Clia hails 2023 ‘landmark year’ for cruise

Clia has described 2023 as the “new landmark year” for cruise after revealing record passenger volumes and has hailed the industry’s success in attracting more first-timers.

The comments follow the recent publication of the State of the Cruise Industry report, which revealed holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland took 2.3 million cruise holidays last year – a new record. This is up from 1.7 million in 2022 and above 1.9 million in 2019.

Globally 31.7 million passengers took a cruise in 2023 – slightly more than expected – while passenger numbers are expected to reach 39.7 million in 2027.

Speaking at the launch of a “ground breaking” report into future, potential cruisers in association with market research company MMGY Travel Intelligence and Travelzoo, Clia UK & Ireland managing director Andy Harmer said: “2023 has become the new landmark year. Cruise has come back faster than other types of travel.

“Figures from 2023 show the success we had in getting more people to cruise for the first time.”

Clia’s figures showed the Mediterranean remained the top destination for cruise holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland, with 35% of passengers travelling there in 2023, while 29% travelled to northern Europe and 12% to the Caribbean. Exploration destinations saw a 53% hike in passenger numbers year on year.

The average age of cruisers has also come down, from 56.1 in 2022 to 55.1 in 2023, and the average length of cruise has increased from 9.8 days to 10.1 day last year.

Although 38% of cruisers travelled in a party of two, 28% were part of a multigenerational group, comprising three or more age groups.

“We saw this in 2022 and we were interested to see if the trend would continue last year and it did,” said Harmer.

Most cruisers (65%) took a pre-cruise stay in their departure destination while 52% stayed on after their sailing.

Based on a separate, corresponding survey of 4,500 international holidaymakers in March this year, Harmer revealed 71% of potential clients who have never cruised were “open” to taking their first cruise.

The figure peaked at 73% in March this year during the wave period and is up from 66% in December 2019.

“This is a great message and a great opportunity. There is a huge amount of opportunity to continue to grow the number of people who are taking a cruise for the first time,” added Harmer.

The level of investment in the sector is demonstrated by the fact that more than 300 ships are set to sail this year, said Harmer, with the overall fleet size of Clia members increasing by 3.4%.

By 2028, 34% of Clia member ships are projected to have up to 1,000 lower berths, 36% will have 1,000 to 3,000 and 30% will have 3,000-plus.

New ships due to be released from the order book this year include Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Treasure;  Royal Caribbean International’s Utopia of the Seas; Explora Journey’s Explora II; and Virgin Voyages’ Brilliant Lady.

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