The UK cruise market has seen another year of record growth with an 11.2% rise in river cruise and 6.7% increase in ocean.

Ocean cruise passenger numbers hit a record 1.9 million while river cruise passengers grew to 166,900. Ocean passenger growth slowed compared to the 11% rise seen in 2015.

The figures were released today (March 14) in Clia’s annual cruise review with senior vice president for membership and director for UK and Ireland, Andy Harmer commending the industry’s efforts to increase passenger awareness of cruise holidays during global economic and political uncertainty.

Harmer said: “We have seen significant investment by companies in new, innovative ships with greater amenities on board and a wide variety of excursions included in the package.

“This coupled with an ever-increasing choice and diversity of itineraries in Europe and further afield, has led to more UK passengers opting for a river cruise holiday.

“The increase in passenger figures is a testament to the industry’s resilience to economic and political change and further demonstrates the value that a cruise holiday offers.

“Cruise lines are continuing to invest in new ships and new on-board and ashore experiences.

“Customers are becoming increasingly aware of the incredible experiences on offer, and this all points to continued growth for the UK and Irish cruise market in the year ahead.”

As river cruise passengers grew, 87% of sailings were taken in Europe by UK passengers.

Notably, a large number of UK river passengers had experienced an ocean cruise before sailing on river cruise with a 79% year-on-year increase for those who were attracted by the different experiences and inclusive excursions available on a river cruise.

In ocean cruise fly-cruises saw a 2.8% increase with Mediterranean fly-cruises remaining the most popular attracting 458,000 passengers in 2016. In second position with 272,000 passengers was western Europe itineraries from UK ports.

Ex-UK passengers also grew strongly in 2016 with British cruise departures now accounting for 48% of the market and a 9% rise in the number of passengers departing from the UK.