Costa Cruises will decide this month whether to launch an ex-UK programme for 2009.

President Gianni Onorato said if the plan gets the go-ahead, cruises will go on sale next year.

He said: “If we do it, we will have a ship operating in the northern Europe area during the summer.”

However, he said ports of call were still to be decided.

Onorato added the operator is keen to work with more agents after previously concentrating on cruise specialists.

UK sales of Costa Cruises have leapt 39% following the start of a competition – launched in Travel Weekly – giving the winning agent £10,000 to spend in London’s designer boutiques.