Cruiselines have insisted pirate attacks on cruise ships remain unlikely despite the recent attempt to target Oceania Cruises’ ship Nautica.

Pirate skiffs got within 300 yards of the ship on Sunday and fired eight shots at it, none of which hit the vessel, in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday. The ship successfully outran the pirates.

But Oceania Cruises sales and marketing director UK & Europe Bernie Carter insisted tankers remained more likely targets of pirates because the high freeboard of cruise ships made it harder to get on board, as well as the large number of crew and passengers and tight security measures.

He said: “I think the serious pirate attacks will still take place against tankers because they are the most realistic opportunity for them to board and negotiate funds from. As soon as you start talking about people and not goods, the naval forces would come down on them and it would be counted as a terrorist attack.”

Carter added there had been no downturn in sales as a result of the failed attack. The ship only travels along the route twice a year – most cruiseships pass through the Gulf of Aden to get to the Far East and Asia at this time of year and return through in the spring.

In a more serious attack in 2005, cruise ship Seabourn Spirit was damaged by a large of number of bullets after being shot at by two pirate boats and a crew member was injured.

Yachts of Seabourn director Europe, Middle East and Africa Andrew Magowan said security remained a top priority for all Carnival-owned ships. “Security is just profound. At the end of the day we are in the leisure business and we are not prepared to put any staff or guests at risk,” he said.

Despite fears of a return to piracy problems, which led to a closure of the Suez Canal in the 1970s, the Passenger Shipping Association said attacks were rare. A spokeswoman said: “It is a rarity. Obviously cruiselines are very in touch with the various government and intelligency agencies. The Suez is a very important transiting area.”