The growth in river cruising outstripped the level of ocean voyages last year, new figures show.

The rivers sector is now the fastest-growing part of the UK cruise market with 8 per cent growth in 2010 to 134,000 passengers.

This compares to 6 per cent growth in ocean cruises to 1.62 million, according to latest statistics from the Passenger Shipping Association.

The increased popularity in river cruising was attributed almost entirely to numbers taking European itineraries, up to 66,600 last year over 56,100 in 2009.

Growth outside of Europe was described as “subdued” with the Nile showing a small rise to 58,000 UK passengers – making it the world’s most popular river cruise destination.

PSA director Bill Gibbons said: “River cruising is in the middle of unprecedented expansion with new, larger and more sophisticated vessels being introduced and its appeal is broadening.”