Lots of fascinating facts and figures have emerged from the European Cruise Council in Rome this week.
For a start, Carnival UK boss David Dingle, who is the current chairman of the Council, disclosed that while the global cruise market grew by 12 per cent from 2005 to 2008, Europe’s slice of the business is up by 33 per cent in the same period.
The number of Europeans taking a cruise in 2008 was 4.4 million, a 10.5 per cent increase on 2007, and Michael Bayley of Royal Caribbean Cruises is predicting that the figure will rise to ten million by 2020.
He told the conference: “Europe is where the North American industry was 12 years ago and within the next 10 to 20 years I believe Europe will exceed North America.’ With just one per cent penetration and a population of 500m, Europe has enormous growth potential, he added.
In 2004, Royal Caribbean had six ships in Europe during the summer; this year the company has 21 ships sailing here across their three brands.
There was a total of 159 cruise ships sailing in the Mediterranean last year, ranging from 100-passenger boutique vessels to the giant 3,634-passenger Independence of the Seas which will based in Southampton year-round from next year. A further 100 ships sail Northern European waters, to the Norwegian fjords and the Baltic..
There’s just one question for me. I can understand why the conference was held in Italy – it’s the biggest cruise market in Europe. But why Rome, which is a good hour’s drive down the autostrada from the nearest post?