ports on cruises have hit record highs - with the number expected to hit one million for the first time this year.
The figure soared 10 per cent to 962,000 in 2012. Most popular destination for the 1,701,000 UK holidaymakers who went on cruises last year was the Mediterranean, with 700,000 tourists.
Northern Europe was a fast-growing favourite, passenger numbers rising to 30 per cent to 443,000, with the Norwegian fjords voyages proving particularly attractive.
There was also a 30 per cent surge in summer sales for the top-of-the-range market known as ultra-luxury cruising.
The number of Britons who took more than one cruise last year rose by 12 per cent to 54 per cent. A new high of 374,220 passengers took out their travel insurance to book three or more cruises in 2012.
Most cruise passengers last year lived in southern England, with more than 187,000 coming from Scotland, more than 102,000 from Wales and just more than 34,000 from Northern Ireland.
There was also a huge surge (11 per cent) in the amount of passengers visiting UK ports during their cruises last year.
A total of 723,000 holidaymakers - double the 2007 figure - called on UK ports.
Activity in the south-coast ports of Southampton, Dover and Portsmouth helped fuel the rise in a year which started inauspiciously for the sector worldwide with the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster. This claimed 32 lives.
Passenger Shipping Association director William Gibbons said the past year has been an "impressive" one for the UK cruise industry, especially in view of the combination of challenges 2012 presented.
Mr Gibbons added: "We feel 2012's record results for British ports are particularly remarkable and we very much look forward to seeing UK ports achieve the million mark in 2013, and the associated economic benefits that this will bring to the country."