Royal Caribbean Cruises will continue to expand in Europe as cruising reaches ‘critical mass’ in the region.

The company will have eight cruise ships in Europe in 2009 and plans to continue expanding its fleet in the region.

Royal Caribbean International’s largest ship Independence of the Seas will be based out of Southampton this summer.

Chairman and chief executive Richard Fain, speaking on board Independence of the Seas, said: “Our deployment in Europe is going to continue to grow.

“We are beginning to get that critical mass in Europe – there’s more likelihood of your nextdoor neighbour or co-worker saying they were on a ship and it’s that that sells us.”

Fain added that around 15% of the US population has taken a cruise compared with just 1%-2% of the population in Europe.