The launch of Cunard Line’s new ship Queen Victoria last week was a landmark for the booming cruise industry.
Around 2,000 guests gathered on board the 90,000-ton ship in Southampton as it was officially named by Camilla Duchess of Cornwall. The Duchess, accompanied by the Prince of Wales, attempted the traditional champagne smashing before officially naming the ship.
As well as royalty and representatives from the travel trade, guests included celebrities Jimmy Saville, Kate Adie and Moira Stuart, and politician John Prescott.
The Cunard Line ship is the last ship to be launched in the UK this year – a year in which the industry saw a growth of 11%. The Passenger Shipping Association has also predicted that next year cruise passengers numbers could reach 1.55 million – up 14% on 2007.
Next April P&O Cruises will launch Ventura and Royal Caribbean International will launch its final Freedom Class ship, Independence of the Seas in Southampton.
Carnival UK chief commercial officer Peter Shanks said: “The first thing with the launch was that it was a reminder to everyone of the success of market in the UK, but also the quality and innovation the lines are bringing in.
“Knowing agents as well as I do, if they didn’t like something they will no doubt tell you about it, but the response was fantastic.”
Shanks also said that sales for Queen Victoria have increased over the past few days which signals a great start for the New Year campaign.
PSA director Bill Gibbons said: “In terms of the UK market there is a big impetus to further growth in 2008.
“On Queen Victoria there are British officers, British flag, British based, management of Cunard coming back to UK from California, so that will mean more employment.”
Meanwhile cruise giant Carnival UK has signed a 20-year deal with Associated British Ports to continue sailing from Southampton.
As part of the agreement, ABP will invest £19 million in a new purpose-built terminal which will open in 2009.