A record four million Europeans enjoyed cruise holidays last year according to the latest statistics unveiled by the European Cruise Council.

The ECC’S 2007 ‘Markets Report’ also shows how rapidly cruise holidays are growing in popularity:

In 2001, only 2.6million Europeans took a cruise holiday

In 2006, it had leapt to 3.4million

And, in 2007, further 17 per cent taken the figure to a record high of 4 million.

Some 60% chose to travel in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Islands; 24 per cent cruised in the Caribbean and other parts of the world; and 16 per cent cruised in Northern Europe.

David Dingle, chairman of the ECC and chief executive officer of Carnival UK, announced the latest trends and said:”The popularity of cruising for European holidaymakers is growing faster than anyone in the industry envisaged.

“The ECC had predicted we’d hit 4 million cruise passengers from Europe by 2010. We’ve beaten that target two years early with impressive growth across the region. Spain has seen cruising grow by a third and Italian cruise passengers have increased by a quarter.

“There is no doubt Europe is the new centre of gravity for the cruise industry and we’re seeing increasing numbers of cruise lines basing ships in the region, which will encourage even more Europeans to cruise in future.”

The top five source markets for cruise passengers in Europe in 2007 are:#

1) United Kingdom at 1.3 million (11% growth)
2) Germany at 763,000 passengers (8% growth)
3) Italy at 640,000 passengers (24% growth)
4) Spain at 518,000 passengers (32% growth)
5) France at 280,000 passengers (16% growth)

The full report is available on www.europeancruisecouncil.com