Thomson Cruises will return to the Caribbean next year for the first time since 2001, highlighting the continued growth from the UK market.

Following this week’s merger between Thomson and First Choice, Thomson director of cruising David Selby announced that 1,450 passenger ship Destiny would sail alternating seven-night trips out of the Dominican Republic.

According to Selby, agent demand for the product was a strong factor in bringing back the route. He said: “The question I am asked more than anything else by agents and customers is ‘When is Thomson Cruises returning to the Caribbean?’

“I can now say next year, just in time for Christmas. In 2001 there was too much about in the Caribbean but now we have grown and grown and we have the product with our ships and aircraft to go back there and the demand is definitely there.”

In the mid-market sector Island Cruises and Ocean Village will both have presence during winter 2008, but Selby said: “Island and Ocean Village are there but we offer a different product. Our customers can do a 14-night back-to-back cruise, a seven-night cruise or cruise and stay.”

Mintel travel analyst Richard Cope said it was good news for agents that Thomson was heading back to Caribbean.

He said:  “The Caribbean was the traditional cruise destination, but we have seen growth in the Mediterranean from the UK.

“Cruising is not like the mass-market – customers still want the help of the agent. Agents are good at selling all-inclusives, and this sits very well with Caribbean product.”

Thomsonfly will operate into the Dominican Republic from eight regional airports. Itineraries will visit islands including Antigua, St Kitts and Guadaloupe. The Caribbean preview brochure is out on September 27.

September is Cruise Month in Travel Weekly. Stay up to date with Travel Weekly’s cruise home page.